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ParentsCanada - April 2015

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Harvard was built in 1636 with a tall fence – to keep out wolves. L E A R N I N G 26 .com A P R I L 2 0 1 5 Because it's all about the journey, right? Of course it is. So how come when things don't go exactly the way I expect it to – like when I leave my son's lunch sitting in the fridge, or when I realize that he's been five minutes late for school every day this week – I'm the first one to beat myself up over it? Our kids aren't perfect, and neither are we, but most of the time, our children are the only ones we let off the hook. Lucky for us, there are a few experts who are willing to help us out, including the late Bruno Bettelheim, child psychologist and author of A Good Enough Parent: A Book on Child Rearing. Bettelheim was one of the first people to champion the concept of throwing out the rule- book in favour of parenting our kids in a way that helps them become their best selves. Although the book was published in 1988, and it reads more like a textbook than most parent- ing books we find on the shelves these days, its concepts have had some serious staying power. Better yet, they've had an influence on some of our modern parenting experts. And there are some good reasons for that. SELF-CARE IS KEY This is something that Rene Syler, author of Good Enough Mother: The Perfectly Imperfect Book fo Parenting, feels strongly about. "When you're taking care of yourself, you're taking care of your family. There's nothing in the Big Book of Motherhood – which by the way, does not exist – that says you can't tack some time to yourself onto the bottom of a very long to-do list." A former broadcaster who documented her own experience having a preventive mastectomy, Rene is intimately familiar with what can go wrong when you don't take care of yourself. "I'm tired of seeing mothers tired and burned- out. They look bad, they feel bad, they're snap- ping at their kids, all because they didn't take the time to have a cup of coffee!" DIFFERENT FAMILIES = DIFFERENT STRATEGIES Social work professor and family therapist Michael Ungar has recently written a book called I Still Love You: Nine Things Troubled Kids Need From Their Parents. He says we all have to figure out how to deal with totally different challenges. Like many kids, my son is a bit of a perfectionist. Not an "I always make sure my socks are organized by colour" kind of perfectionist, but more of an "If I'm going to do something it has to go exactly the way I expected it to" kind of guy. And every time things don't go exactly the way he thought it would – whether he didn't block a goal during a soccer game or he missed a couple of math questions on a 100-question test – I do what most parents do. I give him a hug, tell him it's OK if everything doesn't go the way he'd hoped and remind him that the point is to learn and to have fun. B Y S A R A H S A W L E R WE TELL OUR KIDS TO DO THEIR BEST AND HAVE FUN, SO WHY DOESN'T THAT LOGIC APPLY TO PARENTS, TOO? GOOD ENOUGH HOW TO BE "Many of the parenting books out there make it seem very simple," he says. "Like you can count 1-2-3 or practise scream-free parenting, and the problems will just go away. But the truth of the matter is, it doesn't work like that. If your kid has nightmares and there's nothing else going on, that's pretty easy to deal with. But if your child has a learning disability, is being bullied, or their friends have moved away, you aren't going to have the same kinds of challenges." LEARN FROM MISTAKES Michael also points out that when we focus too much on the things we think we're dong wrong, we miss out on the learning opportunities. "We forget that the long-term vision is a healthy, robust citizen," he says. "Children with responsibility grow up psychologically healthier.

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