It’s pretty hilariously not hilarious how unprepared we are as a species to be modern conscious parents. I’m sure there are some cheerful social psychologists and incorrigible optimists who think we innately have all we need to be “good enough” mothers and fathers… if our basic needs have been taken care of, if we’re not stressed out beyond belief or recovering from traumatic experiences that impact our ability to respond compassionately to our kids, if we have food, money, shelter, and a good, solid support network, if we’re not addicted to something that syphons our energy away from our family, and if we’re able to tap into inner stores of patience, love, trust and wisdom. But those are a lot of ifs.
I certainly wish I’d received more training on how to be a parent. It would have been especially nice if my own parents had seen parenting as a skill worth prioritizing. That would have likely required that their parents also see parenting as worthy of their attention. This degree of consciousness from my parents’ parents–and my grandparents parents–was non-existent in a world with draconian views of children as little demons with bad intentions–or when just getting by as immigrants, or surviving in the wake of civil wars, took precedence over a child’s sleep schedule.
With every generation, as cultural norms and societies shift, technology develops, and our world grows more virtually connected, emotionally disconnected, diverse, crowded and complex, there are new layers to parenthood, new challenges, and new adaptations required to support our children in growing into being their best selves. When I got pregnant, I thought my love for my child would be enough to guide me through the challenges of parenting. I thought my child’s vulnerability and dependence would motivate me to be generous, thoughtful, kind and level-headed. But effective parenting takes more than faith and good intentions.
Here are some things I wish someone had told me before I became a parent:
- What you feel as “protectiveness” for you child may be a subtle form of anxiety. Be prepared to let go of controlling your child in everyday situations that aren’t harmful or truly “dangerous.” Letting go is a skill you’ll need to practice as a parent.
- It’s more important to help your child learn from their own decisions than to shield them from the pain of failure and making mistakes. See “problems” with your child not as problems to quickly resolve, but as low-stakes opportunities to help your child learn valuable lessons about coping with life. Let your child learn on their own that toys have value and are not instantly replaced when broken, that their body gets cold when they forget their coat, or that they do indeed get hungry when they don’t eat lunch, or that there are repercussions in their classroom when they choose to disregard the time you’ve helped them set aside to do their homework, or that it is painful when friends call you names or make fun of you, and that finding ways to deal with that pain isn’t easy but is still an important part of being in relationships.
- Our children often know and understand much more than we tend to give them credit for, from a very different point of view than yours. Be humble and learn from them.
- Children are forgiving. Don’t gloss over your own parenting errors or faults. They’ll still respect you–or maybe respect you even more–if you can sincerely and concisely take responsibility for your blind spots, apologize, and allow them to share their feelings with you about how your imperfect parenting affects them.
- Parenting isn’t about being a friend or a boss. It’s more about being a coach to your kid so they get to practice handling situations in a loving, controlled environment before they begin handling these situations out in the world, where there may be less support. Investing time in identifying common recurring challenges (eg. during transitions, sharing with others, or loosing gracefully) and brainstorming creative ways of dealing with problematic situations, will reinforce your alliance.
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Photo from Pixabay.