It’s not (all) their fault (usually). Parents get a bad deal I think. The expectations are growing and the support is shrinking.
The expectations are extraordinary. It seems that parents are now expected to be supervising their children 24/7. When I was young (not all THAT long ago) it wasn’t like this. Now it seems parents need to know where their children are and what they are doing at every moment. This is quite an ask. And the easiest solution is to keep them at home – or at someone else’s home. Why aren’t children out getting exercise. Well, video games have lots of lights and buzzers. The other side of the story is that society wants to keep the (absolutely) ‘safe’ (all the time). This is an admirable aim. But can have serious unintended consequences: like lack of exercise. But what parent could feel good about their child being less safe than possible? It’s an appalling situation.
As well as safety there are increasing expectations. Parents are meant to be preparing their child for their future. Play isn’t really a valued part of this program. Preparing children from pre-school for their future may seem ridiculous but the pressure is extraordinary. And children are rated and expected to compete against each other in just about every way (competitive sport, frequent exams . . . the list goes on).
And the support offered is falling. Our governments may be richer than ever but the services offered seem to be shrinking. Parents are increasingly asked to cover the costs of health, education and child care.
Where is the room for parents to have fun and just enjoy their kids?
Here is a quick (and, yes overly simplistic) guide to parenting from the perspective of Transactional Analysis.
1. Parents are people too. They are allowed to have fun and be childlike. A motto to keep in mind: How can this be fun for all of us (including Mummy/Daddy).
2. There are two parts to parenting. Supporting and limiting.
Most parents desire to be supportive. This comes down to watching attentively and (when their old enough) listening to the kids. They usually know what the want (although this is sometimes not realistic). Parents who are abusive are another matter (it may be due to lack of social support, or abuse in their own background, or simple ignorance of what children are like. It is less often in my experience that parents hate their children, or that they allow them to be abused knowingly – although that this does occur should not be ignored.)
If parents have trouble nuturing their children this can usually be remedied by providing support for them and some education about what children are like. For instance their are some children who seem to be prone to negative moods and are hard to distract. It seems that some children just are like this. It is often a relief to parents to know this: the relief can make it easier to cope too.
3. Limiting is best done with explanation. Eg why something is dangerous; why annoying people won’t get you what you want; that other people are entitled to have what they want just as much as children are. Endless power struggles are draining for all concerned.
4. We parent ourselves. If we find kids stressful (and in our world that is set up for adults not children this is very likely to happen) it is worth asking about how we treat the childlike part of ourselves.
I don’t want to add to the burden of parents. Most of them, most of them, do a great job with not enough support. I think recognising that parents are entitled to fun will help parents and maybe their kids too.
I realise that this is a topic with strong feelings around it. Please feel free to leave comments in the space below. I am especially keen to hear about what has made parenting easier for you.
An apology. Not sure what is happening with graphics at the moment. I’m trying to figure out why the one on my last post didn’t appear. Hope to have it fixed soon.