The start of the new academic year always feels like a natural time for reflection and self-introspection. Parents may not only consider themselves but also what kind of parents they are and who they want to be: their growth, mistakes, goals and desires.
Being a parent is the most responsible and challenging role we will ever have and it is very easy to lose sight of what our purpose is. Since the lockdown period, Educating Matters has been busier than ever, supporting tens of thousands of working parents in the public and private sector globally. So much of the conversation has revolved around the challenge of integrating work and family, particularly during this period and being able to work productively and parent at the same time.
We seem to spend so much precious time impossibly striving to be perfect parents, amidst a ‘self-sacrificing ideal parent culture’ filled with conflicting advice. There is often a large gap between what we expect of a good parent and who we actually are. Comparing, judging, feeling fear and guilt is totally unhelpful and unproductive. All the rushing around for our kids in a fiercely competitive culture is driving everyone crazy (kids and parents). Children from affluent families are 2-3 times more likely to suffer from depression, anxiety and stress than children in poverty.
There needs to be more time and space to just be. Perfection at work and at home is unachievable.
Here are some of my thoughts, in no particular order on what it means to be ‘good enough’:
• Be nurturing, loving and supportive whilst in control.
• Spend ‘special time’: frequent, predictable, short, scheduled, unstructured bursts of time. Be mindful, conscious and really ‘with’ them.
• Teach values like gratitude– our main role is to raise good human beings, to be the best version of themselves.
• Keep your child safe by setting clear boundaries and expecting children to be accountable for their actions.
• Foster a ‘growth’ mindset (see Carol Dweck)
• ‘Grit’ is one of the best indicators of success in life. The ability to set your mind to do something and stick with it. (See Angela Duckworth). To raise gritty kids, lose the self-sacrifice and let your child struggle a bit rather than rescuing.
• Allow your children to grow, be independent and make mistakes.
• Help them understand their needs, strengths and weaknesses.
• Regulate your own emotions and reactions, so you can manage their mistakes in a calm, positive way. To do this you need to look after yourself.
• Build a strong, connected relationship – the only way to influence them over time.
• 80% of parenting is modelling.
• Aim for a magic ratio of 5 positive comments to every negative.
• Instill a love of learning – they don’t have to be highly academic.
• Enjoy your child – Love the child you have unconditionally for who they are and not what they accomplish or the child you wish for.
How do you want your children to remember you and the time you spent together when they grow up?