I've been watching Parental Guidance on Channel Nine. I wasn't going to, but I can't help myself. It's fascinating as parents to have a peek in to how other parents do it. Let's face it, parenting is a bit of a competitive sport.
Unfortunately, just like real sport you don't get a medal for competing. There are winners and losers, and least publicly.
One thing I noticed watching Parental Guidance is that most of the children are really well behaved. On a whole they seem neurotypical with developmentally appropriate development, some of them are very confident or smart, or attractive or all three. In other words, they are picked to present well on TV. And they're on TV, so that makes sense. And the parents are articulate and curious - picked for TV.
So, by all means, enjoy this show and other parenting shows, but remember it is reality TV, not real life. It is set up, simulated, scripted etc.
In real life, parenting can be really tough, much tougher than on TV. .
Parenting is hard.
Often your child’s actions, difficulties, emotional challenges, success, failures, developmental progress, scholastic progress, friendships, physical appearance etc are on public display. Out there for all to judge.
And your responses and reactions are out there in public as well. There is always a gaggle of people waiting to give you advice, and a mountain of social media posts to compare yourself against, and books and experts to scavenge through.
You can literally turn yourself inside out working out what type of parent you are, what else can you do, what are you doing wrong?
Let me tell you a secret, it doesn’t matter that you don’t have a parenting style.
It doesn't matter that you can’t fit yourself into one of the categories that people love to use – helicopter parent, tiger mum, free range, disciplinarian, or any of the other myriad of categories that currently exist.
Ignore the parenting experts
Yes there is advice on what styles of parenting are shown to be more effective, and it updates as research evolves. But this is always general advice, population best practice.. The experts don’t know you and your family. Your unique needs and your unique children.
Stop trying to measure yourself against other parents. Stop reading the parenting books. Start listening to yourself.
Let go of your parenting guilt and shame
If you are giving your love, turning up, showing respect, being there to listen, to be with…you are doing your very best.
THIS DOES NOT GUARANTEE A SMOOTH, TROUBLE FREE RELATIONSHIP.
But know, if your mother-child journey is bumpy, unexpected, heart wrenching or disruptive
Know that you have still done enough.
And it’s not your fault. No-one is to blame.
Ask for help
You may need extra support, in fact I strongly encourage you to reach out for support if the bumps are too high to navigate on your own,
Get support, whether it be through parent coaching, parenting training, employing help, or asking family or friends to help out.
Ask for what you need, and understand and really accept that asking for help does not mean you have failed.
It's OK, in fact it is often necessary to have someone to walk beside you on your parenting journey; and it can make such a difference.
The most satisfying part of my work is hearing parents tell me how relieved they are when they realise it's OK to change expectations, it’s OK to accept and embrace their child’s differences, and that when they look at their child’s behaviour with a different perspective things can start to shift.
Knowing yourself, knowing your child, tuning in and understanding your emotions and your feelings this creates a sound base on which to work on your relationship and continue to support your child as best they can to manage all the tricky feelings, changes, and challenges they are experiencing.
If you practice this mindful response to parenting, and respect what both you and your child need, you will develop your unique style and connection.
* My aim is for these posts is meant to useful, interesting and/or inspiring. They are not designed to be used for therapy.. If you are experiencing stress please contact your GP or mental health professional.
Kim Ross is a Psychologist and Founder of Positive Young Minds and Essential Self-Care for Psychologists.