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.

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8 Comments to “Four Tips on Parenting.”

  1. RyanAJarrett says:

    Evan, good points and well made. We have a 2 and a half year old and we’re finding he’s pushing his boundaries everyday and we’re having to explain why he can’t run away from us or not put things away. He is also a very bright boy (he can spell “elephant”!) and the support we try to give him to nurture his intelligence is almost as exhausting as the discipline we have to lay down.

    I think that teamwork and unity from the parents is the key to a good parenting relationship. Once cracks appear then children get confused and the boundaries disappear.

  2. Barbara Ling says:

    I’ve explained to my kids that living in my house is not living in a democracy – it’s a benevolent dictatorship and I’m the benevolent dictator. In other words, my role is to be their mom, not their friend, not their enabler…their mom.

    I need to set the boundaries, explain the boundaries, but if kids don’t agree, follow that up with enforce the boundaries no matter what. I have decades of experience…they do not. When they have kids, then they can set the rules as well.

    End result? I have 4 kids who are secure in their self-confidence and know that Mom cares enough to be tough or encouraging or harsh or loving or …whatever is required…whenever it’s required. And yes, it’s draining beyond belief…but quite worthwhile indeed.

    Data points,

    Barbara

  3. Evan says:

    Thanks Ryan,

    I hadn’t thought about unity specifically. I have often seen children play one parent off against another. They seem very good at sussing out any cracks.

    Thanks for your valuable comment.

  4. Evan says:

    Thanks for taking the time to comment Barbara.

    I’m very glad you have found it worthwhile. I don’t think there is any work that is more important.

  5. I’m not a parent yet, but here is what I learn from the book Speed on Trust. First, is asking them to be responsible on the result, not actions…
    Second, when you are giving a warning on what you will do if they do not obey. Go and really do it, if you hold back, the children will not respect any other warning that you give..
    I hope it’s not too simplistic, those are the few points that I remember reading the book.

    Cheers,
    Robert

  6. Evan says:

    Hi Robert,

    I have problems with the first one. Results aren’t always in our control. I do think it’s important for parents to do what they say. Later on I think it is important that negotiation is learnt. Hope this makes sense.

    Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  7. Great article.

    I agree with Barbara. I only have one child, God didn’t bless us with more, but my house is a benevolent dictatorship and I am the benevolent dictator. What I say goes. Period. And it was enforced enough early on that my son knows the rules and lives by them or suffers the appropriate punishment, which he knows beforehand.

    Nobody ever said parenting was going to be easy, nor should it be easy. It is worthwhile no matter how tough things get. It is the most important job anyone can take on and it comes with the least amount of direct training and support of any job I can think of.

    I’m a single mom now, and parenting is easier when you have community and extended family support. The more adults and other families your children are accountable to, the better. They stay out of trouble because they know a lot of eyes are watching and that those people will call your parents if they see you doing something you shouldn’t. Even though my son’s dad and I are now divorced, he doesn’t get away with pitting us against each other. We do call each other and get the real story and we still back each other up. Just because we are no longer husband and wife, we are still Mom and Dad.

    Not only do Mom and Dad need to stick together with the kids, so do all the other adults in your child’s life. Living in a community with people of similar values and like mind is a big help to parenting. That way you personally don’t have to have your eyes on your child all the times, especially as they get older and more independent. You also have others to talk with and reality check with to help you do a better job with a little less stress.

    I used to think my parents were idiots before I became a parent. Now I wonder how they made it look so easy. They are brilliant. When I start to sound just like my mother, I no longer cringe, but feel grounded in the knowledge that my sister and I turned out just fine, and what was good for us is good enough for my son.

  8. Evan says:

    Thanks Sherri,

    It’s great that you and your ex-husband can still be united in caring for your kids. I think it sure does make a difference to have community support.

    I’m glad too that your parents did a great job.

    Thanks for taking the time to share so personally.

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