How are Good Parents Made?

Adults have a fairly good idea of what it must take to be a Mum or a Dad. Most of them had at least one of them; some had both. The unfortunate minority who had neither probably still had someone who acted as the authority figure.

Multi-Skilled and Underpaid

We most likely gain our ideas about being a Mum or Dad very early in our lives. We may also make decisions about what we will allow or not when we become parents, from how we felt especially when chastised or disciplined. I certainly remember thinking that “I wouldn’t do that to my child” when one or other of my parents dealt me what I considered to be a low blow.

Ask any child, “What is a Mum?” or “What is a Dad?” and you will get a multitude of responses depending on the child’s frame of mind, whether Mum or Dad was in a good mood that day and so on. The job description of being a Mum or Dad is endless. One has to be therapist, hairdresser, goalie, doctor, magician and cook – readily available and never tired, even in the middle of the night.

Being a parent is so much more. This job requires the determination to be accountable and to take responsibility. If your child does something you don’t appreciate, you manage the information and bring about a satisfactory resolution. If you child does something to another child, you take responsibility as your child’s representative.

There are times when you may not be popular especially if, “All the other parents have said yes”. You do not or should not crave to be your child’s best friend – you are too old anyway. You should not tell your child all of your troubles; that put too much responsibility on young shoulders. A positive parent dishes out praise, love, encouragement and discipline as and when necessary. They deal with each of their children in a way that suits that child’s needs while maintaining the same standards and expectations for all of their children.

I feel disheartened by the increasing number of children who are born simply because their biological parents were drunk, high, and careless about contraception or too depressed to care. Conceiving when not conscious is not the best beginning for a parent or child.

Inevitably in these situations one person is left to manage the welfare of the child. Being a lone parent is not easy in better circumstances; it must be so much more stressful in these. Raising a child is not easy, even with others to help and alleviate some of the frustrations or offer some praise and recognition for the fine job you are doing. Liking a child is not easy – they can be disgusting, devious, maddening, hurtful and vile. Loving a child is the easiest thing in the world.

A Good Shepherd

I imagine a parent to be rather like a sheepdog. The herd must be manipulated and guided to follow the correct path. Where one strays, a quick reprimand may make the difference between life and death. It is instinctive for a parent to worry and fret. It should also be instinctive to know when to step back so that your child may try things for themselves independently of you. You understand that in order to accept that life isn’t a bed of roses, your child sometimes has to face disappointment and work through that pain or self doubt. You know when to leave your child to develop strategies which produce, for them, a satisfactory conclusion.

The parent who feels pride and admiration for their child is the ideal to which we all aspire. Most of us would concede that although we may give the impression that we are supremely confident in our child’s ability to overcome adversity, we are all praying that the adversity they face is short and easily overcome!

Life is full of uncertainties and a parent’s life just adds a soupcon more. I include part of an article from the BBC website for parents,

The parenting challenge – Being a parent means creating a loving, safe environment for your children as they grow from baby to toddler, right through to the teenage years. You’ll need different skills for each stage, but at all times your child will depend on you. You’ll become the expert on your child and on what they need to grow into happy, healthy adults. Loving your child, with no strings attached, is the most important thing you can do. But you’ll also have to make a huge number of decisions about the best way to bring up your child. This responsibility brings joy and excitement, but it can also be overwhelming, frustrating or even boring at times.

Maybe that’s where a parent may struggle most. Children, even the precious one that you have produced, can be boring especially when they want to do the same thing over and over again because they gain satisfaction. You sometimes have to grit your teeth and just allow yourself to go with the flow. Letting your child sleep for half an hour longer after lunch may be a short-term solution for you but will it create more problems at the end of the day?

Being a parent is weighing these odds and forming a satisfactory conclusion. Even buying a treadmill and tying your child to it to tire it out has its own consequences!

Facing the Challenge of Being Good Enough

Parenting is a process of experiment and challenge. We could all do better; most of us do OK. That is what we aim for – to be OK. As prominent psychologists who developed theories and strategies for parents and professionals, John Bowlby, Donald Winnicott and Bruno Bettelheim all focused on the importance of being enough of a parent to suit the child.

Sometimes recognition is wonderful, but the most important reward is to see your child attain adulthood in one piece, with confidence, happiness and motivation. You need to have the courage to accept that there have been times when you weren’t the best parent, or that you didn’t want to hear for the umpteenth time how much fun your child’s new friend is and how much more understanding their parents are and how you just want to yawn and yawn every time that ‘wonderful’ child is mentioned.

Face each day with optimism and a generous dollop of humour and you’ll be good enough.

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