Mamamia’s Managing Editor Lana writes: Last week it was reported that a 22-month old toddler had died of dehydration after allegedly being left unsupervised in a car. Her mother faced court and has been granted bail.
Blacktown Local Area Commander Superintendent Mark Wright described the incident as a tragedy. “I don’t know how many times we’ve issued warnings to people about the danger of leaving children unattended in a motor vehicle.” He said the temperature on the day was 27.5 degrees Celsius and the temperature inside the car could have been 40 degrees Celsius. “At the end of the day, a toddler, a 22-month-old child is solely dependant on their carer. The onus is on us as parents and carers to look after those children.”
I stuck on that last line just because it rings so true for me as a parent and as someone who worked in childcare. There is more to bringing up children than just loving them. Child psychologist Katharine Cook puts it best when she writes:
Love, in fact, is not “all you need” when it comes to being a good parent. Having a heart full of love and tenderness is wonderful, but not nearly enough to make you a good parent.
On a current affairs programme recently,Brendan Fevola was quizzed about his extra marital affairs, betrayal of his wife, gambling and drug and alcohol abuse. After describing how his wife finally left him, taking their two children, he was asked “Are you are good Dad?” His response was “Yes, I love them”. This answer highlights how this man…and many people…miss the point completely. Love is not enough to make you a good parent.
After many years in the child protection system, working with parents who have harmed their children, I can tell you that there are very few people who don’t love their children. I worked with a father who shook his baby so hard that she was left brain damaged. He would often plead with me that he loved his little girl, but just “snapped” when she didn’t stop crying. Despite his capacity to love, the affect of his behaviour on his child was devastating. Love was not enough to make him a “good parent”.
When parents decide to part ways and children are involved, it is often the case that both parents love their children dearly. Despite this love for their child, many parents find it extremely difficult to behave in a way that keeps their children feeling safe and secure. In many situations children are used as pawns in the battle between parents, are asked to report on the other parent’s behaviour or encouraged to choose between parents (sometimes overtly, sometimes subtly). During separation and divorce, some of the most loving parents can act in a way which is harmful to their child, often as a result of being consumed with feelings of anger, jealousy, guilt, and hurt. When a parent is overcome by his or her own needs, it becomes very difficult to put the needs of their children first. During time of stress, it is even more important to reflect on how behaviour and actions affect children. How does the child make sense of the situation? It is important to remember that although you may love your child dearly, it is more important that you act and behave in a way that keeps you child feeling safe and secure, despite the huge change in their life.