Try walking inside any bookstore, and go straight to the parenting or self-help section. Chances are, you’ll find tons of books on how to be a good parent, how to not be a bad parent, how to raise an athletic child, how to raise a studious child, and so on and so forth.
And for Jennifer Senior, a contributing editor at New York Magazine, while the authors of these books have good intentions in mind, she doesn’t see help whenever she sees those books. What she sees is anxiety, and what she terms a “giant candy-colored monument to our collective panic.” And if you really think about it, she’s right.
When did parenting become so difficult?
If you think about it, parenting and taking care of children shouldn’t be such a hard thing to do. After all, it’s a part of our natural instincts to take care of our children, to nurture them, and make sure they’re safe, and grow up well.
If parenting is so instinctive, and built into our brains, then why do parents seem so stressed out compared to non-parents?
Jennifer Senior shares that the word ‘parent’ only came about in the 1970s, and that during the 1900s, the roles of parents back then were drastically different compared to the roles that parents do these days. And that mothers these days actually spend more time with their kids compared to mothers during 1965, a time when most mothers didn’t even work in offices, and usually stayed at home.
These days parents not only have to work to provide for their kids, but they also need to prepare their kids’ clothes for school, make sure they study their lessons, and make sure that their assignments are finished. And they also drive their kids whenever their kids have extra-curricular activities, such as if they’re on the varsity team, or have after-school lessons.
Parents spend a lot of time preparing their kids for a future that they themselves don’t even know anything about. As much as you plan for your kid’s path in life, there’s really no saying if everything you planned will come true. Maybe your child will have different interests, maybe instead of being a doctor, they want to be an accountant. Maybe they want to be a writer, or a journalist.
And if you look at the big picture, all of the stress and worry that parents have is all done for the sake of an unknown future. And that’s what makes everything so difficult.
It’s important to be realistic
Instead of focusing on making sure your child is at the top of their class, or is the best in sports, it’s important to just be a father, or a mother to your child. Setting unrealistic expectations for your child puts a lot of pressure not only on them, but also on you. And that can put a lot of strain between you and your child’s relationship, which can cause a lot of problems later on.
Set realistic goals for your kids. If they can’t be at the top of the class, then just be happy that they have good grades that will let them enroll in a good university. If they don’t want to be a doctor, or a lawyer like you intended, then that’s okay. Just be supportive of what your child wants to be, and let them explore their interests.
It’s such a shame to waste a child’s potential in sports, literature, or the arts, just because the child’s parents want them to pursue a different field. Forcing your child to do something that’s not their passion only makes it harder for them to succeed in that field, and you’ll just end up damaging your relationship.
So stop focusing too much on making sure your child becomes successful. Instead, focus on raising them to be loving, friendly, and thankful human beings. Teach them the value of hard work, persistence, honesty, loyalty, and being true to themselves.
Let your parental instincts take over, and don’t get stressed if other parents judge you, or compare their child to yours. Just let them be, and know that so long as you’re child is happy, you know you’re doing it right.
READ: There is such a thing as ‘narcissistic parenting’, and here’s how to avoid it