I’m not sure what defines a ‘perfect parent’ because I don’t know any – hopefully they don’t exist because that would put very tall expectations on the rest of us – and their kids…..!!
But like playing music, learning a language, learning to cook, parenting is also something that needs to be learnt – and it’s a big job – here are some basics:
• Children need security, protection, unconditional love, and ‘approval’. They gain all of that from parents in the first place, who offer consistent, positive recognition, and consistent security – together.
• Parents form a secure fence around their children as they grow up, it’s flexible because it widens as they move from stage to stage in development. It’s gate has no lock on it but the parents hold the right to let in or let out.
• Children push against this fence of security – regularly – it is their job to test how secure it is.
• It is very insecure if the parents disagree about the children in front of them, or even openly side with the children against the other parent’s rules. There is no special badge of love to be won because a parent gave in to a child, or undermines the other ‘bad guy’ parent. Only insecurity and doubt for a child who is left to become his ‘own parent’ because the adults are no good at it.
• Once a parent lets them get through the fence because they have pushed – there is danger to the child who instinctively knows they are not safe, not nurtured and protected and therefore in their eyes – not good enough.
• It’s an odd one as parents will say “oh but I like to give my kids freedom and things I never had from my parents, why not?” Because young kids have an instinctive monitor that is only interested in whether they are secure in the authority of the parent/adult figures, who will take on all the responsibilities for them while they are still too immature to carry them fully themselves.
• In a way, kids sometimes try to prove to themselves that they’re not good enough for their parents and will feel the “I told you so” feeling inside when a parent doesn’t appear to ‘care’: -Whether he/she stays out late, borrows and doesn’t return money, is allowed to use any kind of behaviour – because the parent doesn’t ‘care’ enough. Or so it seems deep down to the child.
• Bad kids aren’t born they ‘learn’ how to use bad behaviour in order to gain ‘approval’ – (attention, recognition of ‘existing’…). They learn from us their parents, how we respond to them teaches them whether that behaviour ‘works’ to get noticed. It may be a negative ‘notice’ but anything is better than being ignored.
• The parents’ first job then is to keep them ‘safe and secure’ within the boundaries of the family fence, parents have the weight of responsibility for making all the decisions, not young children.
• Parents take the responsibility of knowing how much freedom and therefore responsibility their kids are ready for at different ages and stages, not the youngsters. Eventually the young adults will be taking a lot more responsibility and it is the parents’ job to stand back, not do it for them, nor pick them up if the consequences are harsh.
• The really tricky parts are knowing when the child is old enough to take on new responsibility –: sleep over at friends’ houses, get a part-time job, stay out later in the evenings, take care of their study responsibilities themselves. WHEN? Truth is it is down to us as individual families to decide – because the parents have done the teaching and training for life out there in the real world. Therefore the practise times are very important – as long as we, as parents learn to trust our children to have learnt well what they have been taught – by us.
• Making mistakes and then learning from them is one of the greatest rewards young (and older) people have. This must be handled under their own power – with encouragement and support –but not under someone else’s direction or power.
• Separated or divorced parents have the chance to form two, double strong fences of security around their children. But sometimes it leads to a trampling down of any security for the child when they openly argue and disagree about rules and authority. This is – well – entirely selfish because it isn’t about the child.
• It also leads to very low self-esteem for a young person who is totally confused as to where he/she fits in amongst the aggravation and chaos of his/her parents’ relationship. All too often the ‘golden rules’ of bringing up our children strongly and securely, go out of the door as a parent (or both), engage in their own battles. Children are always the casualties. ‘Children’ in this case can be any age up to 15 or 16, sometimes older.
• Our job as ‘active parents’ isn’t really complete until the young person is around the age of 22 when their brain is fully developed/matured. For a number of years before that maturity, maybe around 15 0r 16 years of age, we will have stepped right back and taken ‘Should’ out of our language with them, and replaced it with ‘Could’. We will have let them….
….make their own choices and decisions for a growing number of areas of their life, and to accept the consequences themselves.
Our life-long commitment to our children is always the same one: – unconditional love and support, non judging, non dictatorial, empowering, so that when they are setting up homes and lives of their own they will always want to return to us – and leave us – and return to us – in an ever-lasting circle of family.
And that describes as near to Perfect Parenting as I have ever seen.
SMACKING – I am so often asked whether it is OK to smack the hand of a child who is doing the wrong thing. Well – the parent is the ‘boss’ – however, if we smack our children we can never explain to them that it’s not OK for them to smack another child, and they will. Children learn through copying behaviour more effectively than through words.
The exception to this is if the child is in imminent danger of hurting him/herself. A quick tap on the hand will remind them NOT to repeat that action. But just think about that – if they are often smacked that safety tap is meaningless.