I am increasingly concerned about the pressure that parents are being placed under. The pressure to be the best parent in the world, to provide everything our children need, and to make sure we minimise every risk out there that could make life difficult for our children. In one sense it almost sounds right – this should be the job of a parent. But in the midst of, at times trying just to survive as parents, we are constantly being bombarded by slick marketing campaigns, convincing online content, bloggers galore, and those perfect Facebook families…
It takes a pretty tough parent to stand in the face of all these expectations and ‘noise’ and feel confident in their role as a parent. Am I failing if my child is not attending extra-curricular activities each day of the week? Are they disadvantaged if they aren’t attending extra tutoring classes? Am I guilty of neglect if they aren’t eating Michelin Star, organically grown on a mountain-top, ‘Super-foods’ for each meal? And am I rotting their brains by letting them watch ABC for Kids while I prepare their gourmet meals instead of having a pre- prepared educational craft activity for them to complete?
Now I am not saying that all the things mentioned above are a waste of time, but I can honestly say that in my clinical work with struggling children and families, I have never come across a case where the cause of the ‘struggle’ was due to a parent not doing some of the things mentioned above. And in fact, I have worked with clients where there have been ‘too much’ of some of the above and it has not been beneficial.
But is it enough just to love my children? The short answer is ‘no’. I have met many parents who obviously love their children but they are also functioning in destructive ways as a parent. I believe that the starting point is not to look at what we are doing as parents, but to look at who we are as parents. I also think a better starting point is to think about who we want our children to be in 20 years. What qualities and traits do we want them to have. And then to look at ourselves as parents and ask ourselves if we are equipped to guide them there. And if we aren’t, then we have identified a good starting point. Us.
If I want my children to grow up with healthy self-esteem, then how do I feel about myself? If I want my children to not struggle with anxiety like I do, then what am I doing to deal with the anxiety in my life. If I want my children to grow up being generous, then how do I live this in my own life. And if I want them to grow up learning to serve others, then how do I model this.
I don’t believe that we have to be perfect. We can’t be. But I also don’t believe that we should parent from a position of fear, fear of our children missing out or us not providing everything we should. I do believe that a good parent is one that is able to honest with themselves. To look in the mirror and make decisions about what ‘I’ need to work on in ‘me’ in order to continue refining myself because I love my children and I want them to have the best of me.