Monday, 21 May 2012

Who's a Bad Parent Anyway?

"Great parenting!"

That was the sarcastic insult that was thrown at me a few days ago by a stranger as I drove past him, ever so slowly, with my four, eight, and nine year-olds hanging off the side of our car.

I'm still angry about it. When it happened I was so mad that I stopped my car, got out, and walked after him, letting him know how I felt about his comment. I'm not proud of my response. I shouldn't have done it - especially not in front of the kids. I'll explain what happened in just a second, but first, a quick point about parenting - bad parenting in particular.

Some days we're simply not in the mood for it...We have a bad parent kind of day.
Most parents I know have had our moments. Some days we're simply not in the mood for it. We snap at the kids. We make impatient demands. We have a bad parent kind of day.

No one is harder on ourselves than we are. We know how we want to be as parents. We try to act in accordance with our values. We remember the promises we made, either silently and privately, or openly in celebration of the birth of our kids. We were going to be great parents! We were going to be kind, loving, compassionate, available, engaged, and mindful.

But some days we just don't get there. We find it impossible to measure up to our lofty standards of parenting perfection.

As much as we beat ourselves up for it, even berate ourselves, sometimes we might do well to give ourselves a break.

Is it ideal that we fall short? No, not at all.

Can we do better? Generally, yes... and we should.

But as we all know, some days are better than others. What matters most is that our kids know that most of the time we are good, we can be relied upon, and that even when we're having a lousy day, we still love them.

Which is why what happened to me the other day got me so mad. I was actually being a good parent! Or so I thought. (I'm the damn parenting expert - I think I'd have a good idea of when I'm getting it right).

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

How to Have Perfect Children - And Do You Really Want Them?


Lately I’ve been challenged in the ‘patience’ department. I suppose it should be expected with five children. I found myself complaining to Mrs Happy Families (Kylie).
“I just want them to come to the table when I call them.”
After a pause I added:
We may say we don't want perfect kids... but when they're not perfect, we act like we really DO want perfect kids
“And to put their bags away without being asked.”
Another pause, then:
“and to poo in the potty, and to help with the dishes without complaining, and to keep their rooms tidy, and to do their music practice without me constantly reminding them, and to treat each other kindly. And I’d really like them to leave me alone so I can get some work done without being interrupted every two minutes.”
I’m sure I could have continued. But Kylie knew I was frustrated and gently told me so. She said something like:
“You’re really frustrated about the kids.”
(I know it’s obvious, but showing me she understood made me feel... well, understood.)
“Yes I am. Thank you for understanding. It makes me feel better. But if they were perfect” I continued, “we wouldn’t have to deal with all of this!”
I motioned to the dinner going cold at the dining table (I hate cold mashed potato), the mess on the floor, and the bags that had fallen over and spilled their contents at the door.

My frustration with my children made me start to wonder what my expectations for them really are.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Do You Have Challenging Children?

 Do your children challenge you? Do they ask you to justify your demands? Do they spot any hint of hypocrisy in your rules and requests? Do they constantly ask ‘why’?

As annoying as this is, having children who feel safe enough to challenge you may be a good thing – perhaps it’s even something you may want to encourage.

Most kids will challenge us. The real issue is how we respond to that challenge, and how it affects our child.
I know this sounds a little crazy, but hear me out on this one.

Most parents want their children to be obedient. When they do as we say, life is good. Parenting is uncomplicated. Things get done quickly and with a minimum of fuss. Yet, nearly every parent I have discussed this with is quick to assert that they want their children to think for themselves. Parents routinely agree with the idea that their children should grow up to be adults who develop sound moral reasoning, are bold enough to challenge things they see that are wrong, and who question the status quo.

It seems that we have incongruent goals in this regard. We want children who listen; children who do as they are told. We expect obedience to directions, and compliance with social and family norms. But we want our children to be independent thinkers. We don’t want them to follow the crowd.

Some of you are probably reading this and wondering, “Is there such a thing as a child who doesn’t challenge you?” That’s a fair question. Most kids will challenge us. The real issue is how we respond to that challenge, and how it affects our child.