My children are no angels. Contrary to what friend’s and teacher’s think. They are hard work and after last nights episode I got thinking “Why is Parenting so hard?”
Let’s go back. When my Mum had my brother and sister in the early 70’s, there was only one guide to parenting that she knew of, and that was Dr Spock’s book. She got it, read it, used it, and for better or worse, it worked. They survived, she survived, and at this point, seriously…. that’s all I’m aiming for.
Now, in the 7 long years I’ve been a parent, I’ve read countless books, been to numerous seminars, read hundreds of parenting blogs and even dug through the academic research on various elements of parenting. To find, surprise, surprise, that each one has conflicting elements and fundamentally different approaches to how to parent. No wonder parenting is so hard, we don’t have any chance getting it right when we’re drowning in information.
Unfortunately, at this point I’m still looking for solutions, but if your interested in my philosophies (which are clearly flawed) check out my article on positive parenting.
So, with that in mind, here’s my reckoning on why parenting is so hard:
- We’re in information overload.If consistency is the key to parenting, our generation (ok, not all of us, but a heck of a lot of us) are falling down in the consistency department. With so many parenting strategies, our ability to follow just one is gone. Our kids don’t actually know what’s going to happen this time when they throw their toys across the room in a huff. They might get the toy confiscated, Mum might try turn it into a game and make everyone laugh, Dad might loose it and threaten a smack or it might just go unnoticed because everyone’s busy on their respective devices. Ummm, not a massive amount of consistency, no wonder they don’t know what’s coming.
- We are constantly judged by each other.Our parents and our community are sitting in judgement like never before. What’s in the lunch box, how many after school activities to they do, what grades are they getting, how much homework is normal. Our social networks have expanded to included hundreds and the need to ‘keep it together’ is greater than ever before.
- We’re trying to do everything.For many working parents, before we even start parenting we’re totally exhausted. While both need parents work to sustain this lifestyle, generally, it’s the Mums who own the additional responsibilities of the shopping, cleaning, cooking, washing and all the other stuff that goes along with ‘keeping house.’ Throw some ratty kids into the mix and boom…. We hit overwhelm pretty often.
- Schools lack discipline and have taken out religion too.I’m not particularly religious, but I do see the value in teaching children about moral and ethical standards. Taking out discipline and clear consequences and religion together means there’s a huge hole in the education system that in my opinion is being filled by disrespect, questionable ethics and bullying programs. Not good enough.
- Kids are overscheduled.With the combination of after school activities and parents both working, it’s seriously a wonder we have time to parent at all some days. When I was young, I had one after school activity. Now, many family’s I know have different activities each day, with sometimes two a day and one on Saturday as well.
- The power balance has changed.Kids know there are negligible consequences, so it makes sense that they are pushing the boundaries further and further. We can’t smack them, but seriously, the number of times my children have physically or emotionally hurt me is beyond counting. What do I do in return? Up to this point, I’ve tried my upmost to remain calm, then talk to them later about respect, kindness and responsibilities. (Sounds noble I know, but hold your applause, because clearly, it’s not working.)
- Lack of role models within their peers. It seems that older kids are the ones who are playing up and demonstrating just how far they can push things. Rather than keeping the younger kids in line and showing them how to behave responsibly, it appears it often goes the other way.
- They have too much stuff.I once went around and collected all Dylan’s nerf guns, as a consequence, when he was shooting them inside. Within three days, a neighbour had given him a nerf gun and his cousin had also given him another nerf gun. So, because they have so much stuff, and stuff is just so abundant in our society, taking things away has become totally meaningless. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one trying to come up with ideas of how to provide consequences for poor behaviour.
- We keep our shi! together for too long.What? Yes, my kids don’t see me loose it very often, because despite their horrible behaviour, I try really, really hard not to get angry or yell at them, I try so hard sometimes I feel like I’m denying a core part of who I am. But when I do loose it, dam it’s scary. So again, there’s no consistency, there’s nice Mum, who is mindful, calm and totally respectful, then there’s this devil woman who is scary as hell and totally unpredictable.
- Negative role models on TV. Kids programs often demonstrate disrespect, lack of responsibility and poor behaviour. No, it’s not funny to shove a pie in someone’s face or to throw marbles all over the floor. It’s not cool to roll your eyes at a teacher and it’s certainly not ok to be rude to your parents. TV can be such a positive influence for kids, but of the programs I’ve seen, it’s certainly the exception rather than the norm.
Well, as I mentioned earlier, I’m sorry I don’t have simple solutions for you. But hopefully, after reading over this you can at least cut yourself some slack. Parenting is the hardest job in the world and it’s totally thankless. At this point, I think applying self compassion has to be the first step in moving forward.
Doing a little more research, I came across a blog from one of my favourite parenting experts, Dr Justin Coulson. He categorises four different types of parenting and explains what Autonomy Supportive Parenting is and how we can use it. Check it out at https://www.happyfamilies.com.au/blog/parenting-styles/ it sure makes sense to me.
For my own sanity now, I’m implementing a much stricter approach with my two. Less negotiating, less treats, less stuff, and a lot less choice for them. I spent last night (while the kids were screaming in their rooms) writing their chores, rewards and consequences so that we are all on the same page. If this doesn’t work, it’s going to be serious intervention time and you may see me and my family on Jerry Springer real soon. LOL. Wish me luck!