In the business world, bootstrap financing utilizes unused opportunities that can be found within a company by simply managing finances better. According to the website Entrepreneur.com, “bootstrap financing is probably one of the best and most inexpensive routes an entrepreneur can explore when raising capital.”
In the not-so-far-away past, the saying “pull oneself up by one’s bootstraps” was very meaningful to Americans. Defined as the ability to “improve your situation by your own efforts,” according to The Phrase Finder, the phrase has come to epitomize the American spirit of ingenuity, freedom and individualism. The Phrase Finder tells us that the phrase was known by the early 20th century and that James Joyce alluded to it in “Ulysses,” 1922:
“There were others who had forced their way to the top from the lowest rung by the aid of their bootstraps.”
In the world of babies and toddlers, the concept of bootstrap parenting was created by Operation Ready by 3 to mean that parents can utilize unused opportunities, found within themselves, by identifying and managing their skills better. It is one of the best and most inexpensive routes that a parent can explore when raising babies and toddlers in order to raise a child who will be ready of school by the age of 36 months. To be sure, bootstrap parenting has as much to do with raising babies and toddlers as it does with investing in them and everyone around them to the benefit of all Americans.
To use another concept in a creative sense from the world of finance, babies and toddlers can be considered a form of capital. Capital is most frequently thought of as wealth or other assets owned by a person or company. Of course, parents do not own their children and, as the saying goes, “our children are only ever lent to us.” But, we can think of babies and toddlers as assets and capital in the lives of the people who care for them as well as in the lives of people in their neighborhood, city, state, America, or the world as a whole. If a baby thrives, is healthy and develops well, he will go on to be an asset in his home, his community and his country. If a toddler’s brain has been stimulated to form millions of healthy connections and has not experienced high levels of toxic stress, she will succeed in school and life and become a taxpayer, a voter, a friend, a member of a group, a global citizen, and, if she chooses, a parent. Children are capital in the sense that they will go on to do great things for themselves and the world, if they are raised well and do well in school, are healthy and happy, and can be self-sufficient in life so that they may enjoy all the blessings of liberty.
So what does bootstrap parenting look like? It occurs when parents to look inside themselves to discover and identify the skills they already have within, and then they use those skills when parenting their 0-36 month old children. It happens when an individual explores one’s already-established skill set and applies the same skill set to the work of building their child’s brain connections, keeping their children safe and healthy, and readying them for preschool and beyond. For example, if a person knows that she received “B’s” and “C’s” on tests in school, is able to play basketball, can drive a car, works as a small grocery store manager, and is able to maintain friendships, then she can take the skills involved in and necessary for those activities to the work of parenting. If a father can identify the skills that he needs to work as a landscaper, to fix his own car, to teach Sunday school and to organize his personal items well, he can take the skills needed to accomplish those tasks to the task of raising his infant or toddler.
Let’s take the above example of the mother who was a solid student, drives herself to work to manage a small grocery store, and plays basketball with friends on the weekends. To feel empowered and confident as a mother of an infant, she can look at the skills she had in those parts of her life and can apply them to her parenting. She knows she is able to get herself to work on time and study for a test on a certain date, so she can be confident that she can get her baby on a schedule. She operates a vehicle safely on her commute, so she can feel confident that she will be able to keep her baby safe when he starts to be mobile. She can take her dribbling and shooting skills into the realm of observing her baby and getting to know him well to be sure development is on track and that there are no signs of developmental delay or disorder. She can utilize the friendship skills she already possesses to recognize her competence in building a relationship with her son.
When we show men and women that they already possess the basic skill set necessary to be a good parent, we empower them to be the best parent they can be. Even if they did not have good parent role models around them or their pregnancy was unexpected or unwanted, we can help parents see themselves for who they already are and how this self-reflection can translate well to being a great parent. Utilizing their skill set awareness, a bootstrap parent can say “I can do this parenting thing!” and “I can improve my life, as well as my child’s life, by my own efforts.”