Dear Parents: Your Approach to Parenting Might Just Suck

Your mindset, words and actions become your kids’ reality; choose them wisely

Photo by Zdeněk Macháček on Unsplash

The above quote was uttered by my late, great mom more than 30 years ago. To my perception that pretty much sums up her attitude on parenting. I can’t help but wonder if many others don’t also share with her that very same attitude toward raising kids, given all the ‘wounded souls ’ who are wandering around out there nowadays.

In all fairness, this attitude wasn’t formed in a vacuum; she was raised by parents who were bathed in the scripture whatever strict religious dogma in which they were raised. As such it is with this teaching, everything in life — parenthood being one of them, I’m sure — was a chore, a duty, something to endure because it was “God’s work and we must do it (like it, or not).”

In my grandparents’ generation, the babies pretty much came when they did; families of ten or more children were not uncommon. So, their kids showed up on the scene and it was their parents’ solemn duty to raise them (a lot of the time, for help on the farm) to adulthood. At 18 it was “out the door!” at which time many usually got married at this time, because that was life then.

Luckily life isn’t like that now, and people (thankfully, at least at the time I write this) are able to choose their family size. Unfortunately, that attitude I mentioned that I believe many of our elders had — that children were a duty and to some (I’m pretty sure) were also a burden but their grudging attitude was summed up as “sigh… I have the kids, I gotta raise them, grumble grumble grumble.”

That attitude still exists in some (many??) people, and sadly it gets passed down through the generations. Parents come into the whole parenting thing with ideas about how it should be, how it should progress and so on. Their parenting ideas and practices were learned from their parents and/or other influential adults in their lives. Some people are great parents, striking a good balance between teaching/correcting and appropriate discipline; others are over-controlling, some are a bit neglectful, others are highly incompetent for the job (and probably should seriously not do it).

No matter which category they fall into, the parents’ attitudes, words and actions are going to affect their kids and who they eventually become. Those from all of the categories above might just turn out fabulous kids who are wonderful, productive members of society and competent enough to tackle life on their own away from mom and dad. Sadly, some parents apparently aren’t quite hitting the mark on that goal any more, but there are some who are, so maybe it’ll balance out. Maybe.

However, I believe the latter ones with the overly strict attitudes (as my parents had) or the neglectful ones are likely to turn out kids who have lifelong issues with self esteem, possible scrapes with the law, and quite possibly mental health issues (chief among them depression and/or anxiety) and hence lead to them having relationship and/or parenting problems themselves. I said “likely”, not always, turn out like this, by the way. I’m not placing ALL the blame for “bad kids” on their parents.

I do realize there are people around who regard their kids as (pick one) gifts from God/the Universe, precious little bundles of joy, a Divine happy accident of Nature, and all that happy stuff. Hopefully their joy and happiness at having children continues along their childraising journey, and here’s wishing their kids ALWAYS feel loved and valued as humans. We should all strive for that. It’s not impossible, folks. Trust me.

People can break the cycle of negative programming/poor parenting attitudes if they recognize the pattern. Since I’m a pretty observant (and highly sensitive) person I knew a long time ago the attitudes I was being raised with. When my only offspring arrived in my life just over 25 years ago, once I decided to raise him I determined I would be more loving, supportive and have a better attitude about parenting him, expecting that he make good decisions and do the right things… and hopefully he wouldn’t grow up all neurotic and ridden with anxiety, etc.

Unfortunately, his father and his family were of the “children are a duty” strict Old School way of childraising. They were more about correcting so-called “bad” behavior and not about praising good/positive behavior. They also were very controlling about the most stupid trivial things. My son commented more than once on the differences that existed in our home (consisting of him and me) and the home of his father and his wife and their family at large.

I hoped with all my hope that my positive parenting would overcome their over-controlling-ness, and perhaps it did to some small extent. He has, in sprite of his upbringing (or…. maybe because of it???), managed to become a pretty competent adult getting a good start in life. I continue being his biggest cheerleader and he, in turn, is mine.

As my mom said once, “Some kids have every advantage in life and turn out to be totally rotten human beings (think of some of the rich and famous people we know, the celebrities, the current U.S. president, for examples….). Some kids have it really hard growing up with a lot of adversity (like serious poverty, abuse/neglect, alcoholism/drug dependent parents, etc.) and turn out to be great adults.” I concede she did indeed have a point there, even if I didn’t agree with a lot of what she said.

There are rewards in parenthood. Yes it is hard work though it isn’t all drudgery, super-stressful and generally unhappy. You don’t need to go around with the attitude that your kids are going to go “bad” if you let up your guard for one second. If kids sense that their parents are just waiting for them to “screw up,” well, they just might go ahead and fulfill their parents’ expectations. I know I did. This super-critical, judgmental, strict, and NEGATIVE attitude can backfire, sometimes in tragic ways. Word up, folks.

As a young Boomer raised in the Old School (no, it wasn’t ALL bad), I agree with many of the lessons that we were raised with. Though I am admittedly not a perfect parent (nor do I know it all) I would love to share with others my attitudes about parenting, as I’ve laid out here: approach it with joy.

No it’s not always easy. Never was and never will be. Parenting has always been a challenge, even “back in the day” when my generation was raised as “free range kids” (before cell phones, the internet, and cameras being literally everywhere). Nowadays parents have things like cyber stalkers to worry about and some are actually tracking their kids using apps. What ever happened to just simply asking them where they are going/who they are with???

As such, I strongly advocate that at least some of those old-fashioned life lessons — those which taught us to be strong, self-reliant, trusting ourselves to do the right thing, to be capable, competent adults who can handle “adulting” fairly well (even if we don’t feel like it some days) — be integrated into current parenting practices. That is, which include healthy doses of positive reinforcement, disciplining with love , teaching right from wrong ,giving praise… along with lessons about how we are all one in this world and should try to live harmoniously in our global community.

While it may not be easy to parent, it doesn’t have to be hard all time. So anyone who finds they just might have a poor attitude toward parenting, please try to lighten up. Seek help from a counselor (individual or family) if possible. Speak to trusted friends and/or family, if applicable. Parenting can be a pain in the ass, a burden, “terrible” … or it can be a fun, awesome learning experience (with many cool adventures!) for both you and your kids. You can largely choose, through your attitudes and mindsets, how it’s going to be. Pass it on!!

Experienced professional writer/freelancer and former newspaper reporter-turned-online writer/blogger. Thinker. “Old soul”, young hippie, empath.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store