Health Q&A

Practical Parenting: There’s No Such Thing As The Perfect Parent

May 31, 2018

Why practical parenting is best

The phenomenon known as ‘perfect parenting’ is the tendency for parents to hold themselves to impossibly high standards that they could never realistically achieve and the belief that they are constantly being judged for their inadequacies as a parent.

We live in a culture that promotes the notion that the ‘perfect parent’ not only exists, but always sacrifices their own needs for those of their child. Thus, the misconception abounds that the ‘perfect child’ is a glorious reflection of their parent’s superior parenting skills. They sleep through the night, love their organic home-grown vegetable meals, prefer reading over digital screen-time, never fight with their siblings or throw embarrassing tantrums in the supermarket.

The truth of the matter is that there is no such thing as the perfect parent or child and forcing yourself to try meet unrealistic ideals could cause you undue stress and anxiety, and may in fact compromise your ability to effectively parent your child.

Working mothers are particularly susceptible to feelings of guilt since they tend to judge themselves for compromising their child’s well-being for the sake of their own career. The reality is that, since the latter part of the 20 century, women have entered the workforce in greater numbers so dual working parents are now the norm rather than the exception.

Why is striving for parenting perfection harmful?

Parenting can be an overwhelming and daunting experience. There is a constant flood of questions ranging from diet, sleeping routines and attending the right schools or extra mural activities, so it’s unsurprising that parents look for guidance and support when making these important, life-changing decisions. Unfortunately, some of the sources, particularly those in the media, can misrepresent the truth and often portray an idealised standard that parents then feel obligated to fulfil.

Too often parents are beleaguered with guilty suggestions like:

• “You should prepare home-cooked meals and lunches, if you want your child to be healthy.”

• “Your child must take extra classes, if you expect them to get into a top school / university.”

• “Ban screen-time in favour of reading, if you want to ensure a high IQ.”

• “You should attend every event in which your child participates – otherwise you don’t care.”

In the constant quest to attain perfecting parenting status, an impressionable parent may constantly worry and second-guess some of their decisions or actions regarding child-rearing. This worry creates stress and anxiety, resulting in decreased confidence in one’s abilities. Poor confidence levels and anxiety are a sure way to impair one’s parenting skills.

It stands to reason that you need to be confident and assured of your parenting style in order to be effective and give your child the care that they deserve. An over-stressed parent who is constantly chasing unattainable ideals will only come up lacking.

Top 10 tips for practical parenting

Rather than perfect parenting, try your hand at good parenting, which focuses on the logic and love approach. Here are some simple tips to practising practical parenting:

1.Consider the bigger picture

Set yourself realistic goals and refrain from comparing yourself to other parents, especially those who you perceive to be better than you. Be critically discerning of glamourised media representations of parenting – they’re often not as truthful as they’re made out to be.

2. Be loving

You can never be too generous with affection for your child. Create an atmosphere of acceptance and empathy. Not only will this encourage your child to be kind and caring, but it will also make them feel cherished and valued.

3. Be involved

While it’s not always possible to attend every sports’ match or school play, it is important to involved in your child’s life and to be cognisant of their physical, educational, emotional and social development. Prioritise up-to-date information about your child’s schoolwork or who their friends are, rather than rushing from one corner of the globe to another in order to attend every function.

4. Adapt

Make sure you facilitate your child’s organic development by applying age appropriate parenting techniques. You can’t apply the same standards and expectations to your six year old that you would to a three year old.

5. Establish rules and stick to them

Provide your child with behavioural guidelines that includes limits and boundaries. Not only will this make parenting more manageable, but it will also afford your child an understanding of expectations and acceptable social behaviour. Make sure that you instil good manners, respect for others and honesty. Your teachings will shape their thinking and decision-making, so ensure that you are equipping your child with all the resources necessary to function as a successful adult.

6. Motivate for independence

They can’t be your baby forever so encourage independence by allowing them to exercise their own opinion, within reason, so they can develop their personality and the confidence needed to trust their decisions and capabilities.

7. Avoid harsh punishment

It’s all too common to lose your temper with a child for an unintentional blunder or a bit of rebellious naughtiness. But try to ensure that discipline is reasonable and relative to their actions / behaviour. Negative punishment is more likely to create bitterness and you could run the risk of alienating your child.

8. Offer explanations

It may seem elementary to you, but remember that you have a lifetime’s worth of experiences and thus better judgement than your child. Wherever possible, make the time to explain your decisions to your child so they can develop a solid understanding of different concepts and situations.

9. Get support

Parenting is a full-time and, at times, exhausting job so it’s perfectly acceptable to ask for help if and when you need it. Whether it’s the emotional support gleaned from a parents’ group or functional support in the form of a lift club, there’s no disgrace in getting the relevant assistance you need to make your job easier and more efficient.

10. Practise consistency

Be reliable and consistent with your child’s daily routine like dinner time or the drive to school as this not only fosters a sense of stability and trust within a child but will also help you manage your time better.

Ultimately, you are entitled to your own unique, parenting style provided that it benefits the child and meets all their developmental requirements. Spend less time worrying about your perceived inadequacies and more time investing in your child’s wellbeing.

Wellbeing is an important aspect to good mental and physical health; and Topmed encourages parents to concentrate on practising good parenting skills. Get in touch with us today to make sure that you have medical aid for your whole family.

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