Parents Are Learners


As a society we reward success. We love fast results. There is no time for hesitation or mistakes.

Obviously, in some contexts this is vital. If I am rushed to hospital I want the doctor to quickly determine what is wrong, know how to fix it and get it done as soon as possible. But would you expect the same of the doctor when they had just started medical school? How about when they did their biology A Level? Of course not, because they were still learning.

When you are learning something, you aren’t good at it straight away. This sounds obvious, but it is easily forgotten. As an adult, when we try something new and make a complete mess of it, the thought “I’m rubbish at this” comes all too quickly. It’s tempting to give up.

Of course you are rubbish at it. You’ve never done it before! There may be certain elements or skills involved that you’ve done before but this new thing is new.

We accept babies as learners

When you watch your baby take their first, tentative, wobbly steps and promptly fall on their bum, how do you feel? Presumably devastated because your child is rubbish at walking.

I hope not. You feel excited that they’ve reached another little landmark. You feel joyful that they managed that little bit. You feel proud and enjoy the snuggle as you gather them up for a cuddle.

They’ve only just started the process of learning to walk and they will fall on their bum many more times before they are running so fast you can’t keep up. And each time they do, you will help them up, say something encouraging and expect them to try again.

You are a learner

When you first became a parent, you started learning too.

Exacerbated by social media, there is so much pressure to be perfect parents. To be meeting our children’s every physical, mental and emotional need at all times. To raise them in an organic, screen-free household with calm voices and wholesome, educational activities.

If you lose your temper, make a mistake or undermine your own aims and parenting philosophy, you feel you have failed. If you feel out of your depth you feel you have failed.

You haven’t. You’re learning.

The power of yet

At one of the schools I taught at, we got introduced to the concept of a growth mindset. Made famous by Carol Dweck, it refers to a way of thinking about ourselves as learners. If you have a fixed mindset, you think some people are naturally more clever than others and that success if measured in correct answers.

If you have a growth mindset, you know that the brain is plastic and that intelligence and skills can be developed and improved. You know that mistakes are a vital part of learning and that ‘failing’ repeatedly will improve your abilities.

It harnesses the power of ‘yet’. I can’t tie my shoelaces yet. I can’t add two digit numbers yet. I can’t sew on a button yet. I can’t get my kids ready for school without shouting yet.

Mistakes are a part of learning

As a parent, you are a learner and you make mistakes. That’s great. That’s the way in which, day by day, little by little you are getting better. This is not a linear process, either. The graph of your progress to getting better as a parent is not a straight diagonal line. It is a wiggly, scribbly mess that nonetheless is creeping ever upward.

This is not a finite process. There won’t be a day when finally the parenting pixie will appear in a puff of smoke and give you your medal for perfecting the art. It’s something we can always improve. There is always something new to learn.

The good news is that your child couldn’t give a toss about having a parent who is learning. They don’t want a perfect parent with a medal. They just want you.

By Molly



Join us at The Village to meet more of your fellow learners and spend time with people who understand how difficult, bizarre and joyful it can be.

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