By Emma Wynne
Love, time and good boundaries are what children need and the age, income or type of relationship their parents have is less important, a Perth researcher says.
Dr Bronwyn Harman researches children and parenting at Edith Cowan University and completed her doctorate on what makes a good parent.
She said many parents were overly anxious about “getting it right” and many felt judged and insecure about the way they were bringing up their kids.
They were also besieged with advice online and through social media and as a result were constantly comparing themselves, and their children, with others.
“Parenting is a professional sport now,” Dr Harman said.
“There is what I call the good-mother, good-father syndrome.
“What it means is that you have that horrible woman in the textbook who does everything right, perfectly, all the time.
“Women try to live up to that expectation and they can’t.
“What I would really like parents to realise is that nobody is going to win here so please stop trying to make it a competition.”
Just calm down
Dr Harman referred to her approach as “calm down parenting”; she advocates parents accept that they are not perfect but are doing the best they can.
“Every parent makes mistakes because they are human and your kids are going to be OK.
“Just chill and enjoy your kids.
“Before you know it they will be all grown up and living their own lives.
“Is it really that important that Johnny eats peas and won’t eat beans? Does it matter that Jenny only wants to wear pink? They’ll be fine.”
What really matters?
In the course of her research, Dr Harman found there were three things that kids really need — love, time and good boundaries.
Routine and boundaries for kids, while they may rebel against them, actually make children feel safe.
“It’s important that they are aware of what happens if they behave in a certain way and that there are consequences to that behaviour,” she said.
“That’s what gives us good and resilient adults.”
Having their parents’ love and time is far more important to children than material things.
“Tablets and phones and holidays and swimming pools do make life more pleasant sometimes,” Dr Harman said.
“But if you ask kids if they wanted those things or their parents’ time, I think nine times out of 10 they would choose time.”
Age, wealth and relationship status ‘don’t matter’
Dr Harman has studied teenage mothers, older first-time mothers, single parents and parents in same-sex relationships and she found that while they were not inferior parents, they did feel intensely judged by society.