If you remember anything about parenting, remember this!
Parenting is the easiest and hardest job in the world. One that, despite what the experts says has no right way of doing, no rules and no guaranteed outcomes. We are all in the same job, doing a job we feel grossly under-qualified to do, not really sure if day-to-day we make a difference and often paralysed by what the outcome will be.
And that all comes from someone who has spent over 16 years working with parents and raised two children herself. And I have learnt a lot in that time, namely that no two children are the same, what works in one home may have no effect in the other and each family is as unique as the parents and children within it.
We make parenting so complicated I feel, often focusing on the small everyday stuff, which let’s face it is so frustrating, without really focusing on the larger picture at hand. We are raising a human being who hopefully will be a contributing, upstanding member of society and whether they have put their clothes away or not at the moment really has no bearing on that.
I was asked recently by a colleague what I thought the job of a parent was. I thought long and hard and decided that it was really quite simple; our job is to love our children, protect them and keep them safe and ultimately set them free to be independent.
If it’s so easy then why it is one of the most difficult jobs in the world?
Here is where I think most parents, including me struggle; the tension which causes most of the conflicts and disagreements within families is the fine balance between our need to protect our children and their need to be free. Thinking about it, every conflict is probably around these two elements, from something as simple as putting their clothes away to getting them to do their homework, all a struggle between the need to protect and the need to be free.
When we understand this I believe it allows us to explains things more rationally to our children, it allows us to make decisions about what needs to be done and it allows us to stop listening to what everyone tells us we should do and start listening to what feels right for us.
In my experience, every child requires freedom differently and in different amounts; some earlier, some later, some want more freedom, some want less. And parents are the same; some risk-averse and more protective, some less protective ( I come into the later camp) . Your job as a family is to figure out how you balance the need for protection and freedom in a way that works for all.
And I am not saying this is easy; simple yes, easy never. This takes thought, conversation and some deep self-reflecting. But it is worth it, I can guarantee you.
And having spent 26 years working with young people, here is what I do know. Attached to every happy child is freedom, attached to every unhappy child is control.
You get to choose.
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