Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Perfect Parent?

I’m pretty sure that everyone grew up with a notion of what the perfect parent should be like, and I bet that there were times when it seemed that our parents fell short of this ideal. I even suspect that a lot of new parents start out thinking that they are not going to repeat the mistakes of their parents. They enthusiastically go out and buy parenting books and read up on all the new techniques on how to raise the perfect child and what to do when problems arise. But ultimately, when push comes to shove and there is a crying, tantruming kid, a lot of us are going to fall back on how our parents handled the situation. This can be good if you were raised by patient, understanding, reasonable people. But if you grew up around quick tempered, easily irritated adults, chances are you will end up spending a lot of time yelling at your child.

I grew up with parents who were moody and became easily irritated. They tended to yell at my sister and I when things weren’t running the way they wanted. I didn’t want to be the same way with Michael, but I found myself falling into the same patterns as my parents. While searching for help to break out of my parents mold, I too went the route of trying to find a parenting book, and what I ended up stumbling upon was a book called “Becoming the Kind Father” by Calvin Sandborn. I can’t recommend the book enough because through his story, I’ve learned that much like the author, when I think, I don’t think in my own voice, but in that of my parents. The perfectionism I expect is really the perfectionism they expected, and when things don’t go right, I get frustrated and irritable because they did, and then I turn around and put those same expectations on Michael, and when he doesn’t act how I want, I get upset.  What the book has taught me is that I need to start thinking in my own voice, one that I should have heard from my parents as a child. A voice that is supportive and kind, but can also be authoritative without being mean or angry. I’m working on becoming the “Kind Father” who is supportive and doesn’t make his child tiptoe around worrying that he’s going to do something wrong and get yelled at.

I coming around to the realization that I’m never going to be perfect because, in this world, there aren’t perfect parents, and there aren’t perfect kids, but I can strive to be one of the loving, caring, supportive parents who can help my wife raise a wonderfully intelligent and well adjusted kid.

The following poem by Dr Dorothy Nolte appears in the book and it sums up the lessons that I’ve learned about how my actions as a parent will affect my son’s future attitudes and relationships.

If children live with criticism, They learn to condemn
If children live with hostility, They learn to fight
If children live with ridicule, They learn to feel shy
If children live with shame, They learn to feel guilty
If children live with encouragement, They learn confidence
If children live with tolerance, They learn patience
If children live with praise, They learn appreciation
If children live with acceptance, They learn to love
If children live with approval, They learn to like themselves
If children live with honesty, They learn truthfulness
If children live with security, They learn to have faith in themselves and in those about them
If children live with friendliness, They learn the world is a nice place to live.

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