Updated: Sep 30, 2019
Misconception #1: Parents believe that they either innately know how to parent or that parenting will come naturally as soon as the baby arrives.
Many parents look at ‘childbirth education’ (information and support for pregnancy and birth) and ‘parenting education’ (knowledge, tools, resources, mentorship to support our child's physical, emotional and mental wellbeing while honouring our individuality) interchangeably. And when they harbour this first misconception, they think they’ve covered both if they’ve engaged in one or the other to any degree.
When we think that being a parent comes naturally, and believe we’ll instinctively know what to do with our child and how to parent well as soon as the baby arrives, we are drawn into dangerous currents.
I’m not saying that instinct is unimportant. Instinct rocks! The problem begins when we start confusing intuition with other things, such as trauma, unconscious beliefs, knee-jerk reactions, a lack of emotional regulation and ignorance. So taking a good look at what we believe comes from ‘instinct’ – what we believe to be ‘natural’ – is a good place to start. Sometimes 'natural' simply means 'familiar'. All we've ever known.
Misconception #2: Parents believe it is their role to ‘shape’ their kids.
How did this notion come about?As Jan Fortune says: ‘The whole notion of childhood as a training ground is so flawed. It assumes that children are not really autonomous human beings. They are kind of raw material that we were given to shape. Obviously children have less experience in the world but they are no less human or less creative. I think seeing them as that kind of raw material that we have to shape is quite damaging'.
When we make plans for our children before we’ve even met them, I see it as an unrealistic and problematic exercise. We are clouded by our wishes without taking into consideration our child’s individual temperament, needs, interests and likes.
If not kept in check, our kids not wanting to follow our wishes can be a big disappointment for us and this, in turn, can breed anger. In response, we want to take control even more, and the child stops feeling safe, stops being trusting. How does that benefit anyone?
Misconception #3: Parents believe that – good or bad – they need to parent the way their parents did.
If you had a kickass parent, and your passions and likes were encouraged as well as your life choices, without judgement and you were positively guided and totally accepted – please start making notes and putting into practice what worked. Also, please share with others!
If that wasn’t the case, then I suggest raising the bar in the name of evolution. ‘Formal’ parent education never takes the place of community and learning from one another. We just need to know what community we are for and whether being part of it is benefiting our family.
Misconception #4: Couples believe that loving each other and wanting to have a family will mean seeing eye to eye on all things parenting.
Two different individuals decided to have a family, and as cliché as it is going to sound (and as hard as it is sometimes to admit!), I believe that differences between parents are ultimately healthier for children.
As long as children are treated with respect, not seeing eye to eye doesn’t mean you aren’t a team; it means you can see things from different viewpoints and perspectives.
By respect I mean: The acknowledgement that we – parent and child - are two separate individuals and we accept the other person’s rights, feelings and opinions (regardless of their age or ‘position’). Total acceptance. To remember we are autonomous human beings. It is about sovereignty – our rightful status entails independence and self-government.
As the Kabat-Zinns say, ‘In honouring our children’s sovereignty, we make it possible for them to do two things: show themselves in their “true seeming” and find their own way. Both are necessary to come to full adulthood.’
Misconception #5: Parents believe that kids need to be taught everything – the adult is the only wise or knowledgeable person in the household.
Lack of life experience doesn’t equal lack of wisdom. Age doesn’t equal wisdom either. I bet we all know at least one adult who’s immature in certain areas of their lives.
An example: #MarchForOurLives It’s young people who are finally making progress in terms of the implementation of tighter measures for gun control in the USA. Children and young people are creating real positive change, inspiring different generations – whole countries!
Who are the wise human beings in this situation?
I am reminded of Magda Gerber, who says, ‘Be careful what you teach. It might interfere with what they are learning.’