As human beings we are hardwired to compare. It’s what the brain does. So when it comes to parenting, it is natural to compare ourselves to the parenting of others and question whether we are doing a good enough job or not.
Is what I’m doing going to make my child happy? Am I doing a good enough job?
These questions and countless more questions of this nature roll around in our heads, challenging our every move, our every decision and triggering our self-doubt.
But perhaps there’s a perspective that you’ve not considered, that may just calm your fears about whether you are sending your child down the ‘wrong path’ or not.
Regardless of how you parent, the reality will remain. Your child WILL experience ups and downs and they WILL learn and grow from the environments they are raised in which will give them experiences in life – some wanted, some unwanted.
This is simply what happens to all humans. It happened to us and it will happen to your children.
Reflect back for a moment on the way your parents raised you. Rightly or wrongly (in your opinion) you learnt certain things that both benefited you and also led you to experiences that challenged you. You developed personality traits, habits and preferences that led you to both enjoyable and non-enjoyable experiences.
Let’s take a parent who micromanages their child and keeps them to a strict regime. That style of parenting is likely to teach a child to be structured, organised, to reach goals, to follow the rules and keep them out of trouble. At the same time, it may also suffocate a child, lessen their ability to think for themselves and choose right from wrong. They may become intimidated by their parents causing a rift in the relationship. Perhaps the child may struggle to loosen up and play in the moment because of that very structure.
That parent who does everything for their child may teach that child that they are loved, treasured and worth spending time with, yet may also have set up struggles in the area of self-reliance.
A child who has no siblings may learn to be confident around adults, serving them as they grow into an adult themselves. They may become quite imaginative or learn skills that may not be possible if there were more children in the family, yet may find socialising difficult in his/her younger years.
A child who has siblings, may learn great social skills, yet feel like they were never as good as their big brother or sister or may miss out on certain recreational activities because of a lack of time or money.
The point is that whenever we compare one potential outcome for a child, we must also compare its polar opposite, because where there is a bad, there is always a good, and vice versa.
Everything comes at a sacrifice. If we are the type of person who is teaching our child something specific due to morals, values or because we’ve noticed a particular talent in our child (or we want to cultivate a talent in them) that will mean that they are not learning something else.
If they focus on learning soccer, they’re not likely to be great achievers in swimming.
When we look at things from this perspective, it is now not a case of right versus wrong. It’s more a case of cause and effect. We, as parents will make decisions that will impact (effect) our child’s life. That is a given. We will make those decisions with the knowledge we have and what we think is best at the time and that is all we can do.
We need people to be different in society and we need our kids to learn that no particular experience in life determines the value of life. All highs lead to lows and all lows lead to highs. It’s all just one big connected story. Every person and every personality trait all leads to lessons learnt within ourselves and which influence the lessons we give to other people through our experiences.
Our parenting styles are what they are. While we will always try to do what we believe is best for our children, it’s important for you to understand that you will never get their life right!
Your parenting style will teach them certain morals and values in life that will serve them, but your style will also give them challenges too. But that’s just part of life. Their beliefs and experiences that you helped to set up (whatever they are) will always contribute to their learning journey of highs and lows, just like it’s been for you and everyone else.
And finally, next time you see that parent micromanaging their child, or that parent who hollers out at their child at EVERY sports event (which you think embarrasses the child), or you see a parent who you believe isn’t giving their child enough attention, love, play or parenting the ‘right’ way, I challenge you to think before you judge.
Rather than only focusing on what that child is missing out on, why not also focus on what lessons that child is getting. There is always another side. We are always getting something from life, even when we feel like we’re missing out.
And although there are certain situations where because of the parent, the missing out factor for the child far outweighs the benefits (like abuse for example), and absolutely must be stopped, even those situations will prove to be valuable lessons and character building experiences for that child which will serve them later in life.
No one’s life ever goes wrong. It just gives us an experience to learn from.
When you learn to widen back and contemplate the whole picture, both as a parent yourself, or when you think about how other people parent and you look at it from both angles, perhaps we will start to see that no one is perfect, there is no ‘right’ way to parent, and every child will get experiences that will contribute to their personal development, their character, their beliefs and consequently, the highs and lows of their life story.
When we consider this perspective, just maybe we might actually start to cut ourselves a break, stop judging and start being kinder to ourselves AND to other parents.
Because at the end of the day, we are all in the same boat – randomly trying to do the best we can for our children with the information, knowledge and skills we have.
A rational and realistic approach to parenting that no one’s ever shown you.