Parenting is one of the most important roles we’ll ever have and yet, it comes with the least amount of training. As soon as our children are born, we realize that there are countless ways to parent. Sometimes, we may feel like we have responded well to our children. Other times, we may wish that we could have responded differently. In our conversation with Judy Elkin, a certified professional coach who guides individuals through the amazing and challenging journey of parenting, we discuss parenting without guilt, as well as tips for raising curious and empowered problem-solvers.
What does it mean to be a “good enough” parent?
Being a “good enough” parent means parenting without guilt, understanding that there’s no such thing as perfection, and letting go of our instinct to judge ourselves. There are so many moments of parenting during our kids’ lives and we can’t get every single one of them right. Also, we often won’t know the impact of our parenting until 20 years have passed. Parenting is an art and no two kids and no two parents are the same, so different parenting advice will work differently for each person. The most important thing is that we care and that we try to do our best.
How can we come to terms with the fact that nothing we do will ever keep our kids completely safe?
When our kids are babies and we are able to meet all of their needs, we may feel like we have the ultimate control over their safety. But that’s a myth, and as they get older, it becomes more obvious that we can’t keep our children completely safe. Parenting isn’t for the weak. We need to have faith and we need to trust that they’ll be okay. We don’t want to stifle them and we don’t want them to feel crippled by fear. Speak to a therapist about these feelings. Comfort yourself with statistics. For example, I met one parent who doesn’t worry about letting her kid drive her car because she reminds herself that most people who drive don’t get killed. And practice a little bit of denial. It will go a long way in helping you sleep at night.
How can we support our children without problem-solving?
Fostering a sense of curiosity is the most important feature that we can offer our kids as they develop. Ask questions instead of giving your kids the answers. Support them in solving problems themselves. Also, practice pausing. Instead of jumping in with a quick answer to your kids’ questions, take the time to have a conversation with your child. Hear their perspective and then share yours. As parents, we want our kids to be healthy, safe and successful, so sometimes, we’ll share our suggestion or solution too quickly. Truthfully, we may not always know the best way to solve every problem. Though we raise our kids, they are their own people and may not respond as we might. They’ll make mistakes, as we all did, and hopefully, they’ll learn from those mistakes, as we have tried to.
What’s the difference between helping a child and enabling a child?
When you help your child, you see them at their best and when you enable your child, you see them at their worst. If you enable your child, you don’t think she can do something and you only see her weaknesses. But when you help your child, you see her strengths and you empower her. You might say to her, “I think you can figure this out. How would you do it?” Or, you might encourage her to get started and do as much as she can and then to call you when she’s ready for your help. As parents, we need to shift our perspective in order to help instead of enable. We need to accept that our kids may take a long time to figure something out, that their attempts may not turn out great, or that they might fail. If we can do this, then ultimately, they’ll learn how to do things themselves.
When things don’t go as we hope for our kids, how can we respond without feeling guilty?
Embrace humility. Just as we can’t take credit for all of the good things that happen to our children, we also can’t accept blame for all their challenges. We all have wishes for our children, but we also need to understand that they’re just wishes. Our children are different than us and we need to appreciate them for who they are. At the same time, if you feel like you are at fault for something, go ahead and apologize. For example, say to your kid, “I don’t like how I responded. Can we have a redo?” This will give you more credibility and show your child how much you value your relationship. But try not to feel guilty. Though guilt is a hard feeling to fight, feeling guilty doesn’t do us any good and it won’t help us parent any better. Love your children for who they are and love yourself for doing the best job that you possibly can.
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