In 2040 will your kids be thanking you, or be in therapy?
I believe being a parent is the most important job in the world. Parents of all types, politicians, kids, and people without kids all over the world agree with this.
The interesting part of the nature/nurture argument is that at least we have a chance to do something about the nurture bit. Is the job of the parent to raise a child from zero into an independent adult? If we want our children to be fulfilled and able to cope with what life throws at them, what is our role that just might keep them off the therapist’s couch in the future?
If so many of us agree that parenting is the most important job we do, how come we do it with little constructive thought as individuals or couples about how we want to parent our children?
By ‘how’ I mean what are our values that we want our parenting to stand for and be our backdrop to a million parenting decisions? What do we want our children to experience from us as they grow up under our wings?
So much is written about the struggles of parenting, particularly in the modern age. I think parenting has probably always been tough, but something fundamental that makes it hard for any parent is when we lose our way, and fall under the daily mountain of modern family life. The never ending parents job spec to put bread on the table, transport people and things from A to B, be a judge, a teacher, a doctor, a counsellor, a human Google, an artist, a clown and an athlete - and of course a banker.
It’s no surprise that parents end up stressed and exhausted, with a glass of wine, and online late into the night because they’re too tired to go to bed.
But there is a secret I’ve discovered through years of working alongside parents. By observing the ones who seem to know what they’re doing, and enjoy it most of the time, they have a calm about them, an enviable peace. How do they do that?
They behave like this because they are clear about their parenting values. They know what’s important to them, and what’s not, when it comes to raising their kids.
It got me thinking that the real work for parents, whatever age their kids are, or even if they haven’t come along, is to invest in thinking about what kind of a parent you really want to be.
You could think about this in the present, but the better result will come by focussing on your parenting destination.
As Stephen Covey says in his 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – habit number two is: Begin with the end in mind.
When we get towards the end of our lives, and our children are remembering the childhood we gave them, what do we hope they might say?
That we were kind and understanding? Home was a sanctuary, a place of acceptance, not judgement? Mum and Dad listened to me? We had fun. That we trusted them? That we received a wider education than just our schooling, and curiosity was encouraged?
What do you hope your children might say about their childhood?
How do these ideals translate into the mayhem of raising kids? Sometimes it’s just too difficult to be kind and understanding when you’ve had weeks of broken sleep. Sometimes it’s easier to leave education up to those who know how to get a child to listen and learn. Sometimes we just can’t be bothered to be the parent we really want to be.
I do get that after 22 years of raising 3 kids, and listening to thousands of parents. But I want to move on from that ‘Eeyore’ outlook and in What Kind of Parent Do You Want To Be? I offer parents a treasured space away from the daily mayhem to decide their parenting values; their real legacy to their children, so they have a map to guide them now, and crucially in the years ahead.
You won’t be alone. I’m a big fan of the African concept that ‘ It takes a village to raise a child’
Another secret I’ve learned from some great parents is they have built a strong village around them. Who would be in your village?
Parenting – I think it’s a life’s work in progress; so spending just one day to map out your path as a parent has got to be a good investment.
Judy Reith has been working in Parenting Education since 1998 and is Director of Parenting People, an organisation offering parenting workshops and coaching services.