I don’t think that anyone can ever be a perfect parent and I don’t believe in parenting experts. What I do believe though, is that as parents we become experts in our own children. That doesn’t mean we don’t get it wrong, hell, we get it wrong all the time, it just means we know our children best.
It’s one thing of course to parent your children in your way in the comfort of your own home, but publicly parenting can be an entirely different matter altogether. It shouldn’t be, should it?
One of the the things I’ve learnt over the years is that some of my best parenting moments in public are the ones where I parent like no one is watching.
At some point in life we all worry what other people think of us. It’s perfectly natural, just a little annoying. When you become a parent that feeling can become magnified. The opinions, the scrutiny, the well-meaning ‘advice’ can be enough to make you want to poke hot pins in your eyes sometimes.
It can get to us. How many of you parents have been upset or a little rattled about the opinion, comment or even look that someone has thrust your way? I bet quite a few of you.
It’s not always easy. As parents we are even more susceptible to feeling sad, cross or hurt because we are so damn tired all the time – let’s face it, a good sleep makes most things feel better. If you’ve had two hours sleep and some woman at the park shoots you a look because you’ve given your two year old a Haribo in return for them putting their wellies back on – well, quite frankly, that’s enough to tip you over the edge isn’t it?
The thing is, the thing I have to remind myself of all the time is this – I can’t control the way other people behave, I can only control my own response to that. I’m not responsible for these people, and neither are you!
Babies cry, babies scream, it never ceases to amaze me how much carnage these small people can create. Toddlers tantrum. Threenagers, well they are a law unto themselves, and then beyond that you will always be dealing with personality quirks, likes and dislikes and trying to navigate your way. We all get derailed from time-to-time and we all have those moments when we loose our sh*t. It happens and we move on.
News flash! It’s perfectly normal. No, not everyone can tolerate a public tantrum, but every person was once a crying baby and everyone will have had their own toddler tantrums at some point – we just don’t remember.
The thing is that where public parenting can go wrong I’ve realised is that we can get so caught up and worried about how we are being perceived, what people think of our children and what sort of parent people think we are, that we forget to actually parent our way. We end up in a situation where we adapt our parenting to an approach we feel will be considered socially acceptable – from my point of view, this is where it all goes horribly wrong.
If, as a parent you start behaving in a completely alien way towards your children when you are in public, is it any wonder they react in a negative way?
It took me quite a long time to figure this out, but now it hits me smack in the face and I flatly refuse to adopt any other approach than what my children are used to. Those approaches and systems that they respond well to and make them feel loved, safe and supported.
It’s taken me a while to realise that I have no control over strangers’ reactions towards myself and my children, or their perceptions of my parenting. Being totally direct about this, who gives a damn what other people think anyway? The only people whose opinions matter, and the only people I am responsible for, are my four children. I care about what they think of me, and how they feel when we are together. No one else, and that’s OK.
Why do we allow other people to destabilise us? What is it about the body language, words, and looks of others in public situations that can blow our faith in our own parenting ability and make us do things differently? Why do they think they know any better?
There’s no such thing as a parenting expert remember!
I don’t stand for bad behaviour, but I prefer to understand why it’s happened in the first place. I also think as parents we are able to predict meltdowns in many situations and that means we become experts in dealing with, side-lining and deflecting them. When we change our approach, that is instantly harder. Everything suddenly becomes harder to manage or contain because consistency has gone out of the window.
We are all different (thank goodness). That goes for us parents and our children of course. We differ in our views and morals, our likes and dislikes, our level of tolerance, our expectations and the things we consider important. We differ in our perceptions and generally how we live our lives.
That’s OK, that’s how it should be, these are choices we should be allowed to make for ourselves. Your family, your rules. It’s like the breastfeeding/bottle-feeding debate, your baby, your choice!
So, I guess what I’m saying is give it a go. Parent like no one is watching, even though EVERYONE probably is – and just see what happens! Even when Betty in TESCO is thrusting you a look that burns through your skin, remember that Betty doesn’t matter, your children do. If it gets so bad you can’t go back, you can always try online shopping or head to Morrison’s instead!