"A-ha!" How to Find Insights, Revelations and Other Flashes of Parenting Brilliance

Amy Rees
March 26, 2009


Sometimes, the lightbulb goes off. The whirlwind of household commotion stops; all suddenly seems clear, uncomplicated, almost easy. You wait, mouth curling into a smile as the revelation develops more fully. Yep, that's it. You got it. A flash of parenting insight.

You could've had a V-8 -- instead you got a flicker of parenting brilliance.  Even more nutritious!

So, how do we foster these moments? Is there a way to return to the triggers, instead of just waiting for the making-sense-of-it lightning to strike? (A 2008 article in The New Yorker explored the neuroscience behind flashes of insight -- an abstract is available here, although the full (and fascinating) article is available only to subscribers.) It seems Savvy to make a list, like the list you ticked through to figure out why your newborn might be wailing ("hungry? tired? wet? being stuck by a pin?"). Perhaps running through this one will bring a bit more "a-ha!" to your day. At a minimum, you'll feel a bit better hunting for insight instead waiting for it to find you!

Instead of trying to beg, cajole, urge your preschooler, try these brilliance triggers to get yourself out of a jam:

Is there a reward that would work here? Perhaps you just haven't quite tripped on the right motivator. Who would have guessed that tapping the inner Betty Crocker would work for a recalcitrant potty trainee -- a desperate mom guessed! Balloons from the grocery store florist department have worked wonders for many a shopping trip, you know...

Would doubling (or halving) your first attempted solution work? Funny how potty training triggers so many of these insights... Anyway, a Savvy mom we know kept her six-month-old dry (and therefore sleeping) through the night just by double-wrapping a diaper at bedtime. Another one went with half the servings of dinner at a time with her toddler and found much more ended up in the mouth and much less on the floor.

Would changing your tone of voice help? Preschool teachers are masters at this one: they command by whispers and quiet waiting, and a whole room of three-year-old pinballs comes to rest. Or try the almost-never-heard, I'm-really-serious yell; used judiciously, it will keep your wee one in line on the super important stuff.

Is there a short-cut, an end-run, a "Parent Hack" to use? The clever compendium at Parent Hacks is basically an insight encyclopedia. We loved their Savvy "green" ideas, and we love all their tips. There just might be one for you, for right now.

Is there a bigger point here? Not to make your day into an endless blur of attempts at "teachable moments," but do get the headline across when it's appropriate -- and avoid frustration along the way.  Our Savvy editor in Dallas explains it this way: "When my daughter can't strap on a shoe, or build a tower 15 blocks high, I proclaim loudly, 'You Can Do Anything' and make her repeat after me three times. During that time, we do the deed together, and I praise her for trying and remind her, 'See, yes you can! You can do anything!'"

Would getting back into your routine settle things down? Our expert Betsy Brown Braun reminded us at the holidays how important sticking to a routine is for our little ones, and really, the daily stresses are no different. Don't be overly rigid, but get your train back on schedule and -- wow -- momentum feels great!

Do you need some help -- or an escape? Getting your kids some solo time with their grandparents is salve for all generations. Getting yourself some time alone with your spouse is like regular maintenance for a smooth-running marriage. Getting alone with your own thoughts has helped lots of Savvy moms make sense of things. One cherished obstetrician we know offers a post-baby prescription of getting outside every day, getting out completely by yourself every few days, and getting out as a couple every week or two. Wise counsel, we think.

Hold off on passing judgment. Our Savvy city editor in Cincinnati offers sage perspective here.  "I'll have to say that in my almost seven year journey through parenthood, I can't believe how many times I've been taught not to judge a mom, a situation, a baby, a toddler, a choice, a parenting strategy... the list goes on. You can sometimes feel others' judgment wash over you and it's heartbreaking because they don't know your situation.  You want to scream, explain yourself or your children, but you just silently keep going.  In order to rid myself of that awful feeling when someone clearly disagrees with what I'm doing, I try VERY HARD not to impose a judgment on others.  Inevitably, I've had or will have a day just like they are having."

In other words, go easy on yourselves, your kiddos, your fellow parents.

A-ha, indeed!


From the Parents

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