Feeling Like A Helpless Parent?
by Sally Burgess, Forefront Families LLC
Who doesn't feel completely out of their depth the minute they walk out of the maternity hospital with a new baby? I know I did! Even the most seasoned of us feel at a loss when it comes to managing our first child, even though many of us have had plenty of practice with younger siblings, nieces and nephews, babysitting and the like.
So, why is child management so bewildering? Perhaps our parents were not great role models, or were so strict that we vowed we would never allow our kids to experience that 'straight jacket' kind of upbringing. Maybe we have been given all sorts of conflicting parenting advice, or have been influenced by those who insist that little children need to discover themselves and their world without being dictated to about how to think and act. Maybe there is disagreement about parenting methods between both parents, or one parent either undermines or disparages the efforts of the other. Sometimes parents despair not knowing how to handle different temperaments in their children e.g. one may be compliant while another is very strong-willed. We have to admit that there is a general lack of experience when we have our first babies.
The most important thing to know is that kids want parents to be in charge; to tell them what to do and how to act. It is a parent's duty to train their kids to the point where they become respectful, committed, trustworthy adults. It is a heavy responsibility and the expectation can make many parents feel helpless when they are not achieving this goal.
So, how can we become confident rather than feel 'out of control' or defeated as a parent?
1. We need to create clear guidelines for ourselves on parenting. That means we seek out, and put into practice, advice from trusted written resources, as well as seeking advice from parents we feel are doing a great job.
2. We agree together as parents what our expectations and values will be and
then explain and train our kids to meet those expectations. We need to mean what we say and not change our minds or become inconsistent. We cannot assume our kids will learn by osmosis or be taught every aspect of life at school. Our kids need clear messages from us. If we don't train them right they will just gravitate to the easiest, but not necessarily the most desirable, behavior exhibited by their friends.
3. We practice what we preach so they see us as good role models. Sometimes
that means practicing for some time till we get a desired behavior right!
4. We praise best behavior rather than constantly pick on the negatives.
5. We do not fall into the trap of pleading or bargaining with our kids. We are their parents and not their friends. We cannot afford to become their friend until they have left home.
6. We seek feedback about our parenting from respected friends or relatives so that we can streamline our skills. It still would take strength to be able to receive the positive criticism, weigh it up and act on the suggestions (especially if we see those friends as ones who are raising great kids). However, it will be worthwhile. It's wise and mature to have some people we can be accountable to.
Kids will not respect wishy-washy parenting. I overheard a teenager in a store one day telling her friend, "Mom doesn't care where I am or what I am doing. I just wish she would say, 'No' sometimes."
If you feel like a helpless parent, we would be pleased to help you. You are not alone. Be encouraged. We have all felt the same way more than once in our parenting experience. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our website at www.forefrontfamilies.org and blogsite at www.forefrontfamilies.blogspot.org