By Bea Ledyard, MS
When I am sitting with parents in my office discussing their child I always make a point to tell them that they are good parents. Why do I think that? Because they have paid attention to their child – been concerned about something – want to make it better – and have taken action by being here with me. However usually they are surprised to hear me say this and I understand why. All of us parents have an inner voice that can be very loud, harsh and shaming which I call the Parental Inner Critic (PIC). This critical part of ourselves will tell us:
“If you were a good parent this…
• tantrum in the middle of Safeway
• bad behavior at Grandma’s house
• poor school report with notes about biting
• whiny, stubborn, oppositional, yelling child… would not be happening!!”
The other option, or course, is that you have a bad (or very bad) kid. And I already know that is not true. These two points of view often go hand-in-hand. “Either I am a bad parent or you are a bad kid”. The very first thing I can do to help everyone is to make very clear that thinking like this is part of the problem. And so I say: “Stop PIC-ing on yourself”. These critical thoughts come from false expectations about how good parenting really works. Also from not understanding how children really learn and develop. Noone knows the right way to parent all the time.
Most important is for a parent to stay self-connected, self-forgiving and self-soothing. Then you can stay connected to your child in a warm and helpful way no matter what. And that is the best that a parent can do – maybe not in the heat of a particular moment or all the time – but often enough. Then both you and your child will know that despite whatever horrible, terrible, very bad thing has happened – it can get better. That is good parenting.
So, all you good parents…
• Notice what you are doing that is already working.
• Appreciate yourself every time you realize you don’t know what to do but are curious to figure it out.
• Tell someone anytime you discover something new that worked or even if it didn’t work this time, tell them you tried something new.
For more parenting tips you might want to read the book No-Drama Discipline by Daniel Siegel, M.D. And Tina Payne Bryson, Ph.D. Also you can contact Bea Ledyard to schedule a parent consultation or to join my Parent Support Group.