What does it mean to be a confident parent

 
I have a confession to make.
I don’t think parents need much guidance and advice on the matter of their parenting skills. What they really need is reassurance and support in becoming more confident in their parenting.

Children need confident parents, because this sets an example for them and helps them go through life, making their own judgements and grow into emotionally mature adults.

Here is what’s worth remembering when practicing confident parenting:
1. The majority is not always right. 
Parents face immense social pressure to do things the way it’s perceived best by ‘general opinion’, fashion, major media. The fear of being rejected by the group and facing our child being not accepted pushes us into the arms of group thinking, which is unfortunately far from rational reasoning and even further away from caring, what’s best for our children. 

Don’t worry about others so much – think what is best for you and your family and act accordingly. If it happens to be against the mainstream, then well, so be it. People who you care about will respect you for being honest and authentic. Being outside the norm can be uncomfortable but often in years ahead, these people have shown us the way. For example I have a friend who brought his child up as a vegetarian many years ago, when it was very unusual. Today, many people realise the benefits of a much healthier non-meat diet, and you can get vegetarian food everywhere. Todays outsiders are often tomorrows leaders! 

2. Experts are not always right

It’s important to listen to experts – especially when they talk interestingly. But we have to apply their advice with caution, you need to think critically about what they say. Does it apply to your context? Does it fit with your system of values? Does it make you feel incompetent and uncertain (because the experts seem to have answer for every question which even didn’t come to your mind?). If so, stop listening and summarise what you know from your experience. Remember that you know your child and you are capable of making decisions and the most important judgement: what’s the best for your child. Also experts argue – there is often one expert proving this by research and another proving the opposite by different research. So we have to find a way through the mass data presented to us. At the centre of this should be our own common sense and thoughtful reflections.   

3. Reach out for Support

Social and family support are very important aspects of being a parent. Don’t fell guilty or inadequate when not knowing what to do. You have right to feel vulnerable and to seek help. In every crisis there is a potential for finding better, more creative ways of doing things (it is often through crisis that our children achieve next stages of development). Just think, who can help you to figure it out. Having a trusted person outside the immediate family who will give you helpful feedback – that can challenge your thinking without blaming you is really important. Can you be a like this for your friends too? 

4. Let your children be themselves

Children can be great teachers of authenticity if only we let them express themselves the way they feel like, rather than expect that they’ll perform the image of the perfect child we or others carry in their heads. This particularly applies to gender – we often try to get boys to perform like boys should and girls to perform like girls should – what about letting them just play as they want to play?

5. Don’t be too hard on yourself
Vast majority of parents are doing fantastic work, taking care of their children. When things get tough don’t be too hard on yourself, don’t judge yourself too much. Parenting is demanding and joyful at the same time. No parent is perfect, we all do the best to our ability. The best we can do is keep giving love, providing emotional containment (link to post about containment) and staying in touch with reality, prioritising what is best for your children, and observe your confidence growing!

First published on herfamily.ie

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Parents on the wire

Balancing Parents is a circus metaphor. It takes incredible courage and stamina to walk on the wire with a pole, or dance at heights, having total confidence on another acrobats’ grip. The art of balance is mastered through the hard work, resilience and confidence. At the beginning, when the acrobat is learning their skills, he is fuelled by the imagination and the beauty of the idea.
To be a parent is about balanced judgments, decisions and actions, being worked out everyday. It is about balancing between contradictory thoughts, needs and emotions. It requires keeping a mental and physical balance, in the face of constant challenges.
Parenting is exciting, beautiful and as heroic as acrobatics. It is also equally exhausting, insane and difficult.

The way we act as parents and thus, relate to our children, is strongly influenced by a culture and society we live in. Western culture has created an image of ‘the good parent of our times’, which is present in media, literature and common knowledge. It speaks through our relatives and friends, midwives and doctors, radio speakers and TV screens. It appears in our smart phones applications and pops up in the newsagent. We are told how to be parents and sometimes we enact it, not even being able to question claims which we don’t agree with.

The first aim of this blog is to offer a space in which parents can reflect and confront the way they relate to this omnipresent voice of parenting wisdom.

Gnothi seauton – know yourself

Many times I have heard diverse parents expressing the same thing about their parenting: ‘I don’t want to parent my children the way my parents did.’
Whereas the intention underlying this statement might be noble, after a while we might find ourselves doing to our children what our parents have done to us. And it would be not a conscious surrender but just the way things turned out…
This is actually just one example of the unconscious leading our actions.

The unconscious takes a significant part in the spectacle of our behaviour and emotions.
We often end up doing things inspired by deeper dynamics of our desires, reasons and feelings, which surface in an unexpected way and usually are difficult to see, understand and influence.
This gets very serious when we become parents and create the emotional atmosphere in which our children live their lives. This why I perceive the ancient commandment – to know yourself (gnothi seauton) – essential to the task of growing in the parenting role. Through understanding our hidden motives and emotions we can liberate ourselves from the slavery of patterns and schematic ways of relating to others. This is the first step to break the generational logic and invent the more adaptive ways of being with our children.

Having said that, I can see the danger of too much ongoing reflection. The child itself and action can be inhibited or lost in the well of self-development of parents.

The second task for the blog is to encourage honest reflection on the emotional and unconscious aspect of the parents-children relations. We keep in mind though that in the centre of all those mental endeavours is a child, and that the main focus is to create an environment of real engagement, allowing the child to fully experience their world, and develop accordingly.
There should be one differentiation made between the acrobat and balancing parent. The acrobat dancing on the wire reached perfection. There is no room for mistakes and the person embodies the ideal of balanced perfection. The parent is not obliged to reach the perfection, nor there is anyone under the sun embodying it. Parents exist to love and to inspire, to provide a safety net and to allow risk taking. Parents are always in the process of balancing.