The role of a parent can be very rewarding, but it can also be exhausting and daunting at times.
Let's face it parents are the first point of call with every decision, development and learning experience a child encounters. That's alot of pressure. Our parents were the same for us so hopefully they paved the way for our own natural, high-quality parenting skills.
No doubt you have heard people say you are just like your mum or dad? There is every chance our children will hear the same comments at some stage - I know my children have. So with this in mind we need to ensure our parenting and the examples we set aim for the best possible outcomes and preparation for our children.
Quite simply the way you parent is integral to the quality of the person you are raising. This includes their level of independence, consideration of others, contributions in society and so much more.
It really is a big responsibility. No pressure intended, but no doubt it is felt.
I have mentioned in a previous article how that sense of responsibility completely overwhelmed me in my earliest parenting days. But I reminded myself that I had just taken on a life-time commitment so wallowing in my fear of the role ahead was never an option.
Of course I have also reminded myself many times over the years that I am not perfect - none of us are. But when we embrace our parenting role from a basis of love we are already on the right track. Paying attention to our experiences along the way and finetuning our approach is also helpful.
I have also pointed out to my children from time to time that while they may like a particular situation or rule they should know that everything is done with their best interests and wellbeing in mind.
One tip, in particular, that I have learnt to embrace over the years is a simple message - choose your battles. No doubt it is a good message for life in general, but proved especially helpful for parenting challenges over the years.
There was a time, early in my role as a parent, where I felt it was essential that my children finished the meal before getting down from the table. I have no doubt that this was a parenting skill that I learnt from my parents and my grandparents.
I soon realised that such a rigid attitude in my expectations was only going to lead to tears, or at the very least frustration - for all concerned.
So rather than doggedly hold onto a traditional meal time battle I decided to cut us all some slack.
I adopted a simple approach:
- Provide healthy meals that could be enjoyed by all. This didn't mean running a restaurant-style mealtime where everyone got the meal of their choice. It was more a matter of creating a meal that could be enjoyed by all. Spaghetti Bolognaise was always a hit and to boost its 'healthy eating' qualities I would include grated carrot and finely chopped vegetables such as broccoli in the mix.
- It was okay if someone didn't complete their meal - if possible it could be stored for another meal. If they couldn't complete the main meal then dessert was not an option. However, it was important to ensure the meal size fit the dining capabilities of each child - Clearly a six-year-old is very unlikely to eat the same amount as a teenage boy. No-one needs to miss out on dessert just because they had been served a main meal that was too big.
- I also found that giving each member of the family a chance to choose the evening meal was a hit on occasions. This option was especially helpful on those occasions when deciding what to have for dinner was harder than actually preparing the meal.
Choosing your battles doesn't end with mealtime. Such an approach - along with a little reverse psychology - can also work wonders as they get older.
A situation with my son quickly springs to mind. He was about 15 and attending a school with a strict dress code. So when he asked if he could get his eyebrow pierced I was a little shocked - and stumped - at first.
This was one of those parenting moments when I chose not to give a knee-jerk negative response, but instead gave the request a little thought. Now don't get me wrong, 'no' was the immediate response I wanted to give, but my calm and thoughtful answer proved very effective.
It went something like this:
"I am fine with an eyebrow piercing. I just don't want you to be disappointed when the school and your part-time job require you to take it out or at the very least wear a clear piercing. I think that would kind of defeat the purpose." Then I suggested he make some inquiries about where to get it done and what the work and school rules would be.
He is nearly 30 now and still doesn't have an eyerbrow piercing. For the record, I am not against piercings I just knew there would be challenges - including the ones suggested. I could have argued the point about why it wasn't suitable at the time, but instead I let him work it out for himself.
That was definitely a battle I was happy not to choose.
Mumma Jak has three children and is familiar with the challenges of parenthood. She is well aware that every child is different, every day can be different and a parent's approach needs to be different according to the situation at hand. She is happy to say she fumbled through, motivated from the perfect starting point - unconditional love. The good news is that all three of her children have become normal functioning adults.