I’ve recently booked myself in for what can only be described as a public speaking bootcamp. I’m kind of dreading the day, but as my work increasingly involves me to speak and present (in a different way to teaching) I am aware that I need to hone my skills, overcome some of my fears and ensure that my work is of the best possible quality.
There’s no shame in that and previous attendants of the course are more than happy to offer video reviews and recommend the experience. Learning and developing new skills is surely very commendable.
Unless you’re a parent.
I’m sure we can all think of situations where there are unstated, but never the less firmly adhered to rules. In the world of parenting there are masses , but I would argue that the following five are universal.
Try these for size…..
Once you are past the sleep deprived haze of the early years you should innately know exactly how to raise a human being through to adulthood. Whilst we all joke that there is no manual you must never seriously acknowledge that you really don’t have a clue what you’re doing most of the time!
If you find yourself in a situation with your child where you don’t know what on earth to do, your child behaves badly in public or you feel totally overwhelmed then YOU must be doing something wrong.
If you don’t enjoy family life, haven’t found the perfect family/work balance or find that it is a bit more like running up a descending escalator than a lovely stroll through a forest glade then you should feel horribly guilty and inadequate. It’s only raising children – people have been doing this for millennia.
If you parent “correctly” then your children will be absolutely fine. Follow the right formula ( although what this is no one can quite agree) and it will all be straight forward.
The most important rule…….. NEVER EVER ASK FOR PARENTING HELP. If you do – keep it secret. If your child has a diagnosed and recognisable condition then that’s ok. Otherwise all problems and issues your child faces are entirely your responsibility and must be a result of bad parenting choices. Far better to invest your time and money shopping, at the gym, on a spa day, a holiday and hope it goes away because despite being made up of unique human beings everything should be perfectly wonderful most of the time.
Sound ridiculous? Of course they are. I don’t know anyone who would say they actively subscribe to these views and yet actions speak louder. Pause and think about how often you have felt that others have negatively judged your parenting and then reflect back on these rules and see if there is a link.
I’d love to say that I sail through parenthood without feeling the impact of these, but when my tired 4 year old comes out of school and greets me with a stamping of feet and a stroppy comment there’s a massive internal battle for me. Do I make my response calm, remembering she’s tired and to work with her on this at a better point in the day or do I give into the urge to be seen as a parent who won’t be spoken to like that and tell her what’s what? How much does my concern about other people’s perceptions of my parenting impact what I do?
There is a real stigma to access help as a parent. I could quote multiple examples, but talk to any parenting support service provider and they will tell you one of the biggest challenges is recruitment. We all recognise the need to and importance of providing support to parents, but it doesn’t need to apply to us – it’s for other parents!
We all hold limiting beliefs that sometime need to be brought to light and I would argue that these are rules, albeit subconscious, that as a society we impose upon ourselves and other parents. They are insidious and cruel and yet scratch the surface and you will find they are very potent. The result of which is so many parents suffer in silence, labouring under the myth that they should know how to parent perfectly without training or support and somehow their children will be “successful.”
There’s a lot to be said on this topic and as a coach working with parents it’s a topic very close to my heart. Too much for one blog so I’m going to pause, rather than end there, but firstly I would ask how much have you encountered these rules or even found yourself believing them? Maybe even ask yourself the following questions:
Would you be happier to tell your friends you were going to puppy training classes or getting parenting support (for the record I am not suggesting children can be trained like puppies)? Dog owners who learn to appropriately care for their pets are usually seen as responsible and loving. Is the same true of a parent accessing help? If you knew of a parent who was accessing help what would your honest initial reaction be?
Most of us who have children know that there’s no way we’re going to make it from 0-18 without hitting some speed bumps and obstacles along the way. Imagine if, in those sometimes painful or challenging times, each parent knew there was a whole heap of support out there and people cheering them on for equipping themselves to be the best parent they can?