Earlier today, The Australian published an article titled ‘Angry parents at fault for troubled kids’. Jane Caro writes about such ‘research’ scaring parents into believing they don’t really know what they’re doing.
“They f**k you up your mum and dad, they don’t mean to but they do.” – Phillip Larkin
We all start out trying to be the very best parents we can. Just like I’ve never seen a teacher who actively wanted to stop students learning, so I have never seen a parent who set out to emotionally, psychologically or physically harm their child. That doesn’t mean there are not teachers who get in the way of their students learning or that parents never do any harm. The road to hell, as they say, is paved with good intentions.
Frankly, until there are perfect parents there will never be perfect parenting. Actually, let me revise that. I can’t imagine anything worse or more damaging than having a perfect parent. Imperfections are what make us human.
Do parenting studies make you feel like a bad mother? We’ve been there, too. Post continues after video…
I wish someone would tell researchers that (I wonder what their parents did to them when they were children?). Yet another worthy report has just been released (from the University of South Australia this time) earnestly opining that ‘half of Australia’s babies and toddlers show risk factors for mental illness as adults’. That’s enough to strike terror into even the most sensible parent’s heart and have them minutely inspecting their tantrum-throwing toddler for something that might be a ‘risk factor’.
That’s another thing about these reports, for parents handling the day to day reality of kids, their findings are infuriatingly vague. What does a ‘risk factor’ look like when its at home? A red-faced, furious child refusing to eat their breakfast, perhaps? Or is it more the furious, red-faced mother who – having prepared said healthy breakfast as per all the nags who bang on about ‘the most important meal of the day’ and ‘childhood obesity’ – now dumps it in the bin muttering swear words? Is this an example of the ‘parental anger, bullying and low parent warmth’ that will condemn your toddler to a life of mental anguish? Or does that only kick in when mum gives said screaming infant a bowl of flung together Weetbix and tells them through gritted teeth that they won’t be getting out of the high chair till they’ve eaten it? Or is that discipline and so to be applauded? And if you give up and let them go to daycare on an empty tummy? Well, that’s borderline neglect and reveals that the child is ruling the parent instead of the parent ruling the child…
Because that’s another problem with scholarly reports (and a whole lot less scholarly advice from… oh, I don’t know… just about anyone you have ever met) into bringing up kids. Everything they tell you is hideously contradictory. According to this Uni SA report, the above-mentioned angry parenting can put your kids at risk, but so can being over-protective and never letting your little darling hear a cross word. Thanks for that, researchers.
I tell you what I think - for what its worth – having parented two only marginally maladjusted young women (well, no nuttier than average, anyway) – and that’s don’t listen to anyone else’s advice. I lost my temper many times with my children over food, sleep, bed-times, school work, rudeness, mess, fights, TV, sitting down at the table to eat dinner (nightly) – you name it, I am sure we fought about it.
Sometimes – often – I was tired, cranky, bored and over-it and reacted accordingly. I did the best I could which – often – wasn’t good enough. I am sure I have Phillip Larkined my kids, just as my parents Phillip Larkined me.
Indeed, many years ago as a bumptious twenty something (long before I had my own kids) I sat down to tell my mother what I thought of her failings as a parent. I had put together a long list as a result of going into therapy.
I sat with her over a cup of tea and listed them all. She did not react as I expected, remaining calm and unruffled in the face of a barrage of criticism. It wasn’t until I reached the end of my accusations that she said anything at all.
“Is that all of them?”
“You should thank me for those.” She said, pouring us another cuppa, “They are your opportunities for growth.”
When my own kids come to tell me of my failings (and they will) I intend to give them exactly the same answer. When you read the next earnest report that makes you question your parenting I suggest you remind yourself that far from harming your kids, your mistakes are simply giving them more of those opportunities for growth.
Don’t thank me, thank my mum.