This is the last of eight articles where I’ll share what I learned about parenting at Disneyland. With my first seven blog entries on this topic, I shared how Disneyland taught me these important parenting skills:
Be PRESENT with your kids.
Keep your PROMISES made to your children.
Honor your child’s PASSIONS.
Be careful to not overschedule your child and be willing to PRUNE your child’s activities when necessary.
Model being POLITE even when people mess up.
PLAN for PLAY
In this blog entry I will share a final parenting insight I received on my recent trip to the happiest place on earth. During this last trip to Disneyland, I was able to observe many parent-child interactions. I realized from these observations, that most of what anyone really needs to know about how to be effective as a parent can be learned at Disneyland. Watching families standing in lines, shopping in souvenir stores, eating meals in restaurants, watching parades and shows, trading Disney collector pins (a hobby my son has), riding on various attractions, posing for photos, and deciding which direction to go proved to be very insightful!
Okay, I admit it – I am a Disney maniac. Since 1995, I have visited Disneyland and Disney World at least 15 times. (Thankfully more than half of these trips were paid for by Disney as I was fortunate enough to be a Disney Teacher and to do some consulting work with Disney.) This last time we visited, I realized that every time I have visited a Disney park, there have been attractions that are temporarily closed for maintenance or areas where they are building something new. There has never been a time that I have been at a Disney park and had every attraction open. This is evidence of a company that is able to PICTURE THE FUTURE. If Disney was focused on only the immediate future, they would probably keep every ride open especially during peak seasons but they are constantly thinking about the future and making decisions that long-term make sense but short-term may cause some disgruntled guests and hassles.
The time I spent at Disneyland helped remind me how important it is as a parent to PICTURE THE FUTURE. Just as Disney focuses on long term improvements, we as parents need to be willing to make some decisions that in the short term cause us or our kids some discomfort but in the long term are beneficial to our kids. So when our kids are toddlers and we give into a crying fit, that may feel great that the crying stopped…but at what cost? We can’t lose touch with the long term impacts of our daily decisions. Letting our kids experience failures and challenges can be hard for us as parents but Parenting with Love and Logic reminds us that it makes sense for us to let our kids learn when the price is affordable.
As a young girl, I had dreamed of getting a Baby Crissy doll. Finally I got one for my 10th birthday. Two of my best friends also had a Baby Crissy doll. One day, I had one of these friends over to my house to play. When she arrived with her doll, I noticed that her doll had a scratch on her face. I thought that was sad, but I didn’t say anything because I didn’t want to hurt my friend’s feelings. We had lots of fun playing that day and when it was time for her to leave; she went to take my Baby Crissy doll home with her. I pointed out that she had taken the wrong doll on accident, but she insisted that she had the right doll. I pointed to the scratch on the face of one of the dolls and explained that was how I knew this was her doll. She said that her doll didn’t have a scratch on the face. I was shocked and hurt because I was coming to the realization that this was not a mistake on her part, but an act of deception and theft. My mom came into the room to remind us that we needed to get in the car so she could drive my friend home and I explained the problem to her – okay, I admit it – I tattled on my friend. My mom did not rescue me. She did not take my side or take my friend’s side. She simply let us figure it out – she gave a deadline of when she needed us in the car and stepped out. My friend insisted on taking the doll with the blemish free face that day and I sadly relented. On the way home, my mom dished out plenty of empathy – but she definitely let me own this problem. She probably could have stepped in and solved the problem with my friend or she could have even spoken with my friend’s mom but she knew that I would learn some lessons from this situation. She never lectured me on what lessons I should learn, she just trusted that would happen. Did I learn? Yes, I did. One of the things I learned was to put my name on things that are important to me. If I had put my name on Baby Crissy’s foot, I never would have had this problem.
Years later, I had my first roommate at college. I discreetly put my name on everything. After one school year of living together, I knew it might be hard for us to remember who brought what into our room and I didn’t want another Baby Crissy situation with my stereo, TV or anything else I shared with her. When my roomie and I went our separate ways, we had no conflicts yet the girls who lived next to us had a big squabble about a few items in their room that each was claiming that she brought from home. I don’t know who was right and I’m not sure if the person who was wrong was mistaken or just being deceitful. But what I did know was that I was thankful that my mom had helped me learn this lesson as a 10-year-old. I know that the price tag I had on my lesson was much less than the price tag my dorm neighbors had.
This life lesson continues to have impact on my life. In 2009, I co-founded Bridgeway Christian Academy with a teacher friend of mine. We each brought many educational materials into our school. We were careful to come up with a color coding system where we put labels on games, puzzles, books and other learning tools. We still continue to use this system today and it’s very helpful. I know the strain that the Baby Crissy incident put on my relationship with my childhood friend and I knew that I didn’t want to jeopardize something like that happening with my colleague and friend. I truly believe that I have my mom to thank for this important life lesson and I bet she didn’t even know how big of an impact she was having when she made that decision to just let me solve that problem. At the time, I would have loved to have had my mom rescue me and get my doll back. That would have felt great at that moment but I am extremely grateful that my mom was able to think about the long term and not just the short term when she walked in on this squabble.
So I challenge you to think about how you are PICTURING THE FUTURE as a parent. As you make your daily parenting decisions, are you considering the long term impact of these decisions? Are you thinking about the life lessons your child could learn from various problems and challenges? Are you careful to not lecture or rescue? Our recent trip to the “happiest place on earth” helped remind me of this very important parenting principle.