My hand hesitates with the cursor hovering over the “publish article” button. I know that what I’m about to say is probably going to offend you and I’m not prepared to apologise for it.
Criticize away, but I feel it’s my duty to tell you that you’ve been lied to all along. The common dogma that “all you need to be a good parent is to love your children” – is false. When it comes to good parenting, I’m afraid love just simply aint enough.
While we’re being entirely frank, I’ll tell you that I’ve dealt with some pretty shitty parents over the years in my practice – and in none of those cases was there ever a lack of parental love for the kids, but that wasn’t enough to keep things going on an even keel.
Don’t get me wrong: Love is absolutely essential, but parents need more than that. They need parenting skills. Basic skills. Skills anybody can learn. You don’t need to be a parenting fundi to be a good parent, but you need to at least do the following things:
– Give your children the gift of your time. “I’m so busy” has become our common modern mantra, but when it comes to parenting it’s just not a good enough excuse. Children need time. They need to spend time having fun with you, they need to spend time being guided by you, they need to be collected from school and appointments on time, they need you to arrive for parent-teacher meetings on time and to react to interventions on time. Make it happen.
– Children need to be disciplined. By their parents. No-one likes to be the bad guy, but by not being fair and consistent in disciplining your kids you are setting them up for failure. Simple as that.
– We NEED to place age-appropriate expectations on our kids. It’s just not okay to let them get away with not doing things that most children their age should be doing. You can’t leave a 12-year old not to bath or go to school simply because he doesn’t feel like it. Similarly, allowing a 12 year old to go out with her friends at night without setting a curfew or insisting that she tell you who she will be with and how she will get home is akin to negligence! I know it’s hard, I know it requires extra effort on your part. Do it!
– You have to communicate with the teacher and other important people in your child’s life. You find parent-teacher meetings boring? Tough – you still have to go. You don’t get along with the father of your children so you ignore his at all costs. Sorry – won’t work! Only by communicating with the significant others in your child’s life will you have a holistic picture of how they are coping all round. It’s generally been my experience that the children with the most significant problems are the ones where the teachers inform me: “We just can’t ever get hold of the parent to communicate with them. We’ve tried to tell them something is wrong several times, but they just don’t seem to listen”.
Parenting is hard.
Deal with it!