One of the toughest things about parenting is that the results are not always obvious. If we rely on the immediate behaviour of our kids to measure how we are doing as parents, there will be days we feel we have done the best job as a parent and days we do not understand what is happening in our chaotic world – this is the norm.
The messages we learn as children are powerful and can determine the way we look at things and deal with many different issues throughout our lives. But we must remember, if we did not receive positive and healthy message as a child, this does NOT mean we cannot give positive and healthy messages to our kids. Too many parents believe they cannot be good parents because of their own childhood and the parenting they received – this is not the case.
There are two ways our own history can influence us as parents;
1. We can repeat what we have experienced.
2. We can push against what we have been exposed to and do things in a completely different way.
Here are some of the negative messages that can become embedded during childhood and new ways to think about them.
“I don’t know what a good parent looks like. I’m ruining my kids.”
Knowing what a good parent ‘is not’ is as powerful as knowing what a good parent is. If you take the negative from your own parenting and make sure you do not repeat this, you are one step ahead.
“You have to be good to be loved.”
Nobody is always good. But you are always good enough. Try not to compare your kids to other siblings, cousins etc, let them know they are great just the way they are. We all make mistakes, loose our temper, make rash decisions – this does not make us unlovable, it makes us human.
“Arguing leads to trouble. It’s easier to agree.
Disagreements are normal and healthy in every family. Setting boundaries is essential in parenting, this will usually lead to arguments, but you have to stand strong. It is always easier to say ‘yes’, that does not mean it is always right.
“Kids should be seen and not heard.”
We all have a voice and its an important one, everyone deserves to be heard. We need to teach our kids how to be able to interact with other adults and peers, they need to be seen and heard to achieve this. This does not mean we have no privacy, there is a time and a place for everything. They need to know we will ‘listen’ to them when they have something to tell us – try to remember what was important to you when you were their age. If they come to you and you do not listen or show any interest in what they are saying, it may be the last time they come to you. Communication is vital in all stages of parenting.
“Kids should do as they are told.”
Kids need to be able to say ‘no’ – this is one of the most important words on the planet. It is not the most pleasant when fired at us directly, but it is a word that we want them to know and to feel confident and strong about. Whenever you hear them say ‘no’, which very often will be at the most inconvenient times, know that your little being is experimenting with setting and protecting his or her own boundaries. It will be an experiment that will take time to master – and that’s ok.
‘What I want doesn’t matter.’
‘You matter, your needs matter.’
One of the most damaging lessons that unhealthy families teach is that the needs of the child aren’t important. They will have various ways of doing this, including criticism, judgement, put-downs and neglect. The depression of needs will, literally, lead to depression and a malnourished self. We all have needs and we all need to be in an environment that is supportive of those needs. You matter and what is important to you matters. It is difficult to thrive when the things that are important to you are being crushed.
Kids need to control themselves.
Children have to learn how to understand their emotions and learn how to deal with them in a healthy manner. Anger, sadness, jealousy, spite – they are all important. If kids learn from an early age the importance of being able to express their emotions and deal with them in a healthy way – they will then be able to deal with the more serious emotions they may feel as they get older. In the society they are growing up in, this is of the upmost importance.
This article could go on and on and on. It is such an important message to parents to realise they can parent any way they want to, regardless of the way they were parented themselves. Parenting is the single most important job you will ever have, yet the only job that comes without training. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and advice – you are not supposed to know all of the answers.
Feel free to email me with any queries relating to the above or any other parenting issues.