There are no shortage of parenting books on the market (I know this because I read them...), and tons of parenting advice to be found online (like this blog, LOL), even though there are resources readily available to parents of kids all ages, we continue to struggle with some very basic myths about parenting which, if we allow them to, can be debilitating to our most important relationships.
Here are a few I came up with:
- The hardest stage of parenting is...new parents will likely tell you it's those first few months of sleepless nights as well as around the clock diaper changes and feedings, not to mention the gravity of reality setting in that you are in charge of this very dependent, tiny human being and your life is no longer your own. Parents of toddlers would definitely say it's trying to survive the terrible twos. Preschool parents might say they have it the hardest because they deal with the daily frustrations and assertions of their child's emerging independence (wanting to do it all themselves when they can't). Elementary school parents would complain about adding sports, arts, homework, and teaching personal responsibility to the mix of home life, while middle school parents will talk about changing hormones, emotional ups and downs, not to mention social drama. Parents of teenagers will say they have it the worst because even though they've managed to get through the first several parenting stages, everyone knows how much anxiety goes into making sure your kid succeeds in school, adjusts socially, begins navigating the dating world, and learns important life skills before they leave the home for college. So you'd think college parents would say the worst is behind them...but no, parents of college students wonder how they'll pay for the education and whether or not their child will thrive in the campus environment, if their child will be wise enough to make healthy decisions for themselves when they aren't supervised, and whether or not their young adult will find a "good" job after college.
The hardest stage of parenting is...whatever stage of parenting you are in at the moment. Because, as you can see, every age and developmental stage has it's challenges. BUT, every stage also has it's rewards! Some of us are in multiple stages at any given moment, but each one of us is given a choice daily as to how to approach the parent/child relationship. The more relaxed you can be about what you are experiencing at the time, the better the connection you'll be able to have with your child.
- We should know how to do this! For whatever reason parents feel the job should come as second nature. Why is this? While there are many classes and resources to participate in before your baby arrives, they usually only prepare you for labor/delivery/newborn care and sometimes how to incorporate a new sibling into the family (no matter how much you read or how many classes you attend is anyone ever really prepared for parenthood?), there isn't much in the way of classes offered after that, and many parents don't have the luxury of time to read extensively...even if it is about the most important role they can play in their adult life. Unless you've got a great mom, mother-in-law, or girlfriend who is in the trenches with you, a lot of time and energy is spent guessing what will work with your kids. Many people have really challenging childhoods and don't have any reference as to how to parent. Then there are some who will choose to do the opposite of what their parents did, and others lead with exactly what they experienced without questioning or looking for alternatives that may be a better fit for family life today.
We should not "know" how to do this. How many ways has the world changed just in the last two decades? Our parent's approach to raising kids was likely loosely based on the way they were raised (with a mix in of the baggage they took away from their upbringing). The way our parents, their parents, and prior generations raised their children just does not work well in the culture we are raising our kids in today. These statements provide two conclusions: tapping into our own voice and intuition about parenting our children is essential [instead of listening to the constant "noise" and messages that come at us each day]. And, there is no shame in searching for suitable answers when we are stumped about a situation or relationship challenge we are experiencing with our kids.
- No one else is experiencing this problem with their kid. We feel alone, though all of us struggle from time to time with our kids. Especially true is the cover up in this age of socially sharing the "highlight" reel...rarely are parenting problems talked about (or if they are it's usually with sarcasm), so we feel like we can't really openly share our parenting struggles either.
You wouldn't believe how many people struggle with the same parenting issues! In fact, there are several I would say are pretty universal right now; dealing with kids who have extreme anxiety, parents really concerned about their kids behavior/achievement or lack thereof, kids friendship drama and social acceptance, kids not listening, and one I hear A LOT...should I continue to push my child in __________ or just let them move on if they have told me that's what they want to do. The other night I had the pleasure of meeting with a group of parents who all agreed they were comforted by being in a room with people honest and open enough to share their parenting struggles. Kids need support...BUT SO DO PARENTS! That was the goal of our meeting, and I am excited to continue to build a group of moms and dads who want support and who are willing to give it as well.
- It's too late...I've already messed my kid up, or I don't have the kind of connection I always thought I'd have with my son/daughter and I don't know how to change that. They don't like me because of the way I have been parenting them.
I am a firm believer that IT'S NEVER TOO LATE. Taking a page out of my own life, I will tell you I had a call from my dad earlier this week who wanted to talk about a homily he'd recently heard at church about the Right to Life. He was honest about how it had touched him and caused him remember all too clearly how he'd handled my pregnancy when I was eighteen. He acknowledged just how strong I was at that time, and really how difficult my decision to have my son and raise him must have been for me without his full support. My son is almost thirty years old...this is something that I truly never thought I would hear my dad ever say to me.
It's never too late.
To be a parent who has a healthy, happy, functional, mutually respectful connection with their children you really only need a few things: you need to be honest with yourself and with them, you need to set and consistently hold realistic boundaries based on your child's developmental stage, and you need to be vulnerable...don't be afraid to say you are sorry when you are wrong, or to let them see you are human. And, don't get so disconnected from your own childhood you aren't able to show them your playful side.
I'm curious...what parenting myths have I missed? Comment below or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.