As a professional who provides parent coaching and a mom who doesn’t always feel quite like I’ve got it together, the universality of parental struggles across culture, socio-economic status, and education levels is fascinating to me. What is also interesting to me is the amount of outward judgment many parents direct towards one another. Can we all agree that, at least in most cases, every parent is trying their best within the resources they have? This notwithstanding, I think that there are some universal truths that all parents may want to consider. There is great power in stopping and observing our parenting behaviours from a non-judgmental lens, and establish where we can improve. Here are a few things to ponder:
You’re not doing your kids any favours by spoiling them: So, while I certainly have an opinion regarding the over-provision of material things to children, that’s not what I’m talking about here. What I mean is things like letting your kid call the shots. I cannot count the number of times I’ve heard parents state that they cannot do X, Y, or Z because their son or daughter won’t “let” them. In what is likely a well-intentioned attempt to raise a free-thinking child, parents today seem to have lost sight of who really is in charge within the confines of the parent-child relationship. You make the rules, your child follows them. You cannot expect your child to learn self discipline without undergoing the experience of rules and consistent, fair discipline. Letting them call the shots is not helpful in the long-run.
Dinner is What’s for Dinner: I’m going to touch on a few things here, but my first point ties into the above. Yes, there are food restrictions, allergies, and other things to consider, but for the most part, kids need to understand that you do not run a restaurant in your home, and dinner is what’s for dinner. Rather than letting kids dictate what they will and will not eat, try making meal planning, grocery shopping, and food preparation a task that involves the kids. Research tells us that this often creates more interest in a wider variety of foods for kids.
Family Meal Time is More Important than Soccer: In a culture of over-stressed kids, families are often foregoing healthy family meals for the sake of getting the kids to daily after-school activities on time. This is doing a couple of things: First, it is compromising the quality of nutrition your family is getting at North America’s largest meal of the day, and secondly, is robbing the family of quality time together. A wide body of research supports the notion that kids who come from homes where family dinner is a regular occurrence tend to perform better in school, and get into trouble less often. Consider how important this is next time you feel pressured to sign up for more activities.
Allow your Kids to Experience Negative Emotions: It seems to be a natural instinct for parents to want to protect their kids from the experience of sadness, loss, anger, and other negative feelings. While this is certainly well-intentioned, think of all the times as an adult that you’ve had to cope with uncomfortable feelings. Think of all the interactions you’ve had which were uncomfortable. Now think of how beneficial it would be to allow your young ones to learn and refine the skills necessary in such situations early on in life. Developing the competence to manage one’s own emotions early in life will not only set them up for success in the real world, but will also help them to build a real sense of self-confidence. Remember that not only do you not need to fight every battle for your child, you may actually be doing them a disservice by doing so.
We all just want to be good parents and do what is best for our kids, but perhaps it’s time to think outside of the box, and challenge some of the norms that appear to perhaps not be what’s best in the long run for our children.