You grow up and decide to become parents. If you are anything like me, you wish for a crystal ball to forecast the results of your parenting. You want to provide good parenting, healthy parenting. You have some ideas about parenting from your parents, caregivers, and teachers. You may be pleased about how they showed their love. You may also believe they made some mistakes you do not want to repeat. You have hopes for your children that they will be healthy, happy, and psychologically well-adjusted. You hope they will have friends, be playful and be liked by everyone. You hope they will be smart, make good choices and have talents.
You dream for your children to feel secure and develop good self-esteem. You want to teach them to be responsible, self-reliant, and productive, and thereby be proud of them and yourselves. You teach them social skills and values like cooperation, honesty, and good manners. You hope they will appreciate all you do for them—carpooling, afterschool activities, helping with homework, taking them on trips, home-baked cookies, and brownies. You want to protect them and keep them safe from risks, illness, predators, disappointments, sadness, and frustration. You want to shield them from all the potential evils in the world.
I am reminded of Shel Silverstein’s poem Hug O’ War.
I will not play at tug o’ war.
I’d rather play at hug o’ war.
Where everyone hugs
Instead of tugs,
Where everyone giggles
And rolls on the rug,
Where everyone kisses,
And everyone grins,
And everyone cuddles,
And everyone wins.
And everything starts off well. Your ambition is to be the best parent ever, but what does that look like? How do you accomplish it? What if there are problems? What if you find it overwhelming to balance children, work, other relationships, and responsibilities? What do you do when your children squabble? What happens when you feel exhausted, fatigued, thoroughly drained? Do you feel responsible for your children’s happiness?
So many considerations for those of us who want to be good parents. We can lay the best of plans then suddenly…Oops! Dr. Suess described it well in Oh, the Places You’ll Go! He began with some premises of basic knowledge, aptitudes, skills, some insecurity, and some confusion. Then life goes well until..it doesn’t.
I’m sorry to say so
but, sadly, it’s true
can happen to you.
Then…Oh, the places you’ll go!
Except when they don’t.
Because, sometimes, they won’t.
I recommend reading the article Nine Steps to Effective Parenting. It delineates ways to enhance your children’s self-esteem, set limits with consistent logical consequences, and the importance of giving your children time and attention. You need to be a good role model, communicate clearly, and demonstrate adaptability and flexibility. Show your children that your love for them is not conditional upon how well they perform and that your love is not withdrawn when they make mistakes. Finally, exemplify how healthy adults take good care of themselves and know their limitations.
As a psychologist, I believe understanding these possibilities as natural occurrences in life helps to strengthen coping skills. Good, healthy parenting does not mean to expect perfection of yourself or your children. Rather, it is what makes people human and, I think, strengthens character.
Remember: “Bang-ups and Hang-ups” happen to everyone.