Over many years, some beliefs around parenting have developed and been passed from one generation to another. So we take these as the basis for our practical parenting style and practices. But are these beliefs actually true? Do they serve us well? Are they still appropriate in today’s families?
Let’s have a look at some parenting “myths” –
That great parenting is natural. You’ll instinctively know what to do with your child and how to parent well.
Sadly, many parenting practices around the world show that this is not true – children are not always nurtured; in fact some parents actually harm their children, while others cause damage through neglect. For many parents, their experience with babies and children has been limited before becoming parents, so they don’t know how to relate to this new family member, or what behaviour is normal for a child. And of course, babies don’t come with an instruction manual!
So this myth is busted.
That permissive parenting is the cause of all the problems with children. That allowing children to do what they want is wrong and leads to unruly families.
In all my work and experiences with parents, most of them say that they tend towards authoritarian parenting, where they are the “boss” of the family. Very few parents admit using the permissive style. So this parenting style can’t be the reason so many parents complain about their children’s behaviour.
Permissiveness from practical parenting is not the root cause of children’s behavioural problems.
All children need to be punished by their parents. That children are born with some “badness” and must be corrected.
When you see an innocent newborn baby, as I have just recently with my new grandson, you can’t possibly believe that this baby is in any way “bad”. Children are born with some personality traits and the rest of their character and behaviour comes from their family and environment. They don’t yet know all the behaviours you want from them, so if they do something you don’t like, it’s because they are still learning, not because they are bad.
So rather than punishment, children need loving guidance.
This myth is definitely busted!
Raising children requires the use of parental authority or power. That children want parental authority.
“Parental authority” means using power over children, controlling children. This is usually done by discipline techniques such as rewards and punishment, and parents making all family decisions. Giving children instructions about how, when and where things are to be done is the normal way these families function.
For parents who use this power or control-based authority, they will find that they ultimately have less influence over their child’s behaviour and values. On the other hand, parents who use experience-based authority, that is they teach their children from their own life-experience and role-model the desired behaviour, will have greater influence over their children.
Children want to be loved, guided, considered and respected, kept safe and listened to, rather than controlled.
So this myth is also busted.
That where there are two parents living with a child, they must maintain a “united front”. That they have to agree on all parenting practices.
Actually this is impossible! As each parent has come from a different family, with its own set of values and appropriate behaviours, they will have different expectations when it comes to their children. If one parents tries to change the values of the other parent, or the level of acceptance of a particular behaviour, this can lead to conflict between parents. If a parent changes their response towards a behaviour of the child, without really changing their values around it, this can result in parenting which is not genuine. Children pick up on this, and relationships can suffer.
Parents having a frank discussion around these parenting differences will benefit the whole family. Where differences remain, it is more effective to be honest and respectful about them, particularly in front of the children.
In my work with parents, I help them find ways to be the best parents they can be. The Parent Effectiveness Training course, as developed by eminent psychologist Dr. Thomas Gordon, addresses these parenting myths and gives alternative practical parenting practices.
Janet Powell, The Parenting Coach