Tuesday, 11 March 2014

I'm a Parent - Encourage Me, Don't Judge Me!

You know how easy parenting is?  How once you have kids you just know know exactly the right way to bring them up, with total confidence that all you have to do is follow a well-known prescription, and your children are bound to turn out as well-balanced successful adults?  (how long did it take you to realise I was being sarcastic there?  Not long I hope ... I also hope no-one fell for it and stopped reading because they were feeling condemned!)

I seem to have seen a LOT of articles lately on the "World's Most Successful Parenting Tips", or "Top Ten Ways to Mess Up Your Kid" - you know the sort of thing.  And it is really starting to bug me.  The problem with our post-modern world is that we have deconstructed everything, which isn't necessarily a bad thing in itself, except that people nowadays seem to have no confidence in their own sense of what is right.  Our common sense has been eroded, because it is apparently no longer common - and so we are left, surrounded by books, TV programmes, articles etc, all telling us the "right" way to parent. And do these books, programmes and articles all agree?  Of course not! In fact, I am beginning to suspect that one of the most damaging ways to parent is to be swayed by every opinion out there, swinging from one "successful technique" to another, leaving our children with no stable foundation.  To be honest, there are many ways to parent well, from the extremely child-led (which according to some will leave your child completely spoilt and incapable of functioning in a team), to the strict disciplinarians (who apparently produce brain-washed offspring, incapable of thinking for themselves), and all manner of people in between, who - depending on who is judging -  are putting their child at risk of all manner of dysfunctional adult behaviour.  None are wrong or right - it's all down to difference of opinion.  And difference is good!

The thing is, our children are unique.  There is not now, never has been and never will be anyone else on earth like them.  There is no manual on the perfect way to raise them successfully to adulthood, because no-one has ever had an Eldest, Middle or Youngest like mine, or yours.  So we have to figure it out as we go along.  Of course, I'm not talking about the basics, like loving them, feeding them, providing an education - but the "how-to" for any of the above is wide open to interpretation.  And sure, we need to apply our not-so-common sense, but it's not a one-formula-fits-all scenario.  We're all fumbling about in the dark, sometimes feeling like our kids are the unwitting subjects of a great parenting experiment, but all the time absolutely pouring our heart and soul into trying to raise them as best we can... but if I don't know the top ten ways to produce the perfect adult given the individual material presented in each of my own children, why should I be swayed by someone who has never met them?

So you'll excuse me if I don't don't read articles titled "Ways to be the worst parent ever" - because I suspect that the very lack of confidence that causes people to read such articles and be influenced by them is one of the big factors that would contribute to confused kids.  And you know what?  Even if I read the article and discovered that I did every "wrong" thing on the list (in that authors opinion), or if I read another and followed all of the advice to the letter - it still means absolutely nothing.  What matters is that I love my kids and do my best to raise each of them to be equipped and functional adults.
At the end of the day, I refuse to allow someone else's opinion to take up residence in my brain and judge me for failing their shoulds.

PS I agree that there is need in today's society for help in parenting amongst the very broken and clueless - I am not decrying that.  I am just against the rash of opinions put out by just about every-one-and-their-dog which serve only to confuse and/ or condemn parents who just want to do their best, and who need simple encouragement more than any list of "should"s or "should not"s.  If you lack confidence in your ability to parent, by all means ask a friend or family member - even a professional child expert if that's what you feel you need - but don't be swayed by every shallow opinion out there.  Your child deserves specific individual attention, not the generalisations of someone who has never met them and who just trotted out an article to generate an income.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Rachel, wise words as always!��
    I'm frequently tempted to seek the advice these articles suggest are 'the only' or 'best' ways to succeed at bringing up children. Only to immediately feel dissatisfied and unworthy.
    You're absolutely right, whichever route we choose, so long as its well considered and comes out of care and love, will be the right one, because we will make it so!
    Keep up the good work and thanks for helping me feel just a little bit sane ��