The Day I Learned the Golden Rule of Parenting…

by denny hagel on September 15, 2011

I will never forget the day I learned the golden rule of parenting. When I first became a mom I was so excited thinking about all the things I wanted to teach and share with my daughter…hold a cup, tie her shoes, write her name, draw her favorite animal, ride a horse, and oh yes, I wanted to teach her to be the best that she could be. I wanted her to love herself and love her life. It was much the same when I became a grandmother.
The specifics might be different but I think all of us moms and grandmoms share the same hopes and dreams that no matter what, we want our babies to grow and thrive and be happy.
Now, almost 34 years after that glorious almost surreal night in February of 1978 when I received my precious baby girl, I sit here a grandmother, raising my two amazing grandchildren, Kaitlyn 14, and Zach 13 and look back over all of my many years of parenting realizing how much they all have taught me! 
As parents, we enter this journey so full of our intentions and goals, sometimes planning down to the very smallest detail! I remember when my daughter, Cally, was born, I had visions of all the exquisite ruffled dresses I was going to dress her in, all with matching bows for her long locks of rich brown hair and polished Mary-Jane shoes. While she was an infant I spent hours looking at catalogs envisioning her in the most precious outfits…all fit for a princess. I was ordering clothes that she wouldn’t be able to wear for several years but I was so excited I couldn’t help myself!
And then Cally turned 4. I remember it clearly because it was actually her 4th birthday when I experienced an “aha” moment that not only changed my relationship with my daughter but clearly impacted my parenting mindset.
All of our friends and family had gathered at a friend’s house to celebrate Cally’s birthday by sharing a buffet style meal followed by games and activities for Cally and her playmates. She had on a brilliant red and black Polly Flanders dress, red tights, a matching ribbon on each of her meticulously crafted braids and shiny new black patent leather shoes. She was picture perfect.
In the midst of one of the games Cally tripped and spilled punch all over her dress and scuffed her new shoes. I was quick to react. I knew she wasn’t hurt, but I was afraid she would be upset about her dress and shoes as I was. She wasn’t and that sort of puzzled me. My friend, who had a son Cally’s age, offered a pair of his Osh-Kosh overalls for her to change into. All was well again and the party continued.
The next morning Cally got up and dressed herself before coming into my room. She had put the borrowed overalls back on. I explained that we needed to return them and that she needed to put something else on.
She replied in no uncertain terms that she wanted to wear the overalls. Of course she didn’t have any of her own…after all, she was my princess and princesses wear ruffles and lace, not denim!
As I looked through her closet for her “outfit” of the day, I could see her unhappiness. I asked her if she would like to choose her clothes for the day and she said, “I don’t like anything!” I couldn’t imagine that out of the countless dresses, skirts and jumpers in her closet that nothing appealed to her.
I explained that we needed to go to town later that week for groceries so if she was willing to put on the outfit I chose from her closet that I would take her to the department store and she could pick out an outfit that she liked. She agreed and our day went on as usual.
Several days later we went to the nearest department store. As promised Cally picked out clothes that she wanted to wear…not one ruffle, no lace and certainly no dresses! But she was beaming with joy. I could see that she needed to wear what made her happy. I knew I had to let go of my preferences and dreams and let her live out her own.
I don’t think I ever saw Cally in a dress again until she was in a school Christmas pageant about 5 years later. I learned to ask her what she wanted to wear each day and honor her desires.
This was the beginning of a new mindset for me… I had been raised by parents who honored my preferences and yet somehow in my joy and excitement of becoming a mother I forgot that my daughter had the right to hers as well.
When we see parenting as a treasured role that we are passionate to fill, it is easy to attach our own dreams to the experience and ignore the fact that our children are individuals separate and apart from us.
As a parenting coach, I am often asked what I believe is the most important thing parents can do for their children…my response is always the same…let them be who they are!
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Denny Hagel is a child advocate and parenting coach, devoting over 25 years to the success and well being of all children. She is the published author of over 60 articles on parenting, many of which have attracted international attention in over 24 countries.

Denny was blessed with forward thinking parents who raised her with an understanding of her value as an individual, her innate power to choose by way of her thoughts, ideas, opinions and beliefs, thus, instilling in her a strong sense of personal responsibility for what happens in our lives

She is the founder of Awakened Parenting LLC, a company dedicated to helping parents release parenting paradigms of the past and consciously choose to raise their children to approach life with a positive mindset and strong sense of self. It is Denny’s passion to combine what she learned through her formal education in early childhood education and psychology and what her parents instilled in her and pass this on to all parents.

