MOST PEOPLE LEARN THEIR parenting skills from their parents.
You take what worked and do the opposite of what didn’t.
Although this seems logical in theory, it’s often what causes a lot of misunderstanding between a child and their parent.
To a child, their parents are Gods. They are everything and can do no wrong.
BUT, there is always that moment where a child realizes that their parent is not perfect. That their parent might actually not know what is best for them. A moment where they catch their parent bullshitting or making up something that doesn’t make sense.
In that moment, a child’s world comes crashing down.
In that moment you may not be the superhero they thought you were and their heart breaks for the first time.
Some kids find this out early in life, others later on.
My dad was the most confident person I knew. He seemed to know EVERYTHING. Every fact about everything he knew… or so it seemed. I was a daddy’s girl and did whatever I could to win his affection and love.
I’d make him his morning coffee, cooked him a fancy breakfast any day I didn’t have school, gave him back massages, and I even went on fishing trips with him.
My dad was a ton of fun, but he could also be very strict. When he wanted something his way, watch out.
So I tip-toed through life trying not to make any ripples.
Trying to always stay on his good side. Never questioning why, because that seemed to upset him.
When I entered my teenage years, my love for my dad started to turn into resentment as I fought with myself to give him unconditional love yet not feel it in return.
I knew he loved me and I knew he was proud of me, but it seemed like it was only reserved for the public. He only praised me after a competition when all the other parents were around. He boasted about my achievements at the dinner table to my aunties. It felt fake. It felt scripted.
And I was scared to do anything that would upset him, but that included doing things I didn’t enjoy, like gymnastics.
My stomach was always in knots while training.
Fearful of hurting myself, not being good enough, not learning new skills fast enough, not being strong enough, etc. Whenever I tried to speak with my dad he wouldn’t listen. He had the habit of walking away from a conversation he didn’t want to have.
That broke my heart.
Now, looking back, there are so many positive things that came out of those challenges while growing up. Not feeling heard made me a doer. No longer did I wait to get permission to do something I wanted, I jut did it and suffered the consequences.
I can see how strong shitty situations can make me. I grow, I expand, I learn and I get stronger. It also allows me to really reflect and understand myself.
But not everyone sees their childhoods the same way. I know I didn’t for a very long time, and I still have moments of resentment, frustration and sadness for that little girls who cried all alone.
How will I parent?
Most people’s logical decision is to avoid parenting the way that they didn’t like themselves… but guess what, that’s probably exactly what your parents did.
Doing the opposite of what you didn’t like doesn’t guarantee a happy child that will love you unconditionally for the rest of your life.
In fact, having a preconceived idea of what your child will and will not like is probably what will drive a wedge between parent and child.
All children are unique. Your child may not be anything like you. They may have different interests, personalities, and strengths. They are not your “mini-me”.
The way you parent will shape their reality and perception of the world.
It is obvious that most parents are doing the best they can in raising their kids.
But the problem is, you only have a limited view of parenting. Unless you have been raised by several people or have exposed yourself to different parenting styles, you have limited resources to access. So here is the opportunity to learn from your lessons, and not the stories.
And the truth is, they will not always love you. They will not always like you. But if you listen, really hear what they are saying, they will respect you and want to continue building a stronger relationship.
It’s a challenge to myself to understand why I liked and didn’t like certain aspects of my parents’ style of raising me… not the actual way they did it.
For example, I’m not going to force my child to try every sport, musical instrument and art camp just because I didn’t get to do it. Nor am I going restrict my child from doing competitive gymnastics if he/she really wanted to do it.
Those are not the lessons I learned from my parents, they were just the stories I experienced. The deeper lesson is to listen to my children and make sure they feel heard. To allow confrontations with people (including my children), even if I don’t want to hear it. And above all, to know that any hardship or “poor parenting” done on my part can be a growing experience for my children to become great people and leaders.
Serving your children everything on a golden platter is probably more harmful to their growth than letting them get a little dirty and working for it.
People need challenges to growth. We need to go through difficulties to truly appreciate the reward. We need to see that roadblocks are merely opportunities to succeed.
I love hearing deep parenting advise, not the superficial “which diapers to use” or “how long to breast feed”, but the words of wisdom that get mummies through the most challenging of times.
“Trust yourself” – from a mummy friend who was overwhelmed with parenting advice and just needed to trust what she felt was best for her child.
“You are your children’s best role model” – Words of wisdom from Jon’s dad’s. If you yell and hit your kids, guess what, they will probably do the same because they see that it’s okay. If you are disrespectful to your children, likely they will be disrespectful back to you. You cannot force your kids to be a different way than you model. The way you live your life is the best influence you can have on your children.
“Keep talking” – A mum of 6, had told Jon’s mum this piece of advice when her kids were teenagers. She was referring to the way she enforces rules. She didn’t believe in punishment (ie. grounding, yelling) but to just keep reminding her kids of the rules in the house, but never enforcing them, knowing that they were going to break them anyways. Raising mindful teenagers must be tough, but giving them the responsibility to follow rules and not be forced is a revelation.
What ever way you parent you can always do better and you can always do worse.
Do the best you can but remember to always listen and respect your children. How you behave will set the model for what they expect and how they will parent in the future.