Following our last blog topic, I feel it is important to consider how “parenting” and our own expectations of parenting, can impact on our children’s behaviour. As a parent myself who has worked therapeutically with children and parents over the past 8 years I have come to find the hardest thing to first overcome is the parents’ insecurity about how well they parent. In all my time as a therapist (or a parent) I have never come across a parent that felt they were doing enough for their children (myself included). Of all the ways we identify and judge ourselves (and others) few factors weigh as heavily as how we see ourselves as parents. In our society, to be considered a “bad” parent is one of the worst labels a person can have. As such most people put great pressure on themselves to be a “good” parent. This pressure, while it can be a good motivator, can also be quite disruptive to the child and exhausting for the parent, the consequences of which can lead to increased tension and stress, poor boundaries, and increased emotional outbursts (from the child and the parent) to name a few. But what is a “Good” Parent, and what is good parenting? If you need help with parenting visit our clinic for parent counselling.
To answer this, we need to look at what good parenting is not!! Firstly, good parenting is not “controlling” your child! No one has control of their child, the child controls the child. Effective parenting guides and encourages a child to make good decisions regarding behaviour in different contexts.
Secondly, a child throwing a tantrum is not always a reflection of bad parenting. Healthy and happy children will push boundaries and tantrum from time to time. Further to this, some children simply have different temperaments and will respond to different parenting strategies differently.
Finally, good parenting is not being calm and happy all the time (or even most of the time). Let’s face It, kids can be obnoxious, loud, irrational, and overly emotional at the best of times. It is not realistic to expect anyone to endure this without getting upset to some degree. This does not mean that you do not love your children or that you are a bad parent. It is important however, for us as parents to teach our children how to manage difficult emotions, and we cannot do this by helping them to avoid difficult emotions, and we don’t do it by staying calm all the time ourselves. Children learn to manage difficulty in two main ways, a) by watching their parents manage difficult emotions and b) by dealing with difficult emotions themselves.
The reason people put so much pressure on themselves as parents is because a) they love their kids and only want what is best for them, and b) they do not want to be seen as a bad parent. Firstly, we are never going to be able to give our children everything, and when we do not meet this unrealistic expectation we are left with feelings of shame, guilt, inadequacy, etc. which only makes it harder to provide the care we would like to provide. Secondly, given there is no clearly defined measure of good/bad parenting people will always put pressure on themselves to be better to avoid that label. The problem is, being a good parent is a value, not a goal. We never get to check “be a good parent” off a list of things to do. It should be viewed as a value that helps guide our goals, behaviours, and relationships with our children. It is important that we have realistic expectations of ourselves as parents and understand that having “be a good parent” as a value that we constantly strive towards is what makes a good parent.