Parents can feel pressured to be perfect and to raise perfect children, yet confused with all the different views about good parenting. Ideas and suggestions come from everywhere – our own parents, parenting experts, health professionals, media, the internet, or from our religion or culture. How do we decide what is best for our own children and family situation?
On behalf of Parenting SA, Jodie Benveniste, Adelaide psychologist, parenting author and Director of Intuitive Parenting, helps parents understand the ideas that underpin their parenting. She highlights the importance of making choices that suit a child’s development and provides tips on how to identify the parenting values that feel right for you and your family.
The Parenting SA website also has a broad range of parent easy guides for parents of children aged 0 to 18 years.
Hello, I am Jodie Benveniste, psychologist and parenting author and I help parents get to the true heart of parenting. In this video we are going to talk about where do you get your parenting ideas from?
In the video on “parenting styles and what works best for children” we talked about the supportive parenting style that really is the one that benefits children. It’s about being warm and loving, but also providing boundaries and guiding their behaviour. But in that broad framework of the supportive parenting style, we still have to make lots of choices as parents. The question is, ‘How do you make choices that are the best for you and your family?’
We face many challenges as parents. You might be facing sleep issues, or fussy eating, or discipline problems. There is lots of conflicting and confusing information out there and it can be very overwhelming. It can be very difficult to know what to do. There can be family and friends who have got opinions, there are experts that have their own areas of expertise, and there is also so much information online. It can be really confusing and conflicting.
Parents tend to trust information and advice from family and friends but sometimes that advice can be outdated. And sometimes it’s based on opinion rather than real evidence. Experts can provide information but sometimes this can be inconsistent across experts because it’s based on their area of expertise. Information online is very accessible, it’s at your fingertips. But it’s not always credible, it’s not always reliable, and it’s not always relevant to your family.
There are two ways or two aspects that really help you to make good choices for your family. That is to have a good understanding of your child’s development, and also to understand your family values. When we have a good understanding of child development we can have the right expectations about our children’s behaviour. It also helps us to judge whether the information we received and the advice is actually right developmentally for our child.
Take language development for example. A baby begins their language development with crying, then they go onto babbling, them they speak words, and then they string sentences together. As a parent we can’t expect a toddler to be able to communicate as effectively as a school-aged child.
When it comes to fine motor and physical development, children develop too as they age. We could not expect a baby to dress themselves but we would expect our pre-schooler to do that. There is actually a lot of great reliable information on child development. You might like to check out some of those links, including the child and youth health website, Parenting SA and their parenting easy guides, and also the raising children network website.
When we are making choices for our family it is really helpful to have an understanding of our family values. Values are our deepest desires about the person we want to be, the kids we want to raise, and the life we would like to live. We all have family values even if we are not consciously aware of them. When we are aware of our values we can use them as the backbone of our parenting. They can provide a very firm foundation and give you the reasons why we do certain things with our children. You might value kindness in your family, or patience, or creativity, or fun. Or safety; so that is why there is no hitting or yelling in your home. If we value wellbeing then that is why we go to the effort of cooking healthy foods for our children, and we don’t let our children eat a lot of junk food, even if they want to.
If we value responsibility, that is when we expect our children to help around the house, do some chores, tidy their room, because that is what we do in our family. If we value creativity, that’s why we limit screen time because we know that children who do not spend too much time on screens are much more creative and much more imaginative.
When we know our values we can also check ourselves against them. If we find ourselves yelling at our child we can say “Does this really fit with my values, and is that really how I want to behave as a parent?” Our values can come from our upbringing, our background, our culture. Our values can also come from social messages about what is a good parent, what is a good Mum, what is a good Dad. But we can also actively choose what values are important to us, and we can also have a conversation with our partner about what values are important to them. We don’t necessarily have to agree and have exactly the same values because our children can learn different things from different parents. But it does help to have that conversation and to have that shared understanding.
You can identify your values in a number of ways. You can think about yourself at your best, your best as a parent. What values are you showing? Are you being loving, are you being kind, are you being fun? That can help you decide what values are really important to you. You can think about your legacy and how you want to be remembered. What kind of a Mum or Dad you want to be remembered as? You can also think of your children as adults and what values you would love to see them having when they are older. You can also search online. There are plenty of lists of values and you could actually go through the list and choose the ones that really resonate with you, that make you feel good about yourself and your family.
Raising children is a learning experience. We don’t have all the experience and knowledge we need when we first become parents. We really do learn as we go. We face many challenges as parents and it can be difficult to know where we can find good reliable information. We can ask family and friends, we can get professional help, we can search online. There is certainly lots of information, but at the end of the day we need to bring it back to our family and we need to filter all of the information. It does really help if we have a good understanding of our child’s development and where they are at developmentally. And when we understand our family values we can really make the right decision for our self and our family.