'There is no right or wrong way to parent'...or, is there?
Updated: Sep 30, 2019
We often hear professionals, parent educators, authors, spiritual leaders, scholars, parents and academics say that there is no wrong or right way to parent.
This statement implies that while there are indeed different ways to go about parenting - the same way that there are many ways to do business, to dance or to cook a meal - it also implies that whatever we choose to do in our role as parents IS acceptable.
I have a problem with that implication because:
There is a BIG difference between a parent guiding another human being in a positive, uplifting way for instance, by offering life skills and kind leadership...
a parent causing detriment to a child – physical, emotional, mental - consciously or unconsciously, for example, through verbal and emotional abuse and the use of threats.
There is a BIG different between seeing our child as a complete human being and listening to their point of view...
a child being left behind, literally and figuratively.
And there is a BIG difference between caring for our child fully with no conditions...
for our child’s basic right - to be cared for and loved - being conditional on compliance and obedience.
But I understand that right and wrong are loaded words and each one of us will give its own definition based on our life experiences. You may even be thinking that the fact that there is a wrong way doesn’t mean there is a right way.
Which is why I prefer to think about our role as parents as it being healthy or unhealthy.
There is a 'right' - healthy - way to parent and a 'wrong' - unhealthy - way to parent.
Let’s dig a bit deeper.
For years, I’ve also read hundreds, thousands of posts, blogs, articles and books advising parents not to strive to be a ‘perfect’ parent.
I read things like:
‘There’s no such thing as the perfect parent’,
‘You’ll never be a perfect parent so why try?’ and
‘Parents do not need to be perfect.’
For a society so infatuated with achievement and success, I’m surprised we have convinced ourselves that it is ok to be great at everything except parenting.
Along with this ‘don’t strive to be a perfect parent’, there is also this push to only be a ‘good enough’ parent.
I understand saying things like ‘parents do not need to be perfect’ or ‘you only need to be a good enough parent’ may be a way to support parents in dealing with various challenging circumstances and to protect their mental health.
For instance being a single parent, working two or three jobs, having four kids with no extended family around, illness in the family, financial hardship.
I get it. I do.
But being a ‘great driver’ doesn’t mean we will never speed, run a red light or get a parking ticket once in a while and being a ‘great salesperson’ doesn’t mean that it is all ice-cream and rainbows in business.
Managing our expectations, doing our research, preparing and educating ourselves will all help with our mental health as well and to support us in being great parents.
In terms of perfection, I believe it is time we not only redefine and reframe what perfect means but also how we perceive perfection.
And so I created a manifesto which has taken shape (and will continue to evolve) from years of notes as I’ve gone about my research.
It’s been shaped by thoughts in the shower, ‘aha’ moments while being with my kids, observation, inspiration from mentors, other parents, friends, spiritual and scientific leaders, and people I’ve found off and online.
It’s a soup of words that represents what I believe makes the real-perfect parent.
You can view it in full, download and print it here.
So to summarise:
Being a parent requires courage, knowledge and practice.
Being a parent is not for the faint-hearted.
We’re talking about a contract for life.
We need to move away from claims such as there being no right and wrong way to parent. This, in my view, is an excuse for poor and detrimental practices and the lowering of parenting standards.
And that’s where we see neglect – emotional, physical and mental.
If your being a ‘good enough’ parent involves educating yourself, taking your child’s point of view into consideration and asking questions, then that’s a fabulous ‘good enough’!
If, on the other hand, being ‘good enough’ means ‘I have fed my child and because of my strong reactions my children fear me and they have learned to be quiet and not argue with me - ever’ – that’s not the ‘good enough worth pursuing.
It’s OK to be a great parent.
In fact, our baby - our child - needs us to be great parents.
Here's to greatness,
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