I was a fabulous parent before I had children. I confidently predicted that I would not dismiss my kids’s feelings or emotions, nor utter dismissive phrases like ‘you don’t really feel that way towards your brother’ or ‘you can’t be tired, you just slept’. Basking in 8 hours of blissfully uninterrupted sleep, I recognised then the genuine feelings and emotions of children; that it is perfectly possible that they could have just slept and still be tired; or that they might well be angry with a sibling. Stock parental responses – aimed at stemming that particular argument – would never pass my lips.
I remember writing something called 'The Postive Parenting Programme' when I was at school. I can't remember the purpose for writing it now, but the idea was to encourage parents to respond in a positive way to their children and to minimise the use of negative language like 'no' and 'don't do that'.... As I grew older, I maintained the view that we didn't need to use the word 'no' with children and I guess I hoped I would be a 'positive' parent.
The truth is, I do use the word 'no' with my son and I do tell him not to do certain things. On the one hand, maybe that's the easy option because it takes less time to say 'no' than to use a different technique like distracting them or stopping to think how you can tell them to stay away from something in a postive way. On the other hand, as a parent now, I see things a little differently to how I did when I was younger. I think it is ok to say 'no', especially in a potentially dangerous situation when you need your child to sense the risk or hazard in something they might be touching or doing.
For me, it's more important not to use negative language like 'no' or 'don't do that' too much of the time. If you use it all the time, it loses its significance somewhat. Also, something I've read that I think is a good point to remember is that we should pick our battles. If your child's doing something you'd rather they didn't but it isn't actually naughty or dangerous, then let it go. So what if something gets messed up? It can get cleaned up later and it's all part of our child's exploratory nature that sometimes we need to remember to encourage.
Most likely, many of us are not the parent we wanted to be. The reality of parenthood is that it can be a lot to deal with sometimes and as a consequence we can react to our children or respond to situations in ways we never thought we would. Being a parent is a wonderful, rewarding journey but there are all sorts of challenges along the way, which we have no way to prepare for in advance! I think it can be helpful every now and then to consider our own parenting, how we speak to our children and whether we're doing all the things we'd hoped to do pre-parenthood. Whilst we might never achieve our idea of the 'perfect parent', thinking about our attitude and approach is a good way to recognise areas where we could make small changes for the better.
Are there things you do now as a parent that you never thought you'd do pre-parenthood? Has your outlook on parenting changed significantly since you have become a parent?