Updated: Aug 21
I have talked to many parents and their wonderful children. One of the stressors that the majority of parents seem to have in common is the worry that they aren't doing it right and will ruin their children.
Just parenting is a hard enough job in itself without throwing in the huge worry and second guessing yourself. You feed them and clothe them and make sure they are safe. You send them to school and hug them a lot and teach them right from wrong.
What you may not realize is that being with you is one of the things the child wants most. For many years I used to give my young clients a sentence completion. One was "I like my dad when he…..and invariably the answer was "takes me places" That was kid talk for it’s a time when we get to be together.
But there are other times when can impact your child without really thinking too hard about it. For example, when you get yourself up and take a shower and brush your teeth, and make your bed, they are noticing that you are taking care of yourself, and you are following a daily routine. When you wash the clothes, they see that you keep things clean in the home. When you do the shopping, you are getting food for yourself and the kids.
What one parent noticed was how nervous their son got when they started bickering and fighting, especially if they got loud. Some parents haven't learned the lesson of conflict management.
Conflicts are going to happen. He says it is okay to have their two year old climb that jungle gym. Mom says it is way too scary to have the baby on that outside gym. Compromise? Not so much. Capitulation? Maybe Dad will bend to Mom's worrisome musings and wait until he has the toddler alone until he lets her jump on the jungle gym.
A five year old is bragging about his Dad's new car to his kindergarten friend. Mom overhears and thinks that is cute. Dad is also listening and later tells his son its not okay to brag.
In our house I learned to read books, but never write in them or even turn a page at the corner to save a place. Books were precious commodities that you didn't violate was an underlying message. Other people grew up in homes where people highlighted in books or underlined things they liked. Some parents insisted a kitchen was completely cleaned up after dinner. Other families were not so insistant in that area.
Being a parent is a solemn responsibility. As a foster parent, I learned that some parents had never had good parenting and would forget to get up in the morning and would leave their children unattended, or be outside smoking while a child set fire to the kitchen stove.
We hear horror stories about parents who abused their children and forget that we can daily improve our parenting by really paying attention to a child when they want to talk. So many adults describe a childhood where their parents were preoccupied with work or their friends' problems and didn't notice they were hurting.
You do not have to be a perfect parent. You do have to care for your child and care for yourself so your child has a rested, healthy parent.
When a child is listened to with love, they develop a strong sense of self that knows that someone has their back, someone is interested in them and not in competition with them, and someone who loves them as a person, not as a human reflection of themself who is only valued when they get good grades or score in soccer.
Challenging children can get out of their "getting in trouble" patch when parents start noticing what they are doing right and telling them so. Minimizing the attention to out of the norm behavior and smiling when you see them close their dresser drawers is a subtle way of telling your child you see their progress and don't expect perfection.
Today is a good day to take a deep breath, feel the air coming into your body and exhaling any tension you may have about being a good parent. You are fine.