As an Asian parent reading parenting books, I am often conscious of the differences culturally and practice-wise between Asians and parenting books published in the West. Thus some advice from these American authors may not agree with me. On the whole though, I agree on most points, especially with the authors’ suggestion that ‘life is not a test, it’s an experiment – so give new things a try.’
So what are the seven worst things GOOD parents do?
1. Baby your child – Optimal doses of struggle are healthy for children. People who have learned how to struggle often find life challenging and exciting. If you find yourself doing everything for your children, your kids have been ‘infantilized.’ Some examples of infantilizing given are : children who are still living at home at age 26 (something common in Asia) or 4-year-olds who can’t delay gratification.
2. Put Your Marriage Last
3. Push your child into too many activities.
4. Ignore your emotional or spiritual life.
5. Be your child’s best friend – Parents and children should have a clear, flexible, boundary between them. This means that there are certain things that parents should do with each other or with other adults, not with children. Example: Dad letting the kids choose sides by complaining about mom; sharing emotional problems with children.
6. Fail to give your child structure – Structure or chaos: it’s up to you. (I read this chapter and immediately identify the problem my two-year-old nephew is having.)
7. Expect Your Child to Fulfil your dreams – A common Asian parents’ trait.
The book has a few suggestions for eliminating inappropriate behaviour.
1. If you’re going to do it, then do it: don’t vacillate.
2. Follow through ’til the very end, and then follow through some more.
3. Do not try to reason with a child who is out of control. (The best way to deal with tantrum is to ignore the child, even if it’s in an embarrassing public situation.)
4. Whatever you do, don’t sabotage your spouse. (I thank my husband here!)
Finally, there are eleven best things parents can do:
1. If your past is in your way, clear it up. Don’t let it affect your parenting.
2. Talk to others about your parenting issues – if your are too afraid or ashamed, then force yourself to do it. (My suggestion, join the parent support group or PSG).
3. Remember that there are no perfect parents or families of children. (Phew!)
4. Your children are not there to raise you, wait on you, counsel you or be your built-in-social support.
5. Remember that one small change held in place consistently is worth a thousand big changes that lack follow through.
6. If you are too serious or rigid, learn to loosen up and also have some fun.
7. If you are too lax, tighten up.
8. Remember that when you move from the extremes into a healthy centre, it will ‘feel wrong.’
8. Examine your own values and lifestyle and be willing to make small effective changes if necessary.
9. Show leadership, not ownership.
11. Don’t be afraid to experiment.
Finally, I want to end this with a quote from the authors in order to persuade parents, new and old, to continue to learn parenting skills : ‘Discovering unique patterns, principles or truths occurs most effectively when we are willing and able to ‘see’ life from fresh perspectives….If I am operating in the victim mode, I will see life as unfair, unsafe, cruel and malevolent. If I operate more as a competent adult, I will view life as exciting, challenging, painful at times, unfair at times and basically good.‘