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6 top tips for parents learning code

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Everybody knows that becoming a parent is hard. Children turn your world upside down and drain your energy. But you get a warm fuzzy feeling when you look at them, so it’s worth it. However, imagine facing the hurdles of parenting life, while accepting the challenge to learn code. Now that’s next level hard. Although, there are things you can do as a parent to make this a more manageable feat. Here are my top 6 tips to help parents balancing family life and learning code.

Now, I am not promising a miracle, it will still be tough, but there are certain changes you can put in place to help you on your journey.

Just a disclaimer, I don’t want to tell people how to parent. Everyone has their own way of doing things, different styles and that’s fine. I just want to share some of the things that have really helped me while learning to code as a new dad.

1/ Have a good bedtime routine

baby boy sleeping with his rabbit toy - Designed by FreepikChildren are unpredictable creatures, especially babies. It’s just part of their charm. But you can add some predictability to the mix with a routine.

I have personally found having my little one in a routine helps me with my own routine.

In my previous post, I mentioned the importance of developing a routine to learn code. For parents, this can be more of a challenge as they have the unpredictability of children to contend with. This is why I recommend having a routine for your little ones.

Having a routine for them means you can gauge the times when you’re technically “off-duty” and free to code. And when you can plan your free-time it makes building a consistent code routine a lot easier.

Since the early days of my little guy’s life, he has had a regular bedtime routine. Every night his bedtime routine starts with a bath, followed by storytime, and then a bottle before settling down for bed. And all this happens at the same time each night.

This means I can, with some confidence, say I will code at the same time each night.

That said, nothing is 100% with children. They may get sick or have an off day, which means you may be up and down with them most of the night. But I found majority of the time I can count on my little guy going to sleep and waking up at the same time. Which is pretty handy, even if it is a 5.30am rise.

2/ Use your little ones as motivation

businessman motivated for his goal - Designed by FreepikIf you’re a parent I don’t need to remind you that you would do anything for your little one.

Being a parent can be exhausting, and while children may sap your energy, they can also light a fire in you. And this can be a very powerful driving force, which pushes you to strive for more.

In my post, 7 reasons why I learnt code, the first thing I mentioned was my son. He is a big motivator of mine. I want to do everything I can to provide him with the life he deserves, just as any parent would. Additionally, I want to serve as his role model. Someone he can look to and think, “no matter what, if I have passion and work hard I can achieve anything”.

I am aware that might sounds very big headed of me! But the fact of the matter is parents are naturally role models anyway. I have no doubt the other parents will feel the same.

The drive to do whatever it takes is a natural instinct. Something we share with the animal kingdom. A lioness won’t think twice about being gored by a wildebeest in order to provide for her cubs. And it’s precisely that drive which can be one of your strongest assets as a parent.

When your journey bogs you down, or even the idea of starting is too daunting, try this little mental exercise to keep you motivated:

Cast your mind to your little bundle of joy, and visualize the life you want for them. Then consider the steps you need to take to reach that life. And finally, think back to the lioness and put yourself in that mindset. It may sound stupid, but when you need motivation, any methods are worth trying.

3/ Do little and often

I would love nothing more than to spend every waking hour studying so I can reach my goals quicker. Unfortunately, when you have a multitude of commitments and a new baby it’s not really possible.

But don’t dismiss your dreams just because your time is limited. Realistically, it’s very rare that anyone will be satisfied with the amount of time they have. You don’t need all the time in the world, you just need a bit and to be consistent.

More time would be nice, but the little and often approach isn’t so bad. For one it builds consistency, which is vital for learning any new skills. The more you practice, the better you become. It’s actually a topic I covered in my last post, but I thought it was particularly applicable to parents.

You may think it’s impossible to learn anything at such a slow pace but you will soon realize that all those little times add up. If you spend 2 hrs a day that equates to 14 hrs a week, which is 56 hrs a month. And that’s nothing to sniff at. Even if you half that at 1 hr a day, that’s still pretty good!

In a few months, you can be well on your way to achieving your goals and finally understanding that complex beast known as programming.

Being consistent is the key, not the amount of time you have.

To be honest, you may even find yourself making more time than you thought. This tended to happen with me. Some nights I would get hooked and stay up late or into the earlier hours studying. What can I say, programmings addictive!

However, if you have a baby who wakes up at 5 am you may not be able to sustain those late night study sessions. For me though the focus was always on consistency.

As a parent, you will be better served by thinking long-term and pacing yourself. As they say, life is a marathon, not a sprint.

