Providing Parenting Advice … Even When You’re Not a Parent

MjAxMi0wYzU2Y2EwNzQzNTM2NWJjBy Sabrina Bong — About a year ago, my fiance and I volunteered to babysit his sister’s children overnight.

The girls, who were five and one at the time, were super excited that they got to spend one-on-one time with Rob and I. The oldest one was so eager to have us over that she almost shoved her parents out the door in her excitement! It was a little rough at first (if you have never cooked before with a one year old holding onto your leg and a five year old who is trying to help, but really is making an enormous mess, it’s quite an experience!) but we managed to get both girls fed, bathed, and in bed at a reasonable hour. Once the oldest one was finally asleep, Rob and I collapsed on the sofa before saying to each other, “That was an experience!”

As Rob and I prepare for our wedding (in 10 days!), we have talked about having kids in the future. Though we are not ready anytime soon, we have occasionally discussed what will happen when we become parents. Our conversations have ranged from how we will juggle soccer and karate practices, to how we want to discipline our children. But the majority of our talks revolve around how we want to raise our children. We have talked about taking the best of how our parents raised us, and then blend it with some of our own ideas.

Beyond all of these discussions, and the night we watched the girls, I have not really thought too much about being a parent and parenting advice. However, this recently changed when one of my students fell on some hard times.

This student of mine is a very sweet, very kind young girl. She has been dealt a lot of hard cards in life: she was homeless last year, and is currently living with a relative. She recently started stealing things from her parents, as well as outside organizations. Her parents are unsure what to do, and turned to our principal for help. She, in turn, suggested that the parents come in to meet with me and the head counselor in my building to discuss parenting strategies.

When she first suggested this, I was baffled. What advice on parenting could I offer, when my “parenting” experience is pretty much nonexistent?

When I brought this up, the head counselor reminded me that I gave a lot of advice to boys, even though I was never a teenage boy. He then told me that even though I didn’t have experience parenting, that I knew enough to help guide these parents into how they could talk to their child about her stealing and lying behaviors.

Our first session with the parents went pretty well. To be honest, I was pretty quiet; I was struggling with how best to phrase my suggestions. For example, when the mother asked if it was appropriate to take her daughter to a juvenile detention facility to show what her life could end up like, the head counselor gently, but firmly, vetoed that idea. But the way he did it was fantastic; he was completely honest, but did not make the parent feel defensive. I am not exactly sure how he managed to do this, but it is a technique that I am working hard to learn.

So far, this has been a very eye-opening experience. I have learned that I can provide valuable advice, even if I do not have first-hand expertise in an area. I have also learned that it is okay to respectfully disagree with parents. I am sure that all of the things I am learning now will be incredibly helpful … not only with the parents I work with, but for my possible future as a parent!

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