There is no way to be a perfect parent, but a million ways to be a good one. - (Anonymous)
The months of May and June usually hold special interest for families. because we celebrate special days for mothers and fathers. It is also months in which we should think about parenting as a number of activities usually take place which revolve around parenting.
Parenting is hard work, and it is necessary work. It is a responsibility brought upon persons who choose to bring children into the world or accept the responsibility for care, nurture and guidance of those children (Psa 127:3).
Parenting includes the responsibility to feed, clothe, care and shelter, not because parents like the role but because it is their responsibility. Children did not bring themselves into the world so those who did do, have the responsibility to nurture them until they are able to manage on their own. We are reminded that parenting includes the spiritual, mental and emotional nurture and development of children.
This task is best performed as a shared responsibility because of the different gender perspective that both parents bring to the process. Regrettably very often this is not the case as many households in Jamaica and the Caribbean are headed by women. And in many of those cases the father is non-existent in the life of the child or children
Approaches to parenting is usually varied based on the many factors brought to the parenting process. It is important to note that most parents, engage in unconscious parenting, which is really modeling the parenting styles of their parents. When this approach is taken, very often dysfunctional or unhealthy parenting practices are transferred down through the generations. This position is often heard in the phrase when parents are disciplining their children, “this is how my parents grow me and it didn’t kill me”.
So if in the family of origin, a parent experienced shame, trauma and secrets, these are inevitably transmitted over generations of parents. Let me highlight some of the Don’ts of parenting and some of the do’s. These could also be defined as unhealthy parenting vs healthy parenting.
Don’ts of parenting
- Don’t degrade children based on their appearance. “Boy how yuh nose so big”, “Pickney, how you knee so knock” comments like these about children, undermine their self-confidence and they will grow up in life thinking that they have some deficits and have to compensate in some way.
- Do not tell children that you wish they were never born. This diminishes their sense of identity and make them feel that they were never wanted by their parents.
- Do not make negative comparison with other children, their siblings or cousins. I have witnessed so much tears and emotional pain from children who have to live with this comparison with others. It leads to resentment, lowered self esteem and the feeling that they can never measure up, so there is no need trying. This is self-defeating to children. Resist it.
- Avoid using abusive remarks to your children. Such as “You are so stupid”, “you are so clumsy” This is even worse when it is done in the presence of strangers and friends. It leads to embarrassment, and undermines trust in parents.
- Never threaten abandonment. “I’m going to leave you, or give you away” . It undermines security and diminishes trust.
What are some do’s or healthy parenting tips?
Be affirming – spend more time affirming your children than criticizing them. Be positive in your interaction; commend them for what they do right and develop appropriate strategies for disciplining. It is suggested that you should give your children eight commendations for every criticism
that slips from your mouth. This builds self-esteem and trust.
Listen more – parents like to talk to their children. Trust me, you learn a lot more when you listen and ask the right questions. You learn why a particular action was taken, you understand your children’s value system and where they get them from and it helps to make them feel safe with
you. Listen without condemnation, but with an intention to understand. To facilitate this listening, requires one-n-one time. They value this because it makes them feel special.
Manage behaviours effectively. Set boundaries for your children appropriate to ages. Model for them the behaviours and expectations you desire and don’t be afraid to say you are sorry when you cross the line. Set clear guidelines for use of electronic devices; get to know their friends and
help them to develop a rounded life incorporating the emotional, spiritual, mental and social.
I close with this acronym from PILLS, by Dr. Sharon Earle-Edwards. BLESSS your children. Next week we continue part 11.
Boundaries, Love, Example, Structure, Support, Spirituality.