Competent, Confident Parenting
With all the constant criticism we, as parents, hear constantly, it is very easy to allow the bombardment of information to affect us as parents. For instance, there is the helicopter vs. submarine debate, the attachment parenting advocates, spanking or not, etc. All we learn is that no matter what we do, someone is going to criticize us; this is nothing new. One of the best skills a parent can learn is to develop a ‘turtle shell’. For the purpose of this article, we will be discussing the necessary skills a parent must have not only to be competent, but also to be confident in their competency.
The Art of Taking Advice
It never ceases to amaze me how often people assume that everyone around them needs advice. Even more amazing is the number of childless people who want to hand out criticism. Because of this, and other types of advice I receive (like marital), I have developed, for myself, a set of rules regarding who I will take advice from. The rules are as follows:
- Take into account who is giving you this advice. Is it some stranger on the street? Then why would you care what they think? This person could be a drug addict, childless, unmarried, or a child molester. By the fact that they feel the overwhelming urge to force their views on you, we know that they are rude and obnoxious, and not to be emulated. You would not read an article about car mechanics from a child psychologist, so why would you take advice from a person who does not know what they are talking about.
- If you know the person giving advice, take a close look at their life. For instance, if they are a new parent, or never had children, chances are they do not have any child-rearing knowledge. Taking advice from someone like this would be like taking medical advice from a first year medical student. On the flip side, are they experienced parents (their children are either adults or nearly adults)? How did their children turn out? If they have several children, and every one of them struggles with an addiction of some sort, chances are they are not a good person for whom to receive advice. The exception to this rule when they say ‘don’t do this; it is where I messed up’.
- Trust your instincts. If what you are hearing sounds wrong, or does not make sense, remember that you are the only person who truly has the best interests of your child at heart.
Choose Your Battles
We have all heard that you need to choose your battles, but there is little information on how to choose those battles. To start with - know your top five priorities; this will aide in all decisions, not just parental decisions. In particular, you have a vision for what kind of people you want your children to become – this will help you decide which battles are worth the fight. Everyone’s priorities are different, and yours most likely will be different from mine -that is okay as long as you know your own priorities. Mine are as follows:
1. I want my children to have a passionate love of the Lord.
2. I want my children to be kind, thoughtful, and have a respect for authority.
3. I want my children to be well educated.
4. I want my children to become independent self-reliant adults.
5. I want my children to have a strong sense of family.
Whenever my children and I have a difference of opinion, such as when my daughter wanted to dye her hair black, I consult my priorities list. Black hair will not affect her relationship with the Lord, she is getting straight A’s in school, she is kind, thoughtful, and respectful, black hair will not affect her ability to become an independent adult, and it will not affect her sense of family. Therefore, this is not a battle worth fighting. On the flip side, when she does not want to attend her cousin’s birthday party because she wants to stay home and watch her favorite television show – I will fight that battle. Family is more important than TV. Everyone should sit down and make up their own list of priorities for their lives.
Importance of Self-reliance and Independence
While I touched on this before, it bears its own section. I think it is safe to say that every parent has the ultimate goal of teaching their children to become strong adults. As sad as it is to consider, our children will not always have the benefit of their parents; we will, God willing, die before our children do. ‘No parent should have to bury their child.’This is where the dangers of helicopter parenting come in – it is very important that we teach our children how to take care of themselves, in an age appropriate way. It is equally important not to force our children to take on burdens they are not mature enough to bear. As with most parenting, this is a thin line we walk. There are some rules of thumb to follow in walking that thin line.
- Ask advice of people whom you trust - doctors, good teachers, pastors, etc.
- Teach your child a new responsibility and then step back and watch how they handle it. This is another place where it is important to trust your instincts. If your child seems to be literally incapable of fulfilling the responsibility laid on them, then either help them or take over. It is important to give them time, though, because they are never going to pick up a new skill overnight.
- Ask their teacher, caregiver, grandparent, or anyone else whom they spend time with and find out what kinds of things they do by themselves when Mama is not there to do it for them.
- This is one of the few places where it is okay to do a little comparison – look and see what the other children are doing. If all the other children can pick up their own room without help, or play independently, it might be time to take a step back and just watch. If that does not help, you might want to start looking into the possibility that is something’s wrong like Autism or Asperger’s Syndrome.
The Turtle Shell
Finally, parents really need to develop turtle shells. There is an old saying that you cannot please everyone and there is a reason it is an old saying. On the bright side, the above steps will help you decide whom to please, which is the most important step in developing that turtle shell. If the person you are trying to please is not someone you want to emulate and/or does not have the same priorities as you for your child then you need to let their opinions and advice roll off your back like water rolls off a turtle. Other things you can do to develop a turtle shell is maintain some perspective – sometimes whatever is going on has nothing to do with you and you just were lucky enough to be in the wrong place at the right time.