As much as you love your kids and cherish the parenting process, you’ve definitely had moments of doubt — Am I doing the right thing? Am I being a good enough parent? Am I being too permissive? Should I be stricter? Am I being too overprotective? As fulfilling as parenthood can be, every generation of parents have had their own set of parenting challenges, and they’ve all probably felt the same doubt and frustrations at some point.
It’s absolutely normal to feel that way — it just means you want what’s best for your child, and that already makes you a great parent. Speaking of being a ‘great parent’ brings me to one of the most common parenting peeves of our generation:
Being the ‘best parent’
We’re regularly exposed to several articles and videos of seemingly perfect parents doling out advice on how you too can be the ‘perfect parent’. All of this creates a sense of pressure for you to prove that you’re a great parent, which can lead to a lot of self-doubt/guilt and can even affect your relationship with your child. I believe that there is no such thing as the ‘perfect parent’. We’re all human, and we make mistakes, and it’s all about evolving and growing together with our children. If it works for you and your child, then you’re doing a great job.
Raising children, the ‘right’ way
Just as there is no such thing as the perfect parent, there isn’t a ‘perfect parenting method’. You might have tried a lot of common techniques and found that it doesn’t work for your child. Instead of trying to make your child respond to popular parenting models, I’ve found that it helps to adopt a style that responds to each child’s needs. i.e. parenting the child, you have and not the child you’re supposed to have. Even among siblings, what works for one child might not work for another. Maybe the key is to parent the child you have and let your relationship evolve based on what she/he needs at that moment in time.
The parent vs friend dichotomy
We want to have a close, loving relationship with our children, but where do you draw the line between being a parent and being a friend? It comes down to understanding the difference between discipline and punishment. The point of discipline is to teach right from wrong and set boundaries, whereas punishment is about exerting control and coercing compliance. While it’s important to say no and to enforce rules, as long as you lovingly deliver that lesson, with open communication, you’ll be able to get your point across without damaging the relationship with your child.
The technology temptation
Should you let your child spend time on digital devices? Would they miss out developing technological skills compared to their peers who are allowed to spend time with digital devices? These are all common questions that plague parents today. The problem arises when spending time on the phone, tablet or playing video games becomes your child’s definition of ‘fun’. Technology is undoubtedly going to be an integral part of their lives, so creating a balance is the key. It helps to introduce them to different fun activities early on so that they don’t become dependent on watching or playing with gadgets. It also helps to use the time they spend on devices to connect with them — watch things with them, join in the games they play, etc. Technology shouldn’t become a substitute for your attention and time.
Being a parent can be stressful — the morning madness to get everyone to school on time, the sibling fights, tantrums, the endless list of to-dos — all of this can make you feel angry or frustrated, even though you love your children very much. After all, we’re human, too. Mindful parenting is a way of learning to take things slow and being observant and being in the moment so that you are responding to a situation instead of reacting to how it’s making you feel. It gives you the mental space to pause and understand why your child is behaving a certain way, and what she/he needs to change that behaviour.
Being involved without being invasive
Another common dilemma is the one about how involved you need to be in your child’s life, especially as they are growing up. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to know what’s going on in your child’s life, in fact, it’s essential that you do. The trick is to be involved without being invasive. Especially as they grow older, give them the space to make their own choices wherever possible so that they don’t feel that your involvement is taking away from their growing independence.
There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to any of our parenting peeves. While it’s great to do research and find out what works for other parents, feel free to explore what works for you and your child. Don’t let the stress of ‘right parenting’ take away from your ‘real parenting’ moments!
(The author is founder & chairperson, Mpower)