My work brings me into contact with parents from all over the world, but wherever they are, I hear many different versions of this: Am I parenting right? I feel guilty about X,Y,Z… should I be doing something differently? This self-doubt comes from all sorts of places. What others think, how other parents parent and so on. They all make us question our choices or feel defensive of them.
Not everyone involved in raising your child will agree with your decisions, especially if you’re considered too indulgent or peaceful. But saying this, I’m not a warrior for a particular style, such as ‘gentle’ or ‘unconditional’ parenting. I’m not saying we shouldn’t try. I believe in all of those philosophies, just not when it results in even more ‘I should be more like this, or less like that’. The flipside of a ‘right way’ to parent means there’s an inevitable ‘wrong’ way, and raising humans isn’t that simple.
Consequently, I hear from too many parents loaded with guilt and shame, because they can’t be ‘gentle’ or ‘unconditional’ permanently.
Children don’t want your power – they want their own.
Power can be shared
Many of our inner struggles exist because we were raised by very different parenting than what we want for our own kids. That’s what sells lots of parenting books. But in my opinion, how to parent is less about books, and more about recognising and questioning the fibs we’ve been conditioned to believe about ‘the right way to parent’.
So here’s my perspective on three of the biggest parenting myths that result in us second guessing ourselves or feeling judged.
LIE: Children need to know how to behave
TRUTH: All behaviour is a form of communication
All ‘bad’ behaviour is an expression of an unmet need. Acknowledging that that’s the problem – not the behaviour – helps us stay more grounded, and focused on meeting that need. It is then- and only then – that can you help a child’s behaviour change.
LIE: You’re the adult, so your child should do as you say
TRUTH: Nobody wins a power struggle
None of us want to be an overbearing parent but let’s be honest – sometimes our big ego gets in the way. We don’t our authority undermined. But being in charge isn’t like a remote control, where only one person has the power. Children don’t want your power – they want their own. Power can be shared.
LIE: Children need to think about what they’ve done wrong
TRUTH: You can’t make a child do better by making them feel worse
The ugly truth is, most of us were raised on this method, and it can take real self-awareness to step out of, especially in a moment of discontent with your child. While it’s not realistic – or honest – to always be on our best behaviour, equally, we all know our kids can be a pretty accurate mirror of their grown-ups. Be what you want to see. We don’t always have to change ‘the way we parent’, but when you’re being pulled in different directions, simply holding these truths in mind can change enough.