As parents, we all do it: make up stories about why things are going the way they are.
We may attribute our daughter’s ongoing disobedience to her ‘strong will’ or our partner’s reluctance to follow through with consequences when a child breaks the rules to the fact that ‘he’s the fun parent’ or the ‘good cop’. Tell yourself the story enough and it comes something else altogether. It becomes a belief.
After more years than I care to admit as a psychologist working with parents (who are almost always doing their best to raise happy well-adjusted kids), I have seen three commonly held beliefs that actually make parenting more difficult. Maybe you might recognise one or two of them…
“It’s just a phase.”
It’s true that there are enormous differences between children of different ages and personalities. But it’s also important parents recognise many behaviour problems are not inevitable and are not a necessary part of typical child development.
So, explaining away your two-year-old child’s tantrum as just a normal part of the “terrible twos” is missing the point. Yes, many two-year-olds throw tantrums, but not all do. And children who do throw tantrums don’t always grow out of it.
I can recall one mother who insisted that her three-year-old’s constant aggressive behaviour towards other children at a local playgroup was just a phase and consequently nothing to worry about.
That assurance did little to appease other parents whose children were the victims of his aggression, as well as the playgroup director who asked her to remove her son from the group.
It was another two years before the mother realised her son’s misbehaviour was not going to suddenly go away and she had to seek professional help.
Dealing with the misbehaviour earlier would have made life much easier for both parent and child.
"It’s all my fault."
Some parents deal with misbehaviour by blaming themselves. I’ve met many guilt-ridden and worried parents over the years.
These parents blame themselves for almost everything the child does, and in some cases may even become severely depressed.
The truth is, some children are simply harder to raise than others. Those who have feeding problems, cry excessively as babies and have sleeping difficulties are hard for almost all parents to cope with.