One Thing That Always Improves My Parenting

04/20/2015 03:56 pm ET | Updated Jun 20, 2015

I'm totally guilty of a double standard and have not been following my own advice.

As a parent educator, I spend a lot of time thinking about how adults treat children. I preach about kindness and connection. I go on and on about how we have to model the behavior we want to see and practice the self-regulation of our emotions. And here is where I've caught myself behaving badly.

I often implore my son; "Please, practice patience," when waiting is necessary from him. Then I snap, "I'm losing my patience!" whenever he makes me wait.

I want him to move from playtime to mealtime to bedtime with ease (and on my timetable), while I tell him, "Wait a minute," or "Hang on while I finish this email."

I say, "Would you just listen to me?" and "You're not paying attention!"

But as it turns out, I am the one who is not paying attention.


Right, I forgot.

One reason I forgot is that, like you, I do too much. Whether or not we work outside the home (in our own backyard, on a playground, or at the office), we are all busting our humps. Self-aware parenting is tough, no matter where you spend your days.

Also, small, developing people really are inconvenient.

You know that skittish, trapped feeling you get when your children are uncooperative and you're running late? That's certainly worthy of our attention. Recognizing our emotional state requires that we tune in and notice.

I will be doing more of that: Paying attention. Noticing.

I'll pay attention when I feel burnt out and need a break.

I'll notice the rising elevator of panic in my belly when my 6-year-old pedals his wobbling bike faster and faster. Even though he is totally fine, I will admit that parenting is just plain scary at times.

I will pay attention to the way he looks up at me and says, "I want to hold your hand," as he steps out of the car. (He has actually listened to what I have so often requested!)

You will pay attention when your daughter falls apart after losing Go Fish. This means that she is too young to be a "good loser." You'll skip the lecture and get her laughing as you make a heartfelt promise to lose every other game for the rest of your life.

We can observe when our children ask for every toy in the store. We'll offer the warm, firm limit that it's not a toy-buying day, and acknowledge that this is difficult. Wanting and not getting is hard -- even for those of us with mature, adult brains.

These all-too-human lessons will be learned in good time, and will be best incorporated as we stay connected and loving -- with ourselves, and our little ones. Both our emotional state and our children's disruptive behavior are saying: "Please, pay attention."

We are not managing inconveniences; we are raising human beings.

Remember in as many moments as you can.

A version of this post originally appeared on Go there to sign up for Sarah's free newsletter and to learn more about her online PEAK Parenting program which helps parents to be their very best selves.