“Being a parent has been a master class in letting go. Try as we might, there’s only so much we can control. And, boy, have I tried – especially at first. As parents, we just don’t want anything or anyone to hurt our babies. But life has other plans. Bruised knees, bumpy roads and broken hearts are part of the deal. What’s both humbled and heartened me is seeing the resiliency of my children.” – Michelle Obama
The stress of parenthood begins the moment the test reads “pregnant” or when you see the “double line.” It can feel overwhelming and scary, in fact that seems to never really go away.
You cannot protect them from pain, for pain is inevitable, all you can do is help them through it and be a source of comfort. The term “good enough” is important to internalize.
So how do we raise children in a predominantly “All about me” world?
Children are primarily the product of what the caregivers around them model, and ultimately train them in. That being said, it’s important to understand how we parent and what are the triggers that parents have themselves when it comes to tantrums, outbursts, break downs, and crying.
Clinical psychologist Laura Markham has dedicated much of her professional career in working with parents to cultivate skills and ways to cope and build healthier relationships with their children and themselves. She addresses the issues around permissively parenting – a style of parenting that does not set any limits or boundaries, essentially creating a model for children to be unfamiliar with boundaries and so tend to reject or accommodate appropriate limits. Knowing the buttons my own children push I know there are times when I fall into “spoiling” them or relaxing on limits due to my own fatigue. The fact is that when most parents and caregivers spoil their children their intentions are often good or partly misguided. Many times it’s a reaction to their own childhood and wanting to indulge their children in experiences and or materials that wasn’t afforded to them. As a parent you want to give them “everything” and at times in doing so, limits are often ignored or never set in the first place.
Caring is one of those wonderous things that can create a solid foundation even when you feel that it’s too late. The truth is that finding your groove as a parent takes time and a lot of flexibility. In this new age, how does one do that? How can we be modern parents? The New York times published an article written by a pediatrician and two psychologists that addressed everything from bedtimes to screen times. Having read and worked through my own parenting process there was one thing they all had in common. Parenting with an authoritative hand rather than an authoritarian one.
Research shows that there are three parenting styles that currently exist all over the world. In 1966 Diane Baumrind gave name and description to these styles of parenting and noted they effectiveness of each. I felt that a brief overview of these would be beneficial. When I first looked into what kind of parent I’d want to be this is what I came across.
Authoritarian: The authoritarian parent sets standards of behaviors, attitudes and conduct based on strict obedience as a virtue and all other behaviors as punitive and punishable. There is thought process around keeping the child in its place and so restricts independence and autonomy.
Authoritative: The authoritative parent sets standards of behavior, attitudes and conduct based on a rational issued mannered reactions to the child’s direct behavior and incorporates value of obedience and independence.
Permissive: The permissive parent does not set any direct standards of behavior, attitudes and conduct. They take on a “friend” and “peer” relationship and value independence without restriction.
Most parents will float amongst these styles and usually land within the realm of Authoritative parenting, however there are at times parents who stay within their strict parenting style for the long haul. Each style presents with difficulties and impact upon the child. To read more about these styles and the impacts of the styles continue here to Dr. Baumrind’s work. Her work is not the only set of manuals books or writing that has come out in the last decade. In fact, in the last decade a burst of literature around parenting and parenting styles has graced the presence of book shelves. But in the end its important to know that perfection is not the goal, as it is something that is unattainable. In fact, the power of showing up for your children is far better then trying to be a “perfect” parent.
As a parent and a therapist, the things I have learned from my work with other families and within my own is that letting go and finding kindness for yourself can be powerful tools to have. Surrounding yourself with positive influences and working towards being there for each other can create in essence the type of relationship your looking to cultivate in your children. Finding your village in your friends, family and social environment can be another great asset, as well as taking care of yourself.