Advising on parenting is now a common practice.
Every week, a new trend is emerging as to how best to help your children grow up.
In the midst of all these recipes on how to be “good parents”, you can easily risk becoming confused and frustrated.
To orient ourselves in this ocean, we asked two psychologists who are experts in parent-child relationships to share with us the most common myths about parenthood today.
Here they are:
Myth #1: If your children are not happy, there is something to worry about
In our culture, there is a strong emphasis on happiness. So, if children are not happy always or in certain situations, parents begin to worry.
“In fact,” says Dr. Jessica Michaelson, clinical psychologist and founder of honestparenthood.com, which deals specifically with the very first parent-child relationship, “it is normal and healthy for children to experience ‘ups and downs’ from an emotional point of view, so both positive emotions like joy, and negative ones like sadness or anger. A life in which you experience a range of emotions is much richer and more real than a monochromatic “happy life”
Obviously, continuous and persistent unhappiness can be a wake-up call for a problematic situation. It may be a sign that your child may be dealing with depressive symptomatology, although this condition is very rare in childhood. Some children with depression may cry frequently, have low energy and sleep disturbance. Others may be irritable, agitated and hostile. In such cases it is advisable to consult your doctor or ask for help from a therapist.
Myth #2: Parents should never say no to their children
According to Dr. Heather Wittenberg, an American clinical psychologist, this is the current trend.
“Older generations of parents were severe, also due to the most difficult historical period, and led their children to feel overly criticized. Explains Dr. K. K., “I’m not a doctor, I’m a doctor, I’m a doctor. “Today, the situation seems to have turned upside down: now it is believed that saying no to children is too hard, difficult and potentially harmful.
Instead, setting rules and limits for our children has a fundamental psychological value: it teaches children skills and, above all, helps them to feel safe.
“Saying no is therefore something constructive and not harmful, with the condition that it is said in a non-aggressive and hostile tone. Often, the context of communication is much more important than the content.
According to Dr. Wittenberg, other examples of useful limits include:
– not to recharge the mobile phone before a set time if our guys have exceeded the expected minutes
– to keep our children away from a party or situation where they are having inappropriate behaviour or making whims until they are able to calm down and express their frustrations in words (time-out technique).
Myth 3: Being good parents is knowing the right strategies.
“The idea of being able to reduce parenting to a set of specific strategies and processes is very appealing, but unfortunately it is not possible to do so,” explains Dr Michaelson.
In fact, these are not particular strategies but a more comprehensive “parenting mentality”, which has to do with the way in which the parental couple thinks, feels and interacts with the world.
Recent research has shown that the mother’s style of attachment during pregnancy – that is, her ability to feel confident about others, her expectations of relationships and her way of relating to her emotions – predicted the attachment style of the child at 12 months of age. This means being able to predict how safe the child will be based on how safe the mother is even before she is born.
It is all a matter of mentality: safe parents will tend to raise safe children; parents with healthy relationships will tend to raise children with healthy relationships; parents who believe that effort leads to positive results and who support perseverance after failure will tend to raise resilient and optimistic children. On the contrary, parents who expect the worst will tend to raise children who are on their guard against the world and encourage their concerns and insecurity. As they tend to avoid challenges, these parents will dissuade their children from taking risks so as not to fail.
Dr. Michaelson in her clinical practice works very hard with parents.
She works both with those who are afraid to do what they think is right because they have heard somewhere that it is a harmful practice, and with those who implement educational strategies that do not work in their specific case.
Let’s take the example of time-out. Some believe that it is a harmful practice because it induces feelings of abandonment and shame in children. Others think it is actually a very functional practice if used in the right ways and in the right cases. Many parents are able to use this tool respectfully and lovingly, and many children feel content and supported by this kind of concert limit and pause in stimulation. On the contrary, there are parents and children who do not benefit from it at all and who have therefore stopped using it”.
So, according to Dr. K., the best approach for parents is to discover their parental instincts and combine them with what works best with that particular child, different from all others and unique. Parenting is therefore not knowing the right strategies in absolute, but finding those useful and in tune with the needs of your child (…). “Manual’ prescriptions are not to be used if your child’s behaviour, words, emotions are indicating that something else is necessary”.
Myth 4: Good parents must always put the needs of their children before their own.
“Raising a child can be a very demanding and exhausting activity, and our culture promotes an obsessive lifestyle when it comes to childcare,” explains Dr Michaelson. “This leads many parents to completely ignore their personal needs.
In fact, it is vitally important that parents “wear the oxygen mask first”, to take inspiration from the emergency rules that it is good practice to follow for example on an airplane. This, not for little consideration of the children of course, but for two other fundamental reasons. First of all, this helps parents to stay healthy, it also informs children that parents are at the top of the family system, and they are there so that they can protect the little ones from the dangers.
By realising that they are placed within a system that must be intact and functional to ensure protection, children develop a very important safety basis. (…)
Myth 5: Your marriage will survive even though you have decidedly neglected it during the growth of your children
Because raising a child is a worn-out profession, many parents end up neglecting their marriages.
“The early years of parenthood can alienate partners from each other and many couples do not survive this mutual negligence,” explains Dr. Michaelson.
For example, couples can only communicate when they are in conflict, engage in individual activities, and not spend time together without their children. Marriage thus becomes “one-dimensional”, that is, focused only on being parents, without friendship or intimacy.
“Since our children learn to have relationships by looking at the way we do it, it follows that one of the most important things we can do for them is nurture and cultivate the connection with our partner,” said Dr. Michaelson.
Dr. Michaelson suggests doing this by often thanking her partner, congratulating him and maintaining proper body contact: “This allows both members of the couple to find strength and comfort in each other during their difficult daily engagement as parents.
She also suggests having fun without the children: choose fun activities and take the time to do them together.
Nowadays, the network is full of articles that give advice on how to become “good parents”.
In fact, defining what it means to do well as a parent is something very complex.
A preliminary and very useful step, in my opinion, is rather to begin to focus on 5 very common myths about parenting, which must be dispelled.