We live in a world awash with parenting advice from TV celebrities, gurus, authors to books, blogs, & parenting websites offering vast amounts of advice on how to raise kids, and the messages are sometimes contradictory and confusing. The “shoulds” and “ought to’s stream to you in so many digital forms. All parents want to be the best they can be and want to get everything right but sifting through all the expertise can leave you I bet, feeling wobbly, insecure & anxious.
The secret is to focus on what you get right, stay relaxed and positive and don’t watch or read too much TV News as it can make you anxious and over protective.
I used to love riding my bike up and down my road waiting for my Dad to come home, making mud pies using flowers as potatoes, and hanging upside down from a great tree on Streatham Common but apparently parents have become so overprotective that just one in ten children get to play regularly in parks, fields and woods, a recent poll shows.
Experts warn that anxious parents are raising a generation of ‘cotton-wool kids’ who are denied the independence, experience and education that comes from exploring the outdoor world.
A survey commissioned by Natural England found a generation of youngsters is being deprived of the innocent, natural and healthy pleasures of tree-climbing, pond-dipping or making mud pies.
Concerns over safety are understandable but if children can’t get out and explore the natural world, but we run the risk of raising a generation of cotton-wool kids, whose experiences are defined by websites and computer games.
As a coach I always start by asking good questions to help you find your own answers!
Here are some great questions to ask yourself:
- What amount of time do your kids usually play outside?
- Do you feel it’s enough?
- How could you make a small change that would make a big difference, over time, if you found new ways to get your children out in the fresh air playing?
- How do you feel about safety, freedom and allowing your children to play unsupervised?
- How do you get a balance between keeping them safe and allowing them freedom to explore?
- Are your expectations flexible and able to adapt to your growing child’s maturity, allowing them to make considered judgments for themselves which leads to their independence?
- What are your concerns?
- Are they rational?
- What would you like to happen in a perfect world if I could wave a magic wand?
- Take some time to relax and breathe deeply and slowly and imagine a perfect world for your kids….. what are they doing, what are they hearing….. how do they feel?
- What needs to change for you to create this daydream for your kids?
- How can you relax more around this whole area of freedom to explore?
- What will be the benefits to your children when you get this balance right?
Despite all the written and unwritten “rules” on what it means to be a good mum or dad, there are some things to remember that can help you maintain your centre of balance and positive confidence during those times of doubt.
- You are the expert – for your child. No one knows your child quite the way you do. In your role as a parent you’ve spent a lot of hours watching, listening, experimenting and readjusting. You’ve got all you need to support what your instinct is telling you. Consider the information and advice you are getting from other trusted sources, but in the end, make parenting decisions based on your own experience and intuition.
- Your kids want you to be confident. As adults, we don’t want to work for bosses who don’t seem to know what they’re doing. The same goes for your kids. Confident parents make their kids feel secure. Sometimes you just have to fake it ‘til you make it, but that’s OK. So adopt a confident tone of voice and confident body language and have a positive mindset.
- Not all guilt is equal. Guilt can undermine confidence, but there’s a difference between useful guilt and unhelpful guilt. Useful guilt is our conscience telling us that something important is genuinely out of whack – like when screen time has taken over face-to-face time in the family. False guilt is all the exterior stuff that doesn’t really matter in the long run – perhaps you didn’t hear your little one calling, or you rushed your child through breakfast because you were running late for work. However, in that hour of rushing around you probably stopped more than enough times to give your little one a cuddle or answer that very important question…Altogether now… ‘Why?’.
So let go of the unhelpful guilt and sing that song from ‘Frozen!’ – ‘Let It Go’ at the top of your voice! It will make you laugh and relax you and put things into perspective.
- You’re wiser today than you were yesterday. We all make mistakes along the way, but that’s what makes parenting an adventure. The things you are worrying about today are generally not the things that were a really big deal a year ago. Children grow up, you become more experienced and confident and you work things out for yourself and for your family. That’s why grandparents tend to have a more relaxed attitude about raising kids – they have the perspective of time and experience.
- Focus on what you’re doing right. As parents it’s easy to dwell on your mistakes and failings. So you lost your temper when the kids messed about & didn’t brush their teeth, but in the same day you also were really encouraging when they brought home a beautiful home – made card for your birthday, helped you bake cakes by cracking the eggs and stirring enthusiastically, and you listened attentively to them over dinner. Let perfection go and pat yourself on the back for what you DO get right.
- Children will find their way – and so will you. Some kids seem to take the open road through ages and stages, with apparent ease and smooth-sailing, while others take the – shall we say – scenic route. Regardless of the path, you can breathe easy knowing that the vast majority of kids turn out well in the end and become full-functioning members of society. And you’ll be left wondering why you ever doubted yourself!