I learned it the hard way, the very hard way. There is no magic wand and there are no secrets to being a good parent.
Except this one: follow your instincts, not your fears.
My kids are adults now, and there are still times when fear rules. The difference is that now it takes less time to calm down and listen to my deepest instincts about what is the better decision to take.
I used to think I was a bad parent, incompetent, indecisive, inconsistent. I second-guessed myself, gave in, and gave up. Does that cover it all?
Nothing prepares you for being a parent. Nothing. I thought I knew a bit about parenting… and then I had kids. There is no substitute for the real thing. I went into it with love and good intentions but was flying by the seat of my pants, making it up along the way.
It was simpler in the early years, although exhaustion made it hard. Will they ever sleep through the night? Plastic or cloth? Pacifier or thumb or nothing? And what about those tantrums? They all seemed overwhelming at the time. Little did I know that these were the easy years.
Fast forward to the teen years. There was a lot of chaos in our family and we had no clue how to cope with it. With an off-track adolescent, we reacted mostly from fear.
Fear is the worst motivator.
Fear caused me to project way too far into the future which immobilized me. My thoughts were 10 years out instead of looking at the day I was in and what I could do in that very moment.
Fear caused me to turn to decisions that would make me feel better. (I didn’t recognize it at the time, but that’s what it really was.)
Fear made me want to control things that were not in my control. Now I ask myself:
· Whose responsibility is this?
· Do I truly know what’s best for my child right now?
· Am I doing for my child what he can do for himself?
· What other information do I need?
Deep parenting instincts include knowing what I value, what my principles are. The basics are respect, responsibility, truth, flexibility, resilience, kindness and courage. There are more, but that was a good place to start creating my vision of the qualities I wanted to see in my children as they moved through life.
These were and are the building blocks for my decision-making and the words that come out of my mouth. If what I’m about to say or do, or what I have said and done, don’t nurture this vision, then I’m probably reacting in fear. It’s time to rethink my approach and return to my values.
Now I can look back and recognize that I wasn’t a bad parent, rather a confused and frightened one. It’s disturbing to see how much fear rules our lives. There is hope, though, if we listen to our inner voice of wisdom, and find the courage to do what needs to be done. It’s not tough love, it’s just love.
There are no truly new ideas out there. Everyone has a different way of presenting their process. We’re all going for the same outcome: kids who grow into healthy, productive adults with loving relationships and satisfying lives. To stay on the path, follow your instincts, not your fears. One day your kids will thank you.
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If your family is affected by the substance abuse of a loved one, visit www.familyrecoverypartners.comfor resources and support.