Parenting truths versus myths

There’s never a shortage of advice
from friends, relatives and even well-meaning strangers when you’re expecting,
but once you have your own children, you realise that nothing can ever truly
prepare you for the actual experience of raising a child.

We all want to be great parents and
we all want to do the right thing, but in addition to balancing all the advice
we’re given against our own history and instincts, we also have to contend with
a number of common myths about parenthood.

Here are a few of them:

 

Myth:

As the parent, I set the rules and
my child should obey them… period. In other words: What I say, goes – or else!

 

Truth:

Previous generations took a much
more punitive and fear-based approach to parenting.

The truth is that much discipline
was rooted in corporal punishment or fear-inducing experiences that made their
children appear to have respect and did indeed impact their behaviour. But it’s
no longer considered healthy or socially acceptable to paddle children in
school, slap children in the face or spank them with a belt when they do
something wrong. In fact, those actions are now typically considered child
abuse.

Respect nowadays needs to be earned
through appropriate discipline techniques — not fear. How? By setting clear
rules and expectations, explaining the consequences of any infractions, and
following through/enforcing those consequences fairly and consistently.

Modelling (that is: setting a good
example) has been proven to affect children positively in every area of life.
It’s also important for a parent to admit when they have made a mistake,
particularly when it comes to your kids. If they see you own up to having done
something wrong, they, too, will learn to take responsibility when they do
something wrong.

 

Myth:

It’s fun and desirable for me and
my child or teenager to hang out and be more like friends than parent/child. In
other words: I want to be my kid’s BFF!

 

Truth:

The simple definition of a “friend”
is someone you know and like. As a parent, you certainly know your child better
than anyone else, and hopefully you like them more than anyone else does, too!
But being your child’s friend cannot be your priority — your top job is to be a
good parent. That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy activities and good times
together, but it does mean you’ll also need to make rules, set boundaries and
enforce consequences — things that, at times, may not make you the most popular
person in the house.

When it comes to the parent/child
relationship, there is an automatic hierarchy: the parent is in charge. In an
actual peer-to-peer friendship, both parties ideally get equal say. But a
parent isn’t a peer: He or she is a guide, a leader, an instructor and a
disciplinarian… and when that work is done, then you can hang out with your
child like a friend.

 

Myth:

My child’s a “bad seed.” His/her
behaviour is such a mess; I don’t believe it can ever be turned around. In
other words: Nothing I say or do has helped; I give up.

 

Truth:

There may come a point, if you have
been dealing with your child/teenager’s serious problems for a protracted
period of time, that you simply give up hope that things can change for the
better. If you’re coping with serious issues like substance abuse, mental
illness, eating disorders, truancy, aggression or open rebellion, you might
feel like you have tried anything and everything in your power to change and
improve the situation.

But by changing your own reactions,
you can absolutely effect changes in your child’s. It is critically important
that a parent continue to have faith that change is possible and that things
can get better. Don’t give up hope; the very worst thing that could ever happen
to a child is to have a parent who gives up on them. Any parent who is
dedicated and willing to make changes in his or her own behaviour can make both
lives better.

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