By Family Lab
We are at an exciting crossroad. As parents we cannot, and do not want to do as our own parents did. We are no longer tied down by traditions, neither do we have to resort to the use of authoritarian force or democratic tricks to raise our children. Although, these have been very popular techniques used for decades, they ought to be something of the past. Times are changing and so is parenting. These changes bring plenty of challenges.
As parents we try really hard to do our best, and as a result we do well. We also try to do better than our own parents did. Perhaps we are at a stage when we are trying too hard…? There is certainly the risk that our desire to do well is leading many to aim for perfection. Some are definitely not satisfied if things are less than perfect. “If I can only be a perfect parent then I will have, if not perfect children, then at least trouble-free ones.” Most parents will understand that this is a dilemma.
We also live in a world where everything is being assessed and judged. Everyone comments on our parenting abilities – strangers, family and friends alike. Our children’s achievements and just about every step they take is being watched, measured and guided. “Well done!” and “If you do it this way…!” is our response.
Add to this the fact that children are no longer allowed to make mistakes or learn from those they happen to make – not in public and not at home. “Careful!” and “I’ll do it for you!” seems to have taken over.
“Curling Kids” is a label we could use to describe how we often treat our children. We sweep and polish the path they travel. Just like it is done in “curling” – the sport where players use brooms to sweep the ice in an effort to adjust the direction of a sliding stone so it ends up as close as possible to where they want it. We try to adjust our children’s every move and fine-tune their behaviour in an effort to make them do the things we want them to right here and now.
So, try not to parent
In our search for perfection we listen to experts. We listen to our children’s carers and teachers. We look for guidelines and how-to advice from TV-shows and on talk-back radio. “Do this, do that”, “Five quick ways to get them to sleep”, “How to make you child eat broccoli”, “Homework made easy” and on it goes. It is all about showing us what good parents do because we are allegedly not good enough. It might sound like a clever idea to copy what other people do, but ever so slowly our own personal leadership fades and disappears.
We are left with parenting manuals that never fit – let alone suit the unique relationships we have with our own children.
What our children really need is for us to be people. This is much more important than acting as parents – because this will always go wrong. Children need a sense of connectedness. They must know that boundaries and feelings are real and genuine. We do not want to bring them up using tricks and techniques; or the popular methods of the day – whichever that might be. Children need us to be real people – not actors.
When we are personal – and realistic – we know what is right. Many parents however, have rather unrealistic expectations of themselves and their children. We expect our children to learn things faster and faster, and earlier and earlier. This is a constant source of conflict and leads to a sense of failure for parents as well as children.
For example, a child is not able to completely integrate a meaningful “No!” into their expressive language until the age of four or five. However, we often get irritated and frustrated when they do not understand that “No!” means “No!” when they are just three.
Another example, everything has to happen in a hurry. Most children are simply not able to get ready as quickly as their parents want them – especially not in the mornings. There is very little room for nothing. They have to make the most of every minute and every gap has to be filled with some kind of entertainment. Their desires have to be met right here and now, and in the process their real needs are often neglected.
“Yes!” or “No!”
“Yes!” is often the answer when our children ask for something. We hope to avoid conflicts right here and right now. We sometimes confuse children’s wants with their needs. This, for better or for worse, often happens when children are in other people’s care. We take them out in public, visit friends and family or when we are tired or in a hurry. The requests “Hurry!” and “Quickly!” seem to have taken over our ability to hasten slowly. Such is life and there is no point in feeling guilty about it. We just need to make sure it does not harm our children too much because it is not their fault.
Once it was easier to say: “No!” simply because there generally was less money around. These days, in spite of recent financial crises, our children get mostly what they need – and want.
Nevertheless, for some “No!” is a safe answer because we are told that it is good to set limits. Besides, it is best to say “No!” – just in case, because something could go wrong. An easy way to ensure our children do not make mistakes is by denying them the opportunity to make them. Unfortunately, we also deny them the opportunity to learn things their own way and in their own time.
As parents we need to learn how to answer genuinely. “What do we as people think is the right thing to do?” If we are not personal then the relationships with our children soon become empty and hollow. This begins long before the children are born simply because we are unable to see how everyone will benefit from our personal opinion relating to just about every decision. We are unsure and start relying on experts. Breast feeding or not? Which institutions, what food, how much sleep, how to deal with aggression, and so forth.
Only few experts talk about the importance of helping parents feel what is right for them.
’Competent Parenting’ Workshop
The Masonic Center, 213 Main Rd, Maroochydore
Thur 11th Oct 7pm – 9pm or
Fri 12th Oct 10am – 12 noon
Birth Connections and FamilyLab Australia/New Zealand are pleased to invite you to a “Competent Parenting Workshop”. This is an interactive and inspirational workshop. At times it will also be challenging and push some boundaries. The workshop will be facilitated by Pernille Powell and Hayes van der Meer, Director of FamilyLab ANZ.
During this workshop we will discuss:
“Partner first – then parent”
“The partnership with your child – dialogue, integrity and equal dignity”
“The value of doing the “wrong” things – authenticity and self-responsibility”.
“Neither authoritarian or democratic parenting works – but what does? ”
“How do children co-operate? The carrot/stick method? Do we need to set limits? Should we negotiate? ”
From “Terrible twos” and “Teenage rebellion” to “Independent years” – how is that possible?