Strengthening our parental self-worth to strengthen our kids
A question has been burning in my mind for quite some time, “Why does parental confidence seem to be taking a nose dive?” Several months ago I asked fellow colleagues what they felt was the greatest challenge of parents these days and the resounding response was that parents today seem to lack confidence which affects the way they connect with their kids.
Why has this happened? And how can parents get their confidence back?
The answer started becoming clear as I had a lovely phone conversation with an “Auntie” from my home community. She was lamenting how her grand-daughter’s three-year-old son still wasn’t potty trained and that he just needed, “a good swat.” Thankfully she couldn’t see the sour face I made on the other end of the line. I opened my mouth but quickly shut it. I wasn’t going there.
I’ve observed three main reasons many of us are zigzagging through parenting these days:
1. Disciplining differently than how we were raised.
Most of us don’t want to use the same discipline style as our own parents did (our love for them not-withstanding), but because we weren’t raised in the style we imagine for our families, we’re not really sure how to do democratic parenting. We want to communicate with our kids in a way that was generally not modeled in previous generations.
I’ve seen mothers frown when explaining how hard it is to go through challenges, like having a child who isn’t sleeping well, with the comments of their own mother ringing in their ears. Maybe because we want to parent differently, there is judgment between the generations about who’s doing it “right.” The answer is: neither. There’s no “right” way to parent. We can stop fighting about that. The conditions, personalities, societal norms and information now are just so much different than before.
2. Not knowing how to “use our words.”
The punitive style of scaring kids into compliance through yelling, spanking, and being bossed around has left many of us with under-developed rational abilities and affect-management. We are really good at getting flooded with intense emotions, but as a whole, are not so good at managing, processing, or communicating those feelings.
3. Having full schedules.
There have been so many articles about if women can “have it all” implying having a career and a home-life, but what we see is women who are exhausted. Forget trying to have it all. How about trying to have rest? A strong sense of worth reminds a person they don’t have to prove anything to anyone else.
Thankfully, being a parent is driven by instinct. The trick is whether you’re able to hear that instinct through the noise of a busy life, and busy negative self-talk.
As a psychotherapist, I can’t really offer a brief or sure-fire approach to improving self-worth, rational thought, communication skills or rest. I can offer that it’s good to slow down and consider how your life is going. Allowing some time for self-reflection is a great start to increasing all of the above. We can’t teach our children how to be wise, rational, thoughtful, communicative, resilient adults if we aren’t modeling these traits ourselves.
I found the following activities were the most helpful as I sought to significantly improve my life:
- Seek the continual help of a trusted counselor.
- Write in a journal.
- Read like crazy. I always have a book on the go; fiction or non-fiction. There are many wonderful self-help books. I regularly post book reviews on my GoodReads.com page if you are looking for suggestions.
- Take quiet time for myself. I love yoga and meditation.
What changes can you make or have you made to strengthen your parental self-worth to strengthen your kids?