Have you ever asked yourself….am I a good parent?
I think we would be hard pressed to find a parent who doesn’t from time to time question their parenting abilities.
It is a question most if not all parents WANT an answer to.
Parenting is not something you get a lot of feedback on. In our culture, many parents, appear annoyed or peeved by other people correcting their children, let alone commenting on their parenting.
Even if the feedback is coming from the MOST innocuous source it tends not to be well received. I have had grandparents share with me they want to give some feedback to their child about their grandchild and parenting, but fear being lashed out at or their child getting mad at them for voicing their concerns. It seems, as parents, there is no one we really feel comfortable with giving us constructive feedback on our role as mom or dad. Which is understandable. It is easy to be hypersensitive about our parenting. There is nothing more personal and meaningful.
Yet the lack of feedback we get as parents make it hard to know if we are on the right track with raising our children.
Maybe just maybe we will never know if we are doing a good job as parent until our children are grown. Maybe the best indicator of how well we did as parents is how our adult children FEEL about us. And at that point we are done in the functional sense of being a parent.
The culture of parenting has certainly changed with the passing of generations who assume the role.
The sad truth is in our society parenting has become very competitive in nature. Something about having kids seems to bring out this competitive streak. Wisdom long-held that having children made you a better person. Yet it seems in recent times in many ways parenting has made us worse people due to the competitive nature in which our society now raises children. Instead of a communal endeavour where we focus on what is best for ALL the children in our community, the culture has shifted to where many parents focus on how to give their kid the edge over other children in the community. We don’t want a level playing field but we aim for our child to have a leg up on other children.
No longer does it take a village to raise a child.
We even see such competition play out in families. Siblings who are competitive with each other’s children–competing over whose child walks first, reads first, gets better grades, is better at sports, reading two grade levels ahead, etc. It is disheartening when such competition exists in the family unit.
The way we as a society view the role of a parent has changed. The expectation has changed dramatically from a couple of generations ago. Maybe the shift started with the famous Dr. Spock and his book on child rearing practices–treating the child as an “individual.”
In the day and age, we parent not just competitively but in a very child centric way. The family oftentimes is centered around the children and their schedule.
Even social media has changed the way we as a culture parent–we see the highlight reel of everyone else’s parenting–well, at least we see the good—- most people do not seem to share the bad and the ugly (although I would definitely “love” a status of, “My kid won’t listen for shit today and is acting like a total spoiled brat.” It would be so refreshing. Who doesn’t love people who keep it REAL?!)
But rarely do people post about their child’s setbacks or struggles (“My son was sent to the principal’s office today for the 5th time this month”–yet to see that one up on Facebook).
Instead it would appear, social media is a way as parents we get to compete with our “friends” to see who is doing the BEST job as a parent–posting picture after picture of our child–gauging our parenting success in likes, loves, shares, retweets, reposts.
Our kids even ask, “Mom, are you going to post this on Facebook?” It is like we have them programed to strike a pose and get those likes.
Personally, I love seeing pictures of all my friends’ children. I am a compulsive “liker.”
Yet while social media has its benefits, it is also it is a great way to get hurt and offended. Such as when you post a picture of your kid eating leftover Halloween candy for breakfast and your “friend” comments they would never feed their kid candy for breakfast. Good for you SUSAN.
We open ourselves (and our children) up to comments when we post about them on social media.
As parents we post pictures of our children winning awards, getting trophies, getting on the honor roll.
No longer are such accolades just shared with close family and friends like they were a mere generation ago.
It is a different time now that we are raising children in. The values we hold have changed. Parents want their children to ACHIEVE and get recognition from a very young age.
Many want their child to be a star. A top student. A great athlete. Special. Superb musician. Voracious reader. Anything but ordinary.
Largely this is a reflection of our increasingly cut-throat society. We live in a fast paced, ultra competitive world. We want our children to be successful and from a young age we are training them to compete in an intensely competitive, globalized world.
As a counselor, I see a common measure of how good parents feel about how they are doing being measured by what their kids are accomplishing.
High honor roll=I am doing a great job as a parent
National Merit Scholar=I am doing a great job as a parent
Making the Varsity team freshmen year=I am doing a great job as a parent
Getting into first choice college=I am doing a great job as a parent
We look at our kids’ accomplishments as a reflection of AND on us. It validates us that we are doing a great job and raising our children right. Yet this is not universal seal of approval on good, effective parenting. (Also, if we look at our kids’ accomplishment as reflection of AND on us, do we not also have to do the same with their struggles and failures? This pendulum has to swing both ways, right?)
Our kids are NOT extensions of us. They are individuals with minds of their own, interests of their own, and personalities of their own. We should not try to control our children or mold them into what WE want them to be. If we do this, we are essentially putting on our children our own baggage, our own hopes, our own fears, our own dreams. That is when we begin to blur boundaries. This is when we become enmeshed.
More importantly our ultimate goal as parents is to raise people who can function independently and think for themselves. A large part of becoming an adult is DIFFERENTIATING from your parents. We all remember when broke free from our OWN parents.
The competitive, all-consuming, child centric nature of parenting comes with so many detriments to our children’s mental health. It leads children to struggle with self-worth, anxiety, depression, self-efficacy, and a myriad of mental health issues. I see it every day as someone who works in mental health.
As a counselor, I have had teens share with me how frustrating it is how everything they do is repeated by their parents to their friends or family. Often on social media. From their perspective this is strictly for the purpose of bragging rights. “My mom has to brag about my GPA. Or if we won the game. Or post what colleges I am applying to. It is so annoying!” End quote. I don’t blame the kid for feeling this way as it turns the pressure on high.
I think if we are honest with ourselves we can see this current parenting culture puts a lot of undue pressure on children.
As a parent, you try your best. There is no perfect parent. Children do not need perfect parents they need happy, stable parents.
We also do not need perfect children. If we want our children to be happy, we need them to empower them to feel free to be happy on their own terms.
I share below with you a wonderful TED talk on how to raise SUCCESSFUL kids without over-parenting. Our children deserve the freedom to explore who they are not, make mistakes, and realize they can fall AND get up ON their OWN.
To schedule a counseling session with me (AND if you are a reader who lives in New Jersey):
Anew Counseling Services LLC
617 Oradell Avenue, Suite 3, Oradell, New Jersey, 07649