OK so there you are dreaming of having children, what it will be like, the fun & loving times you will all have together. Its picture perfect. Starry-eyed and, yes, a little naive, about what it means to be a great mum or dad. While we are creating these dreams we also often invent a long list of “good parenting ideas” we think we must stick to.
Before the birth of my first child, I’d already decided that no child of mine would want to watch TV, eat sugar or ever step foot in a McDonalds as I was going to show them a completely different way they wish more.
I still to this day remember declaring to own mother that I would never let my kids play video games. (well I bet you can all guess how that turned out.)
Then the reality of parenting hits us & by no means doesn’t match the dream.
Let’s start by saying though that most of the ideas on your list are genuinely good ones. Therefore, is you’re willing to be flexible you can find ways to incorporate them into everyday life. For example, you will find it easier to keep your child’s eating habits free of excess sugar as opposed to being completely sugar-free.
That said though you MUST be careful of trying to stick to ideas which don’t work and cause more harm than good.
I wish to share a example of a message I got the other day that really showed me how often we hang on to a good parenting idea even when it hurts our family.
In this message this mother started by telling me she was against any sort of cry-it-out method for sleep training. She had decided it was wrong. And she thought it created unnecessary suffering for her child…(she has a fair point, however I don’t believe there isn’t anyone who truly say they wish to hear nor would actually wish a method of sleep training that would encourage crying!)
What then happened was she went on to write three desperate paragraphs about how her two-year-old daughter would not go to sleep at bedtime and woke up about five times a night, needing to be rocked back to sleep. How she was so tired and frustrated that she was living each day, angry and impatient, snapping at everyone around her, even her daughter. With all of this lack of sleep, she admitted to yelling and swearing, and on one occasion, felt herself getting a bit rough with her child. She hadn’t slept in her own bed for twenty-two months, and (no surprise) her marriage was suffering.
It was this point I felt my heart break for this woman. Not because I felt sorry for her, but because she was so committed to believing this notion that her child “crying it out” was a bad idea. Even though implementing “a controlled crying it out” was the only way to fix the situation & make it all better.
By hanging on so tightly to this idea she had about what a good parent should do, she was actually hurting herself and her family.
And she couldn’t see that by refusing to engage in sleep training for her child, her exhaustion and frustration were hurting the people she loved the most. All she could see was that she wasn’t parenting “the correct way”.
Being a parent means doing the hard thing at times when its needed. It means doing something that upsets you because you think it will distress your child.
Let’s think about how we can look at this differently.
Would you let your child eat only potato chips and jelly beans because when you ask her to eat vegetable she gets upset? Would you let her run out into traffic because you don’t want to say be the one limiting her freedom? Of course not.
Your job as her parents is to teach her to eat a balanced diet, avoid oncoming cars, and to get a good night’s sleep.
So right now, I urge you to do, is to rethink your mental list of “good parenting ideas”.
Think about creative ways you can incorporate them into your family’s daily routine so that they actually work with your life, not against it. Allow yourself to acknowledge to make better choices, while we delete those ideas which do more harm than good.
Parenting is so much harder than any of us imagined. Let’s give ourselves permission to ditch the good ideas that turn into rigid standards we set for ourselves and our children. Let us stick with the ones that genuinely add to the family.