Is it ‘right’ if a child eats and stands on his head?! As parents, getting it ‘right’ seems to be our main concern! Many of us lie awake worrying whether we have done or are doing the ‘right’ thing for our children and I still do it, even though my eldest two are in their 20’s. I understood what my eighty two year old Mum meant recently when she ticked me off for not eating and when I protested, told me, “you’ll always be my baby!”
So many of us are preoccupied about making sure our children are ‘meeting the required standards’. Ensuring they have enough sleep, nutricious food, behave appropriately, have the same clothes and gadgets that their friends have, meet the age percentile height and weight lines, achieve the grade levels and do all the things they are supposed to do at the stages that the ‘experts’ consider ‘right’.
At a seminar I led last month, I asked participants to think about the job of a parent in terms of placing an advert in the paper. What would the work hours be, how much holiday time is allowed, what sort of pay scale, what qualifications and references are required and finally what skills and qualities are needed? The list of skills people came up with were endless; nursing, teaching, communication, accountancy, chauffeuring, cooking, hairdressing, comedian, story teller, counsellor, play mate and so on.
These skills we need, some of which don’t come naturally, can make us doubt our abilities and turn to the ‘experts’ for help. There is a ton of ‘expert’ help out there which varies from year to year and fad to fad, depending on the experience of the particular ‘expert’. There was a lovely lady talking before me about sleep routines and much of what she said made good sense, however I had heard some one else talk on the same subject the week before with completely different advice!
I remember feeling so pleased when as a young mother, someone said to me “Oh you carry your baby in a sling – do you follow the ‘Continuum Concept’?” (http://www.continuum-concept.org) In those days slings were rare and carrying your baby around was ‘spoiling’ it. I did it for the simple reason that my baby stopped crying when I held her and slept through the night in my bed! I smiled knowledgeably and nodded and then rushed to the library (no Google!) to borrow a copy. It was great! The author (who incidentally never had any children!) advocated sleeping with your baby, constant carrying and several other very ‘different’ ideas, so I carried the book in my back pocket and waved it when people frowned at me.
These days there are so many ‘experts’ out there that I bet if you let your child eat standing on his head (because that’s how he likes to eat and it doesn’t bother you) if you were to Google it, some ‘expert’ would be saying that it’s the best way to improve intelligence because the oxygen and nutrients reach the brain cells more quickly! I’m being flippant of course, but you understand my drift?
*Stick to your instinct whatever the pressure from expert’s. Be open to new ideas and suggestions, particularly if something is becoming a challenge, however if ‘expert advice’ feels uncomfortable for you and your child, then forget it– including my own ideas and suggestions!
*Have the courage to do what feels ‘right’ for your child and your family and be accepting of the fact that other people may do it differently. People are much more accepting of ‘different’ if it’s not advocated as being ‘right’ because the inference is that everything else is therefore wrong!
*Listen to your own child, (even babies can tell you if something isn’t working for them!) ask their opinion about things as they grow and include them in any big decisions.
*Sit down round a table and discuss house rules. Even two and three year olds can contribute to these. My experience is that people (of all ages) are much more likely to stick to rules when they have helped to make them and agree they are reasonable.
*As parents we are excellent at telling ourselves what a bad job we do and how much we get wrong. If we want to encourage self esteem in our children we need to improve our own self esteem. Practice listening and talking to friends about the things you do well as a parent. For example : clean up patiently/ read stories/ run games and parties/ play football/ agree to have friends round/ laugh at their jokes -even those they repeat endlessly! So many things we do every day which we rarely acknowledge and appreciate ourselves for.
*Remember, a perfect parent who get’s it ‘right’ all the time is a very scary role model for a child, so own up when you make mistakes and give your children permission to make them too.
* Uncle Bill – “Will s/he still be doing it when they are 21? If the answers ‘no’ why worry about it?”