What kind of parent do you want to be?

Image of father leading his child along a dark wooded path.

Nobody aspires to failure as a parent

Nobody sets out to be a bad parent. Even those caught out by pregnancy expect to cope with being a parent with a little guidance and support. But some people do recognise that they did not have the benefit of good parenting as a child. They hope to achieve more for their own children. Today they can improve their personal preparation for being a parent with simple emotional intelligence training.

“Happy is the child with emotionally intelligent parents”

Over the years I have coached people who had childhoods marred by their parents or carers. I have known clients who were determined to remain childless to avoid passing on their DNA or to repeat the mistakes of their parents. Others make as point of keeping their children away from their families. These are tragic and sad conclusions from unfortunate childhoods.

But these are unusual. Most people look forward to being a parent, and are looking forward to doing their very best for their children.

New skills for new challenges

None of us are born with all the skills we need. The genius of human life is that we live in lots of different places, with a variety of living styles, and with unique and exciting hopes and dreams. The reason we can do this successfully is that we have culture.

Culture is a collection of learned values, beliefs, and behaviours. The cultures of our homelands are the strategies that enable us to live successfully in the place we come from.

That’s why cultures can vary so very much. Different locations and climates require widely different skills and habits. The skills to live in the frozen tundra of Asia that might not be sufficient to thrive in a busy city in the tropics.

Photo by Jeanette Atherton

Cultural differences in being a parent

Culture applies in the home too. Families pass on understanding, beliefs, and habits as well as DNA. This is especially true when it comes to raising children! Being a parent is very different around the world, and even within the same culture, parenting styles differ.

But life has changed in many ways, and people move from place to place. What worked in the past in one place may not prepare a child for a healthy and successful life in the 21st century. This is especially true if the culture comes from a place where values and habits are dramatically different from where they will be living. It can be a source of conflict in families to agree on the correct and appropriate way to raise the children.

What will never change in being a parent

Being a parent may look different in different places, but there are ways in which it never changes.

Being a good parent requires you to bring your A game on days when you are ready to call it a day. It needs endless patience, courage, and self-control. You to listen and endure when everyone you know gives you unsolicited advice, and tries to direct you in their preferred cultures. No wonder the most important parenting skills are personal skills, and nothing accelerates your learning like the steep learning curve of parenthood itself!

A mother holds her child

Being a parent requires time, energy, and dedication, but what children need most is to be loved – by parents with good personal skills!

How can we improve our chances as parents?

Most people have time to prepare for the arrival of a child. Buying, gathering or making the equipment, preparing the nursery, and reading up on what to do for the best are common behaviours. But how many of them think to prepare themselves to be a parent?

Learn to care for yourself. If you want to give yourself the best chance, then look at improving your self-care skills. Your child will be depending on you. You need to be well for them. Developing these skills will not only help in the future. Being relaxed and happy will help with your pregnancy too. And working on this with a partner is a good way to cement a relationship that is about to change quite a lot!

You need to prioritise. Decide what you cannot sacrifice, and what you can put to one side while you are rearing young children. Making a considered decision is much better than dropping the ball and feeling you have let yourself and others down. Don’t forget to put yourself and your partner (if you have one) on the list too. And remember that your workplace may be delighted to meet your new arrival, but they will not expect you to be less present for your job. Work with your manager to make adjustments that make things easier for you.

Focus on what you need

Try not to get swayed by advertising and influencers. Marketing aims to get you to buy as much as possible in the interests of manufacturers and retailers. It is not about the health, wealth or happiness of your family. Most people with experience know that half the junk you are going to buy will be stuffed in a cupboard in a few months anyway. Don’t be tempted to buy things you won’t really need.

Beware social media. Similarly social media is not about you and your wellbeing. There are many agendas in play online. While there are people who seek to help, there are just as many who are there to help themselves. . And if people feel the need to advise you (including me) listen kindly and feel free to ignore them if you choose to. Your gut will know who to listen to. Try to bear in mind that your child may not appreciate being smeared all over social media when they were very small. Use controlled groups to share images, and remember that people in the know take steps to protect their children’s privacy these days.

Avoid comparing yourself with others. There will always be people who have more than you, (or seem to have). Remember that there are also others for whom your life would seem ideal. Focus on yourselves, and on what works for you. Be smart and remember that your child will only care if they are hungry or comfortable. They won’t care where the cot came from or whether Little Jeremy has a better wardrobe.

Enjoy the experience

Accept and appreciate the experience. Many aspects of being a parent are challenging, and living without sleep is one of them. The first few weeks can feel like an interminable slog. But it is surprising how fast the time goes by. Try to remember to appreciate the opportunity to be a parent, and that it won’t last for ever.

Celebrate the small wins. It has never been easier to keep a record of your progress, and your child’s early years. Keeping photos, making a blog or journal, and recording video and voice notes, record the small wins. Not only does it give you the opportunity to get it off your chest, and protect yourself from stress, it helps you to see how far you have come, especially on the days when it all seems a bit hard.

The most important job in the world

Being a parent is the most important job in the world. No wonder there is so such pressure on parents to do it well. But if you are the parent, then you can choose. You can listen to the advice, but retain the right to have the final say.

If you are scared, uncertain, or feel unable to cope with things, seek help from expert voices or find a therapist. Get yourself well before if possible, or when you recognise problems of necessary. Your children deserve for you to avoid acting out your difficulties on them.

If you just want to some new skills to stick up for yourself, manage your own feelings effectively, and learn to be the emotional expert your child needs, then look out for some preparatory personal training. This is not therapy, it is skills training to brush up you emotional intelligence skills and help you understand the needs of your baby (or tame your teen!)

You are going to face some of life’s greatest challenges. It pays to get yourself match fit before the game begins!

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