Synergistic Parenting

"I goofed as a parent"

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Sometimes parents talk about what they didn’t do, or something wonderful they did with a child, but then add, “why don’t I do that more often?” Do you whip yourself with ideals that are too extreme?

Think of baseball. A batter who consistently hits one-third of the time is great, which means a batting average of .333. When a ball player bats .400 for a season, that is phenomenal. A basketball player who consistently hits over half the throws to the basket is good. How few get to those levels! Apply these percentages to your feeling of goofs in parenting. Enjoy being a .400 parent, and read on for suggestions.

Babe Ruth hit more home runs than anyone, and held that record a long time. But he held another record longer; he struck out more often than any other major leaguer — 1,330 times he goofed. To hit his record home runs he struck out more. Makes sense! You try to do the right thing or say the right thing with your child, and you hit the home run. Then you say the wrong thing or forget something. Remember Babe Ruth; you have to strike out to hit home runs.

The “tyranny of the should”
When you think of what you could have done, watch for the tyranny of the should. Anytime you think the words “should” or “ought” or “could have” of what you did, or did not do, stop. Karen Horney, an insightful psychotherapist, warned about the "tyranny of the should." When we think should or ought or could, we are in a vicious whirlpool that can drag us down. Several realities can break that spell.

Right now is the time when you can act. Imagine and think of ways to act in the present moment. Sometimes there are obstacles, but many people create ways to express their feelings for their children despite problems.

A dad’s job required him to travel most days, leaving before his high school daughter awoke. She told him of events important to her in her senior year, knowing that his work prevented his participating. The dad started writing notes to his daughter on Post-its™ about his feelings and the events coming up, and pasted them where she would find them. The following September she started college, and his traveling took him near her college town, so he arranged to meet her for a few hours. When he got to her dorm, he found a note that said she would be late, but to make himself at home in her room to wait for her. He looked around her room, at books, papers, then opened her closet door. Covering the inside of the door were the Post-its™ he had left her!

Parents can use their imagination, and the imagination of their partner in parenting, to find ways to make the best of the worst situations and bring parent and child closer together in their feelings, their accepting situations, their affection. What can you make your equivalent of his post-its?

Think of ways you can act in the present with your children, rather than thinking of what you could have done, should have done, or what you have not done. When we do think of what we consider a past failings, then use those thoughts to ask yourself how you can do better now. What can you learn from those past errors?

Anger and resentment
One of our commonest reactions while parenting is anger. The child is too fast, too full of energy, rushing about madly. Or the child is too slow to dress, to do homework, to practice sports or music. Our child doesn't answer. Doesn't share feelings and thoughts.

Perhaps the easiest thing to do is take our anger out on our child. Parents shake children, which can cause permanent brain injury. Parents commit many atrocities on their children, because of festering anger.

When anger boils over, parents can quickly place their child where they cannot hurt themselves and leave the child alone for a few minutes. Separate yourself from the immediate cause of your anger. Relax and breathe deeply. Listen to soothing music. As soon as you can, check that your child is okay. Eastern meditation techniques and yoga can provide very deep relaxation.

Did I goof?
Did I goof as a dad? Certainly, but I learned a very great deal from being a dad to our oldest child, so I think I was a better dad to our second child. I goofed in ways that cannot be numbered. But I did not dwell on them, I did not whip myself with “oughts” and “shoulds,” but I learned from experiences.

This is a basic personality outlook and insight. If you think a great deal about how you goofed, and whip yourself as a poor parent, then talk with friends who will listen. Compare your feelings with other parents. You may need professional assistance to help with your ways of thinking about yourself. Some of us tend to "catastrophize." Sometimes this "self-talk" is like a whirlpool or a tornado that sucks us in and down. If that happens, find people to talk with who listen and help you understand and clarify your feelings.

Live for this moment
Dwell on your children and on their potentials, and how you can contribute to their realizing their possibilities. Interact with them in the present. Forget the “oughts” and “shoulds” and rejoice in every instance of sharing life together. Your most important parenting is your relating with each child. You want your youngsters to feel comfortable with you, to confide in you and trust you.

Rejoice when you can bat .400 as a parent. You have to strike out to hit home runs.

Time alone with
Perhaps the most important parenting you can do is to spend time with each child, doing what that child wants to do, more than once a month. One with one. If the child is young, you may spend a quarter hour sitting on the floor playing. If the child is a teen, you may spend hours going to a movie the teen wants to see with you, followed by talking together while eating or walking – whatever your teen suggests.

Copyright © 2002 John F. Yeaman