Welcome to our Parenting Skills Series where we will cover some practical tips and tools to use in raising the children in your life, regardless of your parenting style. There have been some big changes in the way we nurture, raise and discipline children over the past two decades.
Why is parenting today so challenging?
Something has changed in parenting practices in recent years and one thing is clear - most parents are trying to raise their children differently than their parents raised them. I think this is a good thing, it means that we are making conscious decisions about how we are raising our kids. However, as a result, we have been reaching out to books, experts and even google to know what to do and the opinions and ideas are as varied as they come. With old school wisdom, sprinkles of research, and healthy helpings of guilt, parents often act out of fear or feel paralyzed to do anything. It's easy to feel inadequate as a parent too.
According to William J. Doherty, Ph.D. "We are facing an epidemic of insecure parenting. We may now have the most child-sensitive generation of parents the world has ever known—and the most confused and insecure."
There are several different theories of why parenting is more challenging in today's world. Sarah Ockwell-Smith author of The Gentle Parenting Book, shared five big reasons that are unique to this day and age.
- A Fear of Listening to our Children - Some parenting experts promote 'parent-centric' parenting. Encouraging parents to say strong and not let children get their own way, and that they are manipulating their parents. Nothing if further from the truth, helping children to feel heard, even when they can't get all that they want, strengthens relationships, and helps children to develop into healthy, well adjusted individuals.
- A Fear of Listening to our Children - Expectations on children today are not always realistic and developmentally appropriate. Expecting a child to do something that they are not capable of doing yet, creates stress for the child, as well as the parents.
- The Loss of the Village - Parenting was once a social activity where extended families and communities pitched in to help raise the children. Today many parents are alone in their parenting journey, often due to physical distance, aging parents, or a due to a shift in community values.
- Too Many Shortcuts - The Curse of McParenting Manuals - Quick fix advice that promises dramatic results may offer an immediate solution but my not be aligned with long-term parenting goals. "The sad fact is there are no shortcuts or quick fixes, not if we want a long term positive change. There are no magic answers to getting a child to sleep through or not tantrum in public quickly that don't risk our relationship with them in years to come. McParenting is almost the most damaging of modern day parenting trends."
- A Ridiculously High Bar - Unrealistic expectations for children that don't take into account what is developmentally appropriate. Children are expected to act like little adults from a very young age. Expecting a toddler to sit still, share toys and be polite before they are really even capable, creates stress for children and parents.
Are there parenting best practices?
While there is no 'one-size-fits-all' parenting program, there are some basic concepts that research has shown are beneficial in promoting healthy, responsible and resiliant adults.
We spend too much time feeling inadequate and worrying that we are doing it wrong. The good news is that you don't have to be a perfect parent. In fact, the most important thing you can do, is to respond sensitively to your child, which promotes a secure attachment. And research shows that if you're doing it 50% of the time, you are doing really well (Woodhouse 2019.)
Can we get real for a moment? Parenting can be like a war zone. We are often bombarded with crazy, unexpected behaviours that are thrown at us multiple times a day and often at the worst times. When we're in the heat of the moment, naturally we react, and it's not always pretty. We can experience overwhelm, frustration, sadness, anger, disappointment, loneliness, anxiety, and disrespect. Here are some points to keep in mind:
- Try and do the best you can
- Practice parenting principles in the calm moments so they come more naturally when you really need them
- You don't have to be perfect! You won't be a perfect parent, keep in mind if you nail it 50% of the time, you are doing amazing!
What do you think? Please comment with your thoughts. I would love to hear about why you think modern parenting is so hard and best parenting practices.
In the next few blogs, we will cover some evidence-based parenting strategies and tips that can help you through your parenting journey. Starting with understanding your child and adapting your parenting style to your child (I didn't know that this was a good thing, I just learned it the hard way, through trial and error). We will also cover a powerful tool to teach empathy and gain lasting connection and co-operation called Emotion Coaching.
NEXT PARENTING SKILLS STRATEGY: ADAPTING YOUR PARENTING TO YOUR CHILD
Why I am Interested in Parenting
Over the past 16 years, I have been helping families master what is often the first parenting challenge – sleep skills. As part of this coaching, I have often had an opportunity to offer suggestions for parenting toddlers and children through related challenges. What I figured out is that there is a lot of confusion and guilt involved when it comes to modern parenting. My studies in Infant Mental Health and attachment, has helped me understand the priorities and broad theories but there was still the question about what, if any, parenting programs could help when we are in the thick of the day to day grind of raising children. Two years ago, I returned to university to study family science to learn how to best support families (my own included) to raise happy, resilient, successful children.
"Take Back Your Kids: How to Teach and Get Respect" by William J. Doherty, Excellence & Ethics (Winter/Spring, 2013): 1-4 (CERC).
Ockwell-Smith, S. (n.d.). The Five Greatest Problems With Modern Day Parenting [Web log post]. Retrieved June 30, 2016, from https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/sarah-ockwellsmith/parenting-problems_b_10753888.html
Woodhouse, S. S., Scott, J. R., Hepworth, A. D., & Cassidy, J. (2019). Secure Base Provision: A New Approach to Examining Links Between Maternal Caregiving and Infant Attachment. Child Development. doi:10.1111/cdev.13224