When we talk about raising and educating children, we always consider what it says in Mishlei (Proverbs):
Chanoch l’na’ar al pi darcho—“Teach a child according to his way.”
Each child has his own personality and strengths, and parents need to cultivate them. We should learn how a child works best and use that information to properly parent him.
But the more I teach this principle, the more I see that we can use it to refine our parenting style according to our own characteristics and parent according to our way. We need to understand our personality, our strengths and our weaknesses, and use this information to help us parent better.
In her book, Time Management from the Inside Out, Julie Morgenstern advises her clients to design a schedule for themselves based on their strengths. She asks readers to assess themselves in the following areas (there are no right or wrong answers):
Do you prefer
• Concentrating in short bursts or for long stretches?
• Focusing on one thing at a time or multitasking?
• A busy, fast-paced schedule or a slow, easy schedule?
• Predictable plans or spontaneity?
• Working under pressure or long lead times?
• Making quick decisions or thinking things over?
• Working independently or collaboratively?
• Exercising alone or with others?
• Shopping alone or with others?
• Relaxing alone or with others?
• Working in quiet or with noise?
• Working with your head or with your hands?
This information will help you plan a schedule that makes you happy and productive. If you thrive on a fast pace, you should try to fill your days with several activities; if you prefer a slower pace, you might limit your daily to do list to three or four items. Stop trying to fight who you are. Someone who responds well to very tight deadlines should try to schedule his or her time that way…….Paying attention to your natural rhythms and accepting them as a testament to who you are will result in a schedule that supports you instead of one that works against you.
While this is true across the board, how can we use this information to specifically help mothers of young children to plan their day?
Women who work better with their heads instead of their hands will find themselves exhausted with the physical demands of their 0-3 year olds. Being a mother of young children forces women to multitask, make quick decisions and work amidst lots of noise. Moms who work well with quiet, long lead times or all alone have difficulty focusing on more than one thing at a time and are at a serious disadvantage. These women may compare themselves to other mothers and feel that they come up short.
It is hard to “pay attention to your natural rhythms” under these circumstances. Women who fall into these categories need to make an extra effort to take care of themselves. Hiring a babysitter, waking up early in the morning before the kids are up, or using the baby’s naptime to catch up on work are all some suggestions that can enable these moms to nurture themselves and schedule their time productively.
On the other hand, women who like to have people around them, and to shop, relax and exercise with others, need to make time for social stimulation. Moms of young children often feel isolated and lonely. Talking on the phone, making dates to walk or jog with their babies in their strollers and taking their children to the park where other moms hang out is a necessity.
Using your strengths to manage your time effectively enables you to make the most of your day. Utilizing this information when you are parenting young children is an invaluable skill. It can ensure that your needs are being met—the best way to ensure that you are parenting effectively.
Another bonus: Knowing how you work best will also give you insights into how your child works best. This can truly help you in fulfilling the time-honored Jewish tradition of chanoch l’na’ar al pi darcho.