I love to read parenting books and blogs and spend a lot of time thinking about how I can get better at this parenting lark. Over the last eighteen years or so I have heard and read loads of great insights from others that have helped make this parenting journey loads of fun and supported me in traversing some pretty tricky waters.
But so too have I heard some shockingly bad bits of advice, masquerading as common-sense, about how to care for our children. While pondering the good and bad advice that has helped or hindered me over the years, I came up with a long list of ideas that have been unhelpful and are potentially damaging.
One really stood out – ‘Be their parent not their friend’. Hearing this makes me so sad. Surely being a good friend to our children is something we should all aspire to. Let me be clear here, I am not talking drinking buddies or casual acquaintances here.
Real friendships, the ones with mutual trust and respect, the supportive, kind and reliable ones where we have each other’s best interests at heart and care about how we treat each other and how the other person feels, where we genuinely want to learn more about the other person and support them as they learn and grow as a person, these sound like a great model on which to guide our interactions.
Of course we still have to be the parent. Children do not ask to be born. It is our responsibility to provide for them, to look out for their safety and well-being. The effort has to start with us, we have to provide them with food and drink, shelter and comfort, affection and attention in order for them to grow and develop. It is not an equal partnership but an evolving one that can be nurtured when we are open and receptive to learning about how best to meet their needs.
We have been around longer than our children and have gained experience, knowledge and skills that we can pass on. This does not mean we know best but it might mean we can offer thoughtful guidance and suggestions. We can provide insights into what is considered appropriate or not in different situations and we can be a sounding board for them as they learn.
Our children can benefit from our wisdom as long as we recognise that we can also learn so much from them. We do not have to tell our children what to do, we do not have to be their boss; but we do have a responsibility to help them to learn about and negotiate the world and relationships with others. We can do this by being a positive role-model and by offering information, advice and coaching (there is so much good stuff around all of these issues here).
As our relationships grow and we nurture those friendships with our children, demonstrating on a daily basis our commitment to them both practically and emotionally, we will reap the most amazing benefits. I know this, I see this every day and it is truly a beautiful thing.
What is the worst parenting advice you have been given, or the best? I would love to know, please feel free to leave your comment below.
Wishing you a wonderful week and urging you to go forth and feed those friendships with kindness x