How Harry Potter Helps My Parenting

Harry Potter and I go as far back as when J. K. Rowling enriched our reading lives with her first book about “the boy who lived”. I was instantly hooked on the exhilarating story that (dare I admit) I’m still addicted to. But what I value most are the rich characters that remarkably portray the realities of our human condition and social interplay! Think about it. If you’ve read the series, don’t you know wisdom packed Dumbledore, a derelict Draco, an intellectual Hermoine, or a loving, home cookin’ Mrs. Weasley in your own life? Not only do I know these kinds of characters, I interact with them routinely.   I’ll get back to Harry Potter in a moment. Until then, please permit me to share that some of my most rewarding parenting moments have come during the most mundane of daily activities where I utilized a window of opportunity to connect with, teach, or guide my son. I often like to blog about these moments and realize that some might retort, “this is common sense!” I believe it is important to remember that what is “common sense” for one individual isn’t necessarily “common sense” for another. I also believe that everyday “common sense circumstances” are the fabric of our lives that shouldn’t be overlooked. It is in these moments that we live and perform the majority of the time. The little stuff defines us.

  But I’ve digressed! Parenting reward came from a routine moment when my son was four. I was putting milk back into the refrigerator. It had been a very hot summer day so I told him “the milk needs to stay cold so it doesn’t get germs in it”. About a month later, my little tike had to take the JATP which is a standardized measure of cognitive function required by some schools in my city. When I met with the psychologist to discuss the results I was elated to learn that my son scored well, but imagine the intensity of my excitement when she told me that one of the questions he answered was “Why do we put milk in the refrigerator?” The psychologist said that most kids answer; “to keep it cold” and that my son took the answer further by saying “and to keep it from getting germs”. That extra bit of information that I taught him in a mundane, common sense moment caused him to score higher on that particular question!

  So what does all of this have to do with my parenting fascination with Harry Potter? The book series has provided parents with an “out of the box” arsenal of teaching ideas that reflect loads of common sense moments in the everyday fabric of our lives and, more importantly, our children’s lives! Unlike my milk story, which helped my son to pass an academic test, Harry Potter can help parents to arm kids to pass the tests of life. Here are some quick examples without giving away too many of the details in case you haven’t read the books.

  In book one Harry Potter meets Draco Malfoy upon their arrival at Hogwarts School. Draco flaunts his family’s wealth and verbally bullies Ron whom Harry had just befriended on the train. In an attempt to woo Harry, Draco extends a handshake with the snooty comment: “You’ll soon know that some wizarding families are better than others. You don’t want to go making friends with the wrong sort.” Harry does not shake Draco’s hand, but looks him straight in the eye and calmly retorts “I think I can tell the wrong sort for myself”. Wow! There are several teaching opportunities for our kids who encounter similar situations. Harry can be complimented for his ability to effectively read social cues, for staying calm among heightened emotions (a competency of emotional intelligence), and most importantly, knowing what he wants and confidently communicating it with firm eye contact and courage. How might this scene inspire all of our kids to do the same? Can Harry Potter be an effective role model?

  Another example is the concept of good versus evil and positivity versus negativity as demonstrated by the Dementors and the Wizard’s spell, “Expecto Patronum”. The Dementors are Grim Reaper resembling villains who create cold, icy environments in which a wizard loses all joy and happiness. Then they take the soul. Yikes! If wizard Harry Potter doesn’t want to lose his soul to a Dementor, he must successfully create an intensely happy memory to cast the Expecto Patronum spell and force the Dementor to flee. Do you know a Dementor like person whose presence depletes your energy and makes you unhappy? Maybe it is your boss, a coworker, or hmm, your mother in law! Who are your kid’s Dementors? The teaching idea here is “how can you and your kids create your own “Expecto Patronum” spells to effectively manage the negative people and forces in your world. Of course this example is a generality that creative parent and child minds can play with.

  There are countless examples in the Harry Potter series (as well as other fiction books) that reflect sensational situations, difficult dilemmas, extreme emotions, an array of personality types, etc., that we all can relate to in our own lives. What seems mundane in our own day to day world has become a wildly popular drama that children all over the globe have identified with. The books are a superb choice for parents to enjoy reading and to utilize as tools, analogy, or metaphor with their kids in those everyday parenting moments. An added benefit is that kids will relish when their parents “descend” into their world instead of being expected to rise up to adult examples of influence. It can be a very creative and fun way to enhance the parenting journey and a solicit a child’s “buy in” to actually listen to and follow through with their parent’s guidance.

  So don’t be surprised if you see me blogging about Harry Potter and his friends and foes. They entertain me, inspire me, and help me to parent the most phenomenal kid I’ve ever known!

Reader comments are cherished. Please share your thoughts and your favorite Harry Potter teachable moments!