Denny has created the discussion group "Awakened Parenting Discussion Forum" on Face Book which now has over 600 members.  She does on line coaching with parents and teachers who consult her on a regular basis. Denny collaborates with counselors, authors, coaches and others working in the parent coaching field. Denny Hagel is the author of the newly published "The Missing Secret to Parenting", "The C.P.R. Program for Parents & Teens: Conflict Prevention/Resolution Formula", "Mini-Me Syndrome" and two free e-booklets Parenting Using the Law of Attraction and Becoming an Awakened Parent".

  • Carol A Bender

    *smiles* I love the way you share your memories and teach such valuable lessons.

  • Lyndeutsch

    Very engaging post.  My two youngest daughters are opposites when it comes to dressing up –  Isabela is one that likes really girl-clothes and Danielle is more of the rugged type and would not wear anything lacey or fancy.  I had the same reaction as you did… but then I realized, each one is unique and they are entitled to express their own creativity, which I actually like, having their own original pleasant styles.  Thank you for sharing.

  • Hughie Bagnell

    Hi Denny…Great Article! …”Let our children be who they are!”…Thank you for sharing …Hughie

  • Anastasiya Day

    Great article! I love the way you share your memories and teach such valuable lessons too! Thank you so much for sharing!

  • Tamarah

    I still struggle with this sometimes as I lose site of the fierce independence of my daughters and their need to use their power to choose.  The more I can guide them in that power at a young age, I am hoping they will understand that power as teenagers and use it more wisely.  We’ll see how it plays out in 5 years!

  • Olga

    Yes Denny, great encouragement for parents to engage with their childrens desires of what to wear or not to wear!

  • Anonymous

    Great insight – our kids want to be valued and allowed their own choices!  I agree, Denny, I want to “equip” my children to handle choice well, not control their choices!

  • Joanie McMahon

    Yes indeed, isn’t it great when we get that these beautiful souls have just come through us and our work is to allow them to be who THEY are and not who we want them to be.   Great post Denny. Thanks 

  • Jen

    Great article Denny!  And yes, I too believe that parenting is a treasure role and that we should continually be the rock in the life of our children!  Thanks for sharing!

  • AJ

    I like it!

  • Naomi

    Denny this made me chuckle as I have a 4 year old who will not wear what I put out. He wants to wear something he calls comfy and would rather buy his own clothes than me buy them. My older one could not care too hoots!

  • pamela wright

    I love what you say, Denny about “honor her desires.”  You’re so right about that.  It’s easy for me to want to impress what I think is best for my kids on them and not do that.  I appreciate your very wise parenting tip and will implement it!

  • laurabbaker

    Denny, again, you are right on the money. I hope every parent in America reads you wise words. More importantly, I hope they heed you wisdom. Honoring the individuality of each child is paramount to raising happy people.

  • Michelle Pearson

    Great article! Thank you so much for sharing your story!

  • Anonymous

    Thank you so much for your kind words Laura! :)

  • Anonymous

    I totally agree…instinctively we want to jump in! Having the awareness that doing otherwise is what is best for them is wonderful! Thanks Pamela!

  • Anonymous

    I am glad!

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for commenting Jen!

  • Anonymous

    It is the greatest gift! Thanks Joanie!

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for sharing Bess!

  • Anonymous

    YES YES YES!!! What we do at an early age is laying the foundation for the times when the road can get bumpy! Thanks for sharing your insights!

  • Anonymous

    You are welcome! Thanks for always sharing your insights!

  • Anonymous

    I too love the individuality that our children display…Fun! :)

  • Anonymous

    Thank you Carol!:))

  • Cheree Miller

    Yes, a true “aha” moment!  I think we all go through that to a certain extent. We don’t mean to, but somehow we end up trying to impress our dreams, hopes and desires onto our children until they let us know that OUR stuff doesn’t necessarily fit THEM.  Great article, Denny!

  • Solvita

    WOW – great message – let them be who they are! This is very hard to do and once you allow go the need to control, everything works out so gracefully and naturally. Children have their own agenda and purpose in life, when we ignore that – we are in trouble! Thanks Denny! :)

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