As I am writing this post my teenage son is on a repatriation flight back home after spending six months at a boarding school overseas. We made the decision to bring him back home, mainly due to racism and bullying incidents targeted at him, being the only half Asian boy in the entire school.
It has been a stressful few months for us trying to come to terms as to why these incidents were happening, and concerned for our son’s emotional wellbeing. It made me realise how important our role is as parents and the responsibility we have in bringing up our children to be socially responsible.
We are not born racists. Children receive many messages about race and racism from a very young age and depending on the interpretation of the environment they live in, predominantly from their parents, they suck up like sponges the behavioral patterns around them and make them their own as they go through their teenage years and later adulthood.
“The great sign of parenting is not the child’s behaviour. The sign of truly great parenting is the parent’s behaviour” Andy Smithson
Recognising the Signs
We can all relate to how we behave as parents in various situations. Can you recognize yourself or relate to any of these different styles of parenting below? Or perhaps an overlap from one parenting style to another?
- The Authoritarian Parenting Style
“It is my rule or no-rule” – Strict Authoritarian Parents cause children’s feelings and opinions to be disregarded. Children of Authoritarian Parents tend to develop low self-esteem as they believe that their opinions are not valued. They also develop anger management issues as they harbour resentment against their parents. Authoritarian Parents are normally driven by their own ego, insecurities and lack of self-confidence.
- The Uninvolved Parenting Style
Here parents are completely disinterested, make no demands on their children, are dismissive and neglectful. Often this type of parenting style indicates that the parent is suffering from depression, overloaded with work or emotionally unavailable, caused by his/her own experience with his/her own parents. Children raised by Uninvolved Parents would tend to also become emotionally unavailable and battle with emotional commitments later in life. The total lack of boundaries in an Uninvolved Parent household also results in lack of social skills and misbehavior as they grow through their teenage years into adulthood.
- The Indulgent Parenting Style
Contrary to the Uninvolved Parenting Style, Indulgent Parents are involved in their children’s lives. However, there are no demands or control on their children. Children have no boundaries, no accountability, often ends up in substance abuse as they have never learned control. Indulgent parents normally tend to shy away from confrontation, conflict and lack organization skills and structure. They also suffer from lack of self-worth as they seek to be liked and be popular all the time.
Our Journey of Personal Growth as Parents
We as parents are our children’s ‘first port of call’. Our children’s learning is most influenced by our own behaviour and example. If parents are living a balanced life, with aligned body, mind and spirit, then the children will follow too. But are we?
Sadly though, too often we put ourselves under immense pressure to be the ‘perfect’ parent and create such high expectations of ourselves that when inevitably those expectations are not met (predominantly because they are unrealistic), we then go on this guilt trip syndrome, and it all becomes a vicious circle. So where do we go from here?
“Parenting is not just about our children’s growth. It is also about our own personal growth as parents, and the perfect opportunity to find out who we truly are and where we want to be.”
Often as parents we run at a frenetic pace, trying to juggle work, household duties, deadlines, shopping and the list goes on. We get so self-absorbed in these tasks that we forget to be ‘present’ with our children and be truly connected with them. Instead, when we are with them we still are on our phones, checking messages, multi-tasking and being distracted.
“We need to spend QUALITY time with our children by stopping the frantic race and take time to reflect and be self-aware. The more aware we are as individuals, the better we become at interacting with other people, including our children.”
It is important to recognize the signs of low self-worth. Some of them include:
- Becoming aggressive against others as a defense mechanism
- Suffering from depression or anxiety
- Developing unhealthy habits such as drinking, drugs, smoking, over-eating
- Constantly apologizing for incidents that you have no control over
- Being very hard on yourself
- Always thinking that others are better than you
Low self-worth can be caused by all sorts of different reasons. It could be that you yourself had overly critical parents, experienced bullying, suffered from poor academic performance, abusive relationship from previous partners, retrenchment or financial trouble. As children see themselves through the eyes of their parents, they are more than likely to inherit the same characteristics traits when they grow up.
“If as parents we are able to recognize our low self-esteem issues and address them, we are then able to be an example to our children that despite our flaws, we can work towards our self-growth and overcome challenges.”
To understand and determine whether our ego is ruling our parenting skills, we need to ask ourselves a few questions:
- Do you always tell your children how to do things, because your way is always the right way?
- Do you take things personally?
- Whose agendas come first? Yours or your child’s?
- Do you feel the need to always be in control?
Let us face it, we have all experienced it!
“The key is to have self-awareness to make us realise that we are parenting with our ego.”
The main characteristic trait of children from parents who have been parenting with their ego, are that they become people pleasers, desperate to seek approval from others, and developing their own insecurities in the process. Their happiness depends on others, as all their lives they have depended on their parent’s approval to define their own self-worth and happiness.
How Can We Make Parenting a Fulfilling Experience?
We cannot have a fulfilling experience as a parent if we are battling with our own mental state. To make others happy, you need to first be happy! So let us start here-
- Make time for Yourself
Make your ‘Me’ time non-negotiable. You need to take care of yourself before you can take care of others. I have a ‘Quiet Time’ every morning between 05h00 to 06h00am when I meditate and enjoy my first cup of tea! Find your ‘Me Time’!
- Spend time with your Partner
Time with your partner is as important as family time. Make a point to have a one-on-one at least once a month to re-connect.
- Reach Out
Connect with other parents and create or join support groups for sharing similar experiences. It can be a great support for struggling parents.
- Practice Gratitude
Take a moment every day to look around you and be grateful and appreciative of what you have. It will make you happier, more positive and resilient.
Due to popular request from quite a few followers, I am launching my first of a series of podcasts, starting this month! I will kickstart my first podcast with George Helou, from EP7 (Empowerment for Purpose in 7 steps). I am currently working with him to qualify to become a certified EP7, Empowerment Life Coach. An exciting adventure ahead! George and I will be having a chat on personal growth and parenting. Watch this space!
Wishing You All Good Health!