Matt Knutson: Acquiring tools on how to be a better parent

Published 9:49 pm Thursday, March 1, 2018

Things I Tell My Wife by Matt Knutson

“That’s our daughter you hear crying,” I told my wife as I stepped into the parenting classroom a few minutes late. Gracelyn’s howls were coming through the cement walls as a room full of other parents had gathered with us to learn how to approach parenting in a new way. As our daughter’s screams continued almost unceasingly throughout the night, it became clear that we had made the right decision to attend this session. I just wish it wasn’t so apparent for the other parents why we were there.

Realistically, Gracelyn’s cries could have happened to anyone. Overall, she’s a bright, well-adjusted girl who is doing amazingly well in her preparation for elementary school in a few years. Just today she was reciting most letters as I pointed to them in an alphabet book, and she said, “Excuse me,” to a woman in the hallway the other day. I’d say those are good indications that your 2-year-old is on the right track, but the Knutsons are always trying to be better, and that means we should probably dedicate some time to our pursuit of being better parents. In college, we were introduced to the idea of being lifelong learners, and it’s something both Sera and I have latched onto over the years.

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As we began to tune out Gracelyn’s cries from the nearby childcare room, we began to realize how nice it is to be surrounded by people who understand the challenges that come with raising young kids. Most parents in the room had more experience than us, meaning they had multiple kids who were older than our daughters. This meant they had already conquered the long battle that comes with all 2-year-olds. For those of you who aren’t parents (or who have blocked out this behavior from your memory) it includes: crying for no reason, throwing oneself on the floor, picky eating, unruly demands and an irresistible smile that melts your heart whenever you’re supposed to be the authority figure.

Of course we weren’t attending this session purely for our eldest daughter. As Maeva and Gracelyn grow older, we’ll inevitably have double the challenges. Rumor has it that siblings don’t always get along. If I’m being honest, it seems like most of the tips and tricks we were learning are geared toward parents with older kids — ones who can talk back and push boundaries a bit more than our girls. As they get older, hopefully we’ll have a few more tools in our toolkit for how to respond to their behavior and shape them into good people. It’s no easy task, but laying this foundation is a start.

Sitting in that room, I began to wonder why this wasn’t something all parents attend. Before the birth of our eldest daughter, we had the opportunity to attend a few classes about how to care for a newborn, and those have served us well. The opportunity for continuing education on how to parent seemed to disappear until my wife heard about this course through work. Unless parents are deliberately seeking it out, it’s likely not something that we would have found. That’s too bad, as everyone who has a role in caring for a child could use some fundamental training on how to handle and respond to challenging situations. Hopefully there is something in your area that can meet this need, and hopefully it is accessible to parents who might not be able to afford something very robust. The support network that could come to those families through the particular course we are taking could be life-changing for someone who could use a hand up.

At the end of the evening, we sheepishly picked up our teary-eyed Gracelyn and committed to exploring new ways to handle difficult situations. First on the list: Discovering new ways for our daughter to feel comfortable around new people. We’re really hopeful that our next lesson she’ll only cry half the time we’re away instead of the full two hours. That may not seem like a win to you, but for us, it’d be worthy of a grand celebration.

Matt Knutson is a communications specialist in Rochester.