When I became a parent one of the many ‘Congratulations’ cards I received was from an aunt with a sense of humour. In it she wrote, ‘My advice – don’t take any advice’. I laughed at the time, but now I look back at this as the most sensible piece of advice I was ever given.
I’d say the single most important thing I’ve learnt as a mother is to trust my own instincts. To not allow myself to be talked into anything, pressured into anything, or made to behave in a way that is against my better judgement as to what’s best for my child.
But when we choose to parent our children in a way that is not the most commonly accepted way in today’s society, this can be hard, we can sometimes feel like we’re swimming against the tide, and this can lead to feelings of isolation and self doubt.
Many parents admit that they feel embarrassed, or that everyone is watching them, when their child has a meltdown in public. It follows that how we handle our child in these situations is likely to be at least in part influenced by these feelings. – What is everyone thinking? What does everyone think I should do? Everyone thinks my child is badly behaved, or that I’m a bad parent.
These thoughts are not helpful to you in finding the most appropriate response for your child, particularly if, like me, you parent without the use of punishments, threats or bribes. ‘What that child needs is a good smack’ – is a comment guaranteed to set your own adrenalin levels soaring, making you less able to be the calm, understanding parent your child needs you to be. But this is at the extreme end. Even without hearing comments like this, we still feel the pressure to be seen to be punishing our child for their perceived ‘bad behaviour’. We must be seen to be doing something, and that something must be a widely recognised response. Yet strangers, and even friends and family members, don’t have the level of understanding you do regarding the reasons for your child’s behaviour and their underlying needs, nor the knowledge you have as to what works best for them.
It takes practice and time, but once you have learnt to identify this type of perceived pressure as unhelpful and unimportant, you are able to pay more attention to your own thoughts and to your child, and better able to use your judgement regarding your child’s needs.
I think many parents allow themselves to be governed by this pressure in deciding how to parent, and sadly dismiss their own instincts as being the wrong ones.
I would be interested to hear how others feel on this subject. Do you ever feel judged or pressured, and do you think this affects the way you parent?