4/ Take care of yourself

Background vector created by Cornecoba - Freepik.comI can’t stress this enough…Take care of your health!

It’s a difficult balance working hard towards a dream while being conscious of your health. You don’t want to be lazy but equally, it’s very easy to start going overboard and working yourself into the ground. Especially when you are a new parent confronting the sleepless night and screaming demands of a baby.

But the work till you drop method isn’t a smart move for parents learning code for a few reasons.

The big one is, you’re responsible for another fragile life. Simply, you need to take care of yourself so you can take care of your family.

I have been there, I’ve made this mistake. In my early days, I pushed myself too hard for too long till I couldn’t function properly. I operated on 3 or 4 hours sleep, sometimes less (I don’t know how though!).  I exhausted myself to the point where I was having constant headaches and migraines. As you can imagine, this made it hard to both parent and code. It wasn’t good.

Your children are solely dependent on you and you can’t take care of them when your curled up in a bundled heap on the floor.

This approach also resulted in a setback to my productivity. I found it hard to retain any of the information and would have to constantly repeat my previous lessons. The body needs sleep to turn short term memory into long term memory. It’s not practical to be sleep deprived while learning a new subject.

I came to the conclusion that this approach wasn’t productive or helpful to long-term success. Like myself, I am sure you would rather finish the race in one piece than not at all.

Learn from my mistakes and take care of yourself so you can take care of your family and remain productive long term.

5/ Seize any small windows of time

business background design - Designed by FreepikSpare time for yourself is a rare commodity when you become a parent. So whenever you get those few magical moments, make every effort to seize them.

Generally, the only free time I have to study is in the evening once the little one is tucked up in bed. However, on the weekends there are little windows of opportunity thanks to the glory of nap time. This may give me an hour or so where I can crack on with my studies.

As a full-time working parent, you will not be able to dedicate the same amount of time as others. So you need to make the most of the time you do have. If a window arises and you don’t have any other duties to take care of, get in some study time!

Any extra time you can give will make a big difference, which is why I say to seize these moments. It goes back to what I mentioned earlier, “do little and often”. The small increments will add up and help you reach your goal faster.

6/ Prioritize 

You may have sensed that the overarching theme of this post is TIME. And when you don’t have a lot of time you can’t afford to waste it doing unnecessary tasks. That’s why you need to prioritize.

Deal with first things first. This is habit 3 in Stephen R. Covey’s book,  7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

Essentially you need categorizes things by their importance and urgency. What is most valuable to you? And what needs to be done first.

As a parent your highest priority will be pretty self-explanatory, that being your children! My first thing is my baby boy. Only once he has been cared for and it’s tucked up in bed, will I then begin work on my other priorities.

Family is important so you need to make time for them. This will also help you to scheduled downtime so that you can remain happy, healthy and productive!

To help you prioritize, consider anything that falls into both the urgent and important category as something that should be done first. Followed by things that are just urgent, then things that are just important. Of course, if something is neither important or urgent it should be cut.

It’s worth taking a look at where you spend your time and reducing, or even cutting anything that isn’t a priority. You need to learn to say NO to things. That includes things you choose to do as well as things requested by other people. Sometimes this will be easier than others, but you need to trim down your to-do list and focus on your main priorities. This will allow you to better manage yourself and your time.

To give you some context, lets look at casual gaming as its quite a simple and straightforward example. Sure computer games are fun, but there is no inherit urgency or significant importance that requires you to play them every night. Therefore, this is not really a priority. And as a parent learning to code, who has limited time you should seriously ask yourself whether you can commit your precious time to this leisure activity.

Granted; gaming can provide valuable downtime, so in the interest of my earlier point to take care of yourself, you may consider fitting in some game time during a scheduled well-being break.

It’s very rare that I play computer games, but if I do it’s normally during some planned downtime with friends.

However, as a rule with anything low priority, I only address it IF and WHEN I have dealt with the highest things on my list.

Summary

As a parent trying to learn code, the key is to be proactive and plan your time effectively. Set routines in place to help you achieve this and make the most of any windows of time you get to study.

Use your parental drive to provide for your kids as fuel to keep pushing for more. But be smart and listen to your body when it tells you to slow down, remember you have children to look after.

It’s better to think of life as a marathon, not a sprint so pace yourself!

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About the Author Owen

Creator of Code Dad, father and self-taught programmer. My mission is to balance life, work, family, all while learning to code, and hopefully help others who want to do the same.

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