Other People’s Kids

In your BK days (Before Kids) you may have watched your friends and relatives parenting their children, perhaps forming judgements and inwardly determining to “do it just like she did” or to “never tolerate such behaviour from my child”. We did. You can hear yourself say “I mean really, how diffi cult can it be to control a 3-year-old in a clothing store? That kind of behaviour from my child will never be tolerated by me!” You may even have come up with mental lists of numerous do’s and don’ts that you planned to follow once your own precious bundles arrived.

We were comparing our BK days and remembered things like. “I would NEVER
let my children walk barefoot in the mall.” Famous last words! And another
absolute was to never let my children eat something that had fallen on the fl oor. How unhealthy, we thought. They grew up despite the fact that they had eaten worse than things that have fallen on the floor.

Reality kicks in
We all set out to be perfect parents, to always do the very best for our children, to have these well behaved, obedient children that we can take anywhere and always be proud of. That photograph that comes with the frame in the décor department is what we had in mind. Those photographs that our friends have on social media of their perfect, lovely, well-behaved family. Yeah right! Then reality kicked in. Your probably said more than once that it was all about being fi rm and strict, letting them know who’s the boss. Then one day you discovered that your twoyear- old is a strong willed, defi ant child that makes you pull your hair out and repent about all those times, in your BK days, that you criticised other parents. You start reading books on how to handle strong willed children, and form this whole new strategy, and then just when you think you’re winning, their beautiful little personalities change and a whole new set of challenges pop out of the woodwork.

Rewrite the book for each child
If you have more than one child, you have probably discovered that you had
to rewrite the entire book for the second child because what you did, all the ‘stuff’ you learned with the fi rst, was just not working on the second.
If any of this sounds like you and your children, welcome to the family! Perfect
parenting is a myth. There are no easy answers or fi xes just as there are no perfect parents. Yet you may often feel the pressure to be like those other parents who seem to “have it all altogether.” For example, in the grocery store, you see parents whose children hold hands, walk right beside their parents, stay next to them in the checkout line, and don’t nag for all the enticing ‘child-eye-level’ sweets and goodies. Where did these kids come from? How do these parents do it? It’s ok if you go home pacifying yourself with thoughts that they have probably tranquilised the children before leaving home, or threatened them with the orphanage down the road, should they have put one foot out of line. They probably did! Or perhaps their children where just having a rare ‘quiet’ day; that kind of ‘perfect’ behaviour is not normal all the time. There simply is NO one size fits all! Every child is different and needs to be treated and handled differently. If you have not
experienced this for yourself yet, and are starting to feel terrifi ed of ever having a child or a second one, don’t despair, its really not as bad as it sounds.


Some comforting tips
Here are a few tips to help you realise that you and your family are probably
way more normal than you thought.

Tip 1 – Don’t compare!
Don’t compare yourself to a little snippet of someone else’s life. That family in
the grocery store, that family on social media, or that family in church are probably just as crazy as yours. You are basing your conclusions on a small piece of the picture, not a whole day, week or year of their lives!

Tip 2 – Accept being ‘good enough’
You are probably saying “That is not good enough!” We hear you, we really
do, standards are important for any job, including parenting and most of us
set high standards, but parenting is not a science, not something you can write exams on and get 100%. You have a family made up of parents and children, with a variety of character traits and personalities that bump up against each other daily. Find your ‘good enough’ and be happy. Stressing about it makes it so much worse.

Tip 3 – Filter advice
Friends and family can be quick to judge and let you know how you “should”
parent your children. Respectfully set boundaries to let them know you
appreciate their concern and will consider their suggestions.

Tip 4 – Don’t beat yourself up
As we’ve said already, there is no such thing as a perfect parent, we’re all going to get it wrong several times. Recognise mistakes, make amends, then forgive yourself. But be careful to not throw the proverbial baby out with the bath water. If you feel that you have perhaps been excessively strict, dial it
back a bit, but don’t totally drop discipline and boundary setting. The worst
thing you can do for your children in the long run is to not teach them responsibility and boundaries.

Tip 5 – Give yourself that occasional pat on the back
Congratulate yourself in those moments of wonder, connection, laughter and
learning. Also, on not giving them up for adoption!

Top Tip! – LOVE THEM!
This should be the first tip, but we like toend on the best note! Love is by far the most important ingredient in good parenting. Through it all, the pain of
growing and learning together, love is the single most important ingredient. Although perfect parenting is a myth, continue to do your best; give
them space to grow and develop in an environment of love, nurturing, discipline and boundary setting and stop beating yourself over the head
trying to fi nd the one right, perfect way.

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