Update to post: Good Parenting - What to do when you feel inadequate
In July I wrote a post titled, Good Parenting - What to do when you feel inadequate. I wanted to revisit the topic because parents frequently express to me worry that their parenting skills aren’t all they should be.
More than anything, I want readers to know: The fact that you’re reading this post about being a good parent indicates that you are one! Why? Because parents who don’t care about being good at it don’t read posts on the topic in the first place.
Being a good parent starts with a foundation of love. You will absolutely make mistakes in every stage of your child’s development. You will. But when your child knows without doubt that you love her and that you’re there for her to help her through anything, no matter what, many of the mistakes you make will come and go without leaving scars. They really will. That’s the power of love and support.
As your child gets older, the issues or problems that she faces are going to be weightier. And many of the issues that teens face may be quite serious. For this reason, I add this to my original post:
Don’t wait to seek professional help if you’re feeling in over your head.
Many teens benefit greatly from professional counseling. Sometimes, it’s easier to open up to a counselor, especially for a teen who may feel at odds with her parents. A good place to start to find a good therapist is to ask a professional you already trust, like your child’s pediatrician.
Some people hesitate to seek professional help in the hopes that their child’s issues will ‘blow over’ thinking that the problem is just a phase. This can be a dangerous decision. Your child may not have the emotional capability to maneuver through her problems herself. And if it is just a phase, a good counselor will be able to help you help your child through it.
Being a good parent doesn’t mean never making mistakes. And it doesn’t mean that you never need help! The act of being supportive may include seeking professional help.
All parents feel inadequate from time to time
Since parenting does not come with an instruction manual, here are five tips to help you feel more confident in your parenting!
1. Talk to parents of older children
Most will reassure you that what you’re experiencing is normal. The “terrible twos” or teenage years are difficult for most parents. Experienced parents will remind you that you and your children will survive these stages. Granted, there are still challenges as your child develops from a two-year-old to a tween. And while each challenge will be different, each one brings with it opportunities for you and your children to grow.
2. Understand the basics of childhood development
Every stage of development is normal and necessary even if it presents challenges that are strange to you. When a two-year-old screams “Mine” or “No” she is learning how to assert herself and still receive the love and attention that she needs. When a teenager is rebelling and saying “No” or “I don’t want to,” he is trying to assert himself and find his own voice and still receive the love and attention that he needs.
We want our kids to eventually develop into adults who have their own interests and talents. Who are able to separate from home and become independent and assertive. Instead of feeling like your child is always challenging you for no reason, try to re-fame it as, “Wow my kid is learning how to stand up for himself and make his needs known” versus “He is just talking back to me and not respecting me”.
If you do feel disrespected, you have options! 1) Model appropriate behavior and 2) Suggest the child re-phrase his wants in a more appropriate manner. Remind him this is more likely to achieve his desired outcome (e.g. permission to stay out an hour past curfew).
3. Talk to your family
Talk frequently with your own parents, aunts and uncles, grandparents who have raised their children. First of all, they may be happy you turned to them for advice. Second, they can feel validated that you are now better able to appreciate what they went through raising and disciplining you. Third, they have years of wisdom and experience that they can share. What a great resource!
4. Get some help
You knew I was going to suggest that! If you feel so overwhelmed and inadequate, you may need a break. Ask a friend or family member to babysit or do a child-care swap with a friend. Sometimes single friends who don’t have children are happy to take your child to a kiddie movie, which for some, is a great excuse to watch a kid movie as an adult! Or, ask a friend to help your son with a science project. Or, sign your child up for Big Brothers Big Sisters which greatly benefited both Jonathan and me. Jonathan had a great male role model and I had some free time, which was a nice treat as a single parent.
5. Have your child help out
Jonathan will tell you that he has done his own laundry since 6th grade. I told him separate colors from whites and wash everything on cold. I told him, “Be careful! If you mix a red shirt, with a white shirt, you are going to have to wear pink to school!” This made him extra-cautious, as he did not like the idea of wearing pink shirts!
Your child can help with dishes. Your kindergartener knows the “clean up” song and can put colorful plastic bowls in cabinets that are low and at her level.
With Jonathan, I tried to teach him important life lessons as we worked on housework together. We would go shopping, grab two carts, and I gave him a budget and told him to get at or under the dollar amount I gave him and we would make it a game. We’d have the cashier ring up his amount and see if he was within budget. If not, he had to decide what he had to let go of, which is part of life, right? So he was learning about following a budget and felt proud of himself in doing so.
There are many helpful tips and pointers out there on parenting blogs and what great reminders that you are not alone! No parent feels confident 100% of the time. Remember too, that taking care of yourself is also taking good care of your child. Model good healthy behavior that you want them to emulate. Yes, your child can see that you are not perfect, but you can be consistent and use resources around you to be the best parent you can be!!!