Parenting tutorial: parenting is a vital part of loving and caring for your children
I use this Philip Larkin poem a lot when someone asks me for my parenting tips.
This Be The Verse
They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.
But they were fucked up in their turn
By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another's throats.
Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don't have any kids yourself
- Philip Larkin (1922-1985)
Being a parent is not easy, especially if your own life skills and experience is limited. So it is important to understand what you do and how you think will be the template your children learn from because as humans we copy behaviour. If you drink and smoke around your children openly, then they are likely to follow suit and become drinkers and smokers themselves because we only know what we know.
Venus Cow says, "Read the poem above written by Philip Larkin in 1971 and recognise it is important to remember children are innocent blank bits of paper."
Separated parents frequently fail to understand that their children love both of them. The fact that one parent has come to hate the other, or that both hate each other is no reason for the child not to love both and have loyalty to both. For divorced or separated parents harbouring grudges or not getting along it's important to determine your love for your children outweighs your frustration or dislike for your ex. Instead of being jealous of a child's love for another parent, grand parent or distant relative try to nurture feelings of gratitude they have so many people caring for them and their wellbeing.
Stop emotionally damaging your children by making them choose or side with one or the other; whether parents are together or not, being united is the key. When one parent vilifies the other, or makes it clear that he or she has no respect for the other it poses the most enormous difficulties for the children of fractious, separated or divorced parents.
Parenting is a vital part of loving and caring for your children. Good parenting is about providing a warm, secure home life and helping your children to learn the rules of life (e.g. how to share, respect others, etc.) and to develop good self-esteem. You may have to stop them from doing things they shouldn't be doing, but it is just as important to encourage them not just to do the things you do want them to do but to explore their own creativity and try new things themselves as well.
Let your children always know when they have done something well and when you are pleased with there efforts and achievements. Be specific so that the child knows which behaviours you want to encourage. For example, give them a big kiss or hug and express how great they are doing and point out the good behaviour. You must to do this action straight away at the time when you see the behaviour you want to encourage.
It is important to remember none of us are perfect, so demanding your child stop smoking when you have a cigarette in your mouth, is delusional and not practising what you preach. Children are easily led astray by others if their ground rules have no boundaries, so set some and keep focused on what they are, by you setting the example the child can easily follow but be warned, don't move the goal posts when it's convenient for you. Being consistent is key. This will help them have the right skills to make a success of their lives in the future.
As parents, we also have the responsibility to teach our children morals and ethics, how to nurture core values like empathy and compassion for others, humility and gratitude for life because getting on in life depends on confidence and attracting the right things and people back. If you master these skills at a young age you'll increase the chances of success and happiness later on in life.
The most important piece of parenting advice I give in therapy I call "the discipline puzzle" The discipline puzzle means determining clearly who is in charge: the parents or the child. This is done, not by being a bossy dictator who says one thing then does the complete opposite but by leading by example always with kindness and never changing the goal posts, ignoring your child or lying for any reason.
A perfect example of why lying to your children, even if the motive is good and to protect them from disappointment or pain, is fatal when they get a mind of their own and discover the reality.
This story of a three year old girl distressed and crying to her Mother after being bullied at nursery school, shows how the wrong information, no matter how you might justify it, will leave the child vulnerable and unable to win.
The mother pursued the child to find out why she was so upset and crying. Eventually the child stopped crying and asked the mother if her best friend Pepper Pig was a bacon sandwich? The little girl had empathy for her friend Pepper Pig and loved him but when someone at school told her it was really a bacon sandwich, she was devastated and confused.
The same principle applies to Father Christmas. We tell our children not to speak to strangers ever or tell them our secrets, yet once a year we change these rules and sit them on the lap of a complete stranger, dressed as someone they recognise, a real person introduced by us and allow them to tell their secrets of what they desire. When the child finds out the truth about this big bad lie, usually at school by some bully, the child is devastated and feels stupid for believing.
Most parents have a strong desire to do the best for their children but many, across all socio econonic groups but more so in lower income households, are ill-informed or poorly motivated on how to achieve this and must learn how to recognise and respond to a baby by stimulating them from the very start, learning how to foster empathy in them. I am always frustrated when I see an even more frustrated toddler or young child despearte to get the attention of a zoned out parent repeating the same question over and over and getting no where. Parents need to appreciate the importance of talking frequently with a baby or young child, answering their questions, it doesn't feel good to be ignored and all the other things that make a positive difference, interactions such as cuddling, looking and smiling. All human beings need respect, personal stimulation and interaction.
We are currently living in difficult economic and socially challenging times with domestic violence on the increase as is the threat to children, childrens charities like the NSCPP Childline and Save the Children reporting sharp increases in the demand for their services from kids themselves. Sadly local authorites and charities' budgets are under severe pressure and information and help is limited. The threat of redundancy and lack of/strain on personal finances for many families due to lockdown is causing increased stress which affects the ability of mothers and fathers to be the good parents that they really want to be.
Children's needs are basic, shelter, clean dry clothes, a full tummy, friends, a safe place to play and plenty of love and laughter. So if you see a neighbour struggling with parenting and you can help, reach out, it takes a village. Sometimes all it takes for a child is to see something different.
Venus Cow says, "Take a few lessons from this great poem by Diane Loomans."
If I had my child to raise over again
I’d build self-esteem first and the house later
I’d finger paint more and point the finger less
I would do less correcting and more connecting
I’d take my eyes off my watch and watch with my eyes
I would care to know less and know to care more
I’d take more hikes and fly more kites
I’d stop playing serious and seriously play
I would run through more fields and gaze at more stars
I’d do more hugging and less tugging
I’d see the oak tree in the acorn more often
I would be firm less often and affirm much more
I’d model less about the love of power
And more about the power of love.
Photo by Chance Agrella, courtesy of FreeRange