I was perusing Google News for the keyword “parenting” and had to laugh at the resultant articles being shown from a wide variety of sources. Apparently, people can’t write about parenting without coining a name for the particular approach that they are either lauding or criticizing.
There are articles in today’s news about harsh parenting (which apparently causes obesity), helicopter versus submarine parenting (overprotective, or underprotective?), toxic Christian parenting (yes, it’s a thing), free range parenting (most readers have no clue what that means, so you’re not alone), Island parenting (only if you live in the Caribbean) and parenting advice from porn stars (really!).
While I applaud the self-examination and self-awareness that underlies all consideration of parenting styles, I also find it a bit daft that we’re all so obsessed with doing it perfectly that many of us parents forget that the little voice in our heart is often the best counsel on how to handle a challenging situation in the moment. And that parenting is almost always a team effort and needs to be treated that way.
As I discussed with a child therapist this afternoon, I believe that good parenting isn’t about doing it right, it’s about being able to contemplate what you’ve done and resolving to handle similar situations better in the future. No need to beat yourself up for not being perfect all the time (because worries about being a perfect mom can interfere with parenting, though I guess dads aren’t afflicted in the same way? Is that because we don’t seek perfection? Or because we can handle when we’re not perfect? Hmm….
I actually think one of the greatest challenges with parenting is what I’ll callLack of Teamwork Parenting, demonstrated by when each parent second-guesses the other, judges the other’s actions and is quick to criticize and override, commiserate with the children and undermine the other parent’s position as an authority figure in the children’s lives.
And where does this seem to rear its ugly head the most? In co-parenting. In divorce and post-divorce families. Heck, search Google News for co-parenting and it’s all articles about celebrities who are “opening up” about how difficult it is to parent their child with another adult who they’re not in a relationship with. But even if you’re still married, parents can definitely undermine each other.
From experience I can say that it not only sucks, it confuses the children to no end. Who do they have to listen to? Who’s the boss? Which parent’s word trumps the other parent?
In our case, the result has been years of children trying (often successfully) to “split” us, to manipulate the situation to their own advantage (telling me “mom said…” and vice versa, a sure firecracker to toss into the fireplace). And it’s hard because it creates an environment that drains both parent’s self-confidence, and that’s a very tough place from which to parent effectively.
So how do you fix it? As with everything else psychological, I think you fix it by working on yourself. Support the other parent or co-parent, particularly in front of the children, and if you must argue about outcomes and consequences, do so after hours, in email, away from the children. If you can’t support your co-parent, why should you expect them to support you in this challenging world?
Teamwork. Seems so basic, but it’s so difficult, particularly when children are in the loop. But if you ask me, it’s not about helicopters, submarines, free-range or any other pop philosophy. It’s about being a team and parenting together. Is that really so hard?