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SALT LAKE CITY — Recently, a thought occurred to me — how do our children feel we’re doing as parents?
We're a fairly normal family with typical issues and stresses. We love each other (generally), get along (mostly), and don't physically harm one another (unless it’s wrestling). Usually I’m a happy mother — except maybe first thing in the morning or late afternoon without a snack — and possibly right before bedtime. But our policy is, when the children graduate they'll get $3,000 for therapy and we’ll call it good.
However, to be sure that we addressed vital parental elements now, I typed a brief survey of things I wanted to know. Things like, do they feel loved by what we say or do? Do we spend enough time with them, trust them to do difficult things? Or do we make it easy to tell us when they’ve done wrong? Then wisely I involved my husband so there would be both a mom and dad survey, to see who the kids really liked best.
After the time and energy we put into our children, subconsciously I had hoped to see a higher Olympic score. But thankfully, the specific information they shared was helpful and surprising.
I was stunned with the results.
On a scale of 1 to 5 (one being the lowest), from six children, we received a total of nine threes and twos. What? After the time and energy we put into our children, subconsciously I had hoped to see a higher Olympic score. But thankfully, the specific information they shared was helpful and surprising.
The children I thought would say we didn’t spend enough time with had zero problem with that. And the one we had pegged as a golden child actually shared an unexpected problem, which led to a fabulously connected discussion, which averted future potential trauma.
To encourage the most honest responses, I designed the survey to be done anonymously. So naturally afterwards my husband and I pored over the way numbers were circled and some crossed out to decipher who felt what. I’m happy to report we were 100 percent accurate in identifying each child. Although we stink at some parenting concepts — like allowing them to do grown up things — we apparently excel at handwriting analysis.
To begin correcting some of our parenting faux pas, my husband and I both chose a child and privately spoke with them one at a time. My teenage son said to me that since I’d had a baby he had missed the two of us just talking, and what if we took a drive at night and talked for 15 minutes? What an inspired plan. I was encouraged that not only did he suggest it, but that he still wanted to connect.
After one particularly late evening he asked me about the drive and I replied that I was too exhausted but could we just chat in my room? He paused, thinking. “Well,” he said, “you’re tired, so we can wait until tomorrow.” The penny dropped. Yes, he was more interested in the opportunity to drive than to talk, though the two-fer was a perk.
Ah, the brutal truths of parenting.
All in all, the survey has been helpful. And my parenting has improved, mainly because right after the survey it became so very bad. I realized it wasn’t that I had regressed, it was that I had become more aware. I’m happy to say that I’ve taken it one step at a time and improved one circled number in a few areas (especially the one about having a late afternoon snack).
Just for fun, try a parenting survey. Keep it anonymous, unlock your inner Sherlock Holmes to decipher their handwriting, and possibly choose one thing to improve. If you want to use our survey, email me at www.conniesokol.com.
I would write more, but it's time for a drive.
Connie Sokol is a mother of seven, a national and local presenter, Education Week speaker, and TV contributor on KSL’s “Studio 5”. She is the author of "Faithful, Fit & Fabulous," "Caribbean Crossroads," "Motherhood Matters," and "Life is Too Short for One Hair Color." Visitwww.conniesokol.comfor more.