The “Perfect” Parent Trap
Published 24 November 2020 at 19:40
There was a time when I had a vision. The Vision of a perfect parent. For me, a perfect parent was like Bond. You know, James Bond. Cool and sophisticated, always ready for any eventuality. He has the skills and pieces of equipment ready for whatever comes his way. And yet, at the end of the day, his thousand-dollar suit is still intact and every strand of his hair is still in place. No, it doesn’t end there. After a gruelling day, he is still fresh enough, in the evening, to charm his love interest.
I was ready to be this Bond parent. During pregnancy, I read any material I could lay my hands on, on parenting. I was confident I knew every trick and technique of the parenting world. I had also located the best shops in the town to equip myself with gadgets as and when required. I was ready. Very ready. To be that perfect parent to my child. And then I became a parent.
Photo Credit: Tom Wang
The first couple of months went by fine. I had the skills, knowledge, and gadgets. I was the Bond parent. Just when I was beginning to think, I have got it all right, things started changing. As she started crawling, everything I knew went out of the window. No matter how many safety devices I would put, she would still manage to get hurt. Despite following the advice of the doctor to every dot, there would be times when her weight would fall. No matter how well I would plan my day, there were days when it would be nightfall before I would get an opportunity to get into the shower.
To top it all, you might have trained any number of people in your corporate life, but when it comes to your child, you would always fall short. I still remember a relative commenting on my lack of training skills just because my child was not toilet trained by 6 months!!!
The quest for being that perfect parent was a trap. It was a never-ending quest that was leaving me overwhelmed and anxious all the time. I had reached a point where I was beginning to lose the joy of being a mother. That was a big red flag for me.
Photo Credit: Monkey Business Images
Today, I am a proud parent of 2 beautiful teenagers. I have long given up on trying to be The Perfect parent. On this journey I have had some AHA moments which I summarise in three steps Listen-Adapt-Grow.
Our kids are constantly sending out non-verbal signals on what ails them. Irrespective of age, they say more without words. If someone asked me what training I should invest in to become a better parent, as a parent and coach I would suggest investing your time and efforts in honing listening skills and reading body language. It comes naturally when one is present in the moment. Knowing what is being said and that something is being left unsaid, promotes relationship building with your child.
Photo Credit: Fizkes
NO ONE can train you to be a parent. Every child is different, every parent is different. Other parents, authors can share the best practices with you, things that have worked for them or people around them. Which as a parent you will listen and read and it will make perfect sense at that moment. But when the actual moment comes, they may or may not work, or will be forgotten. There are no ready-made answers to parenting challenges. What helps is keeping our mind open to learning as the child develops and changes. What works in one stage will not work in the next stage.
As a parent, it is my thumb rule to rely on the neuroplasticity of my brain. Our brain is truly extraordinary. It can learn and adapt to new circumstances. This happens daily. Neuroplasticity of the brain coupled with a growth mindset is the love potion of parenting.
Each time you face a parenting challenge, ask yourself:
- What is my goal in this context?
- What do I need to know/learn or get the child to learn to reach that goal?
Just be open to learning-unlearning-relearning.
Photo Credit: photo Tirachardz / freepik.com
The parenting path is full of guilt potholes. In my coaching journey, I meet so many parents who end up blaming themselves for how the child/situation could have been and could not be. Blaming ourselves and feeling guilty does not do any good in any form or shape. It does more harm. We are born with specialised neural groups and circuits throughout our brain called mirror neurons. These neurons are stimulated when we observe the behaviours of the people who raise us.
Thanks to these mirror neurons, children sense our guilt. Without consciously realising, they start mirroring our guilt and hold themselves guilty for every mistake. Instead of beating ourselves up for every parenting mistake we make, we should strive for acknowledging the mistake, use it for our growth and learning. This automatically instils a growth mindset in our children right from childhood.
Photo Credit: photo Tirachardz / freepik.com
Our need to be perfect arises from our fear of the future. The uncertainty that comes with the future. As parents, we are hardwired to keep our progeny safe. Perfect parenting is our attempt in that direction. By trying to be perfect for our child, we try to future proof them.
The truth is, there is nothing called a perfect parent. And the future has been and will always be uncertain. The crux of parenting lies in learning and adapting as and when challenges present themselves. We have to remind ourselves: I will be ok, my child will be ok.
By Shalini Bindal
About the Author
Shalini Bindal is a coach certified by International Coaching Federation. She focusses her coaching efforts on Teens, Parents and Women. Shalini has an MBA in Human Resources and has worked in consulting firms for more than 10 years, consulting companies from the list of Fortune 500 like GE, Aviva, BMS etc. If you would like to help to move from holding yourself back to discovering a NEW YOU, check out her GET-SET-GOAL programme.