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ParentWise: Is Your “Village” Serving You?

  • Bonnie Harris Staff photo by Ben Conant

ParentWise
Published: 1/10/2020 10:47:25 AM
Modified: 1/10/2020 10:46:46 AM

If it takes a village to raise a child, that village must support its parents with kindness, understanding, and support. It must help its parents do what all parents do – the very best they can while performing the most important and hardest job on the planet. Can we not keep our criticisms on hold with the understanding that not one of us can throw stones, not one of us knows what that parent is dealing with, not one of us can tell what that parent’s child needs. We can only know what each of us and each of our children need. It’s always support. It’s never criticism.

Can we not hold respect for what each parent we see may be facing whether it be a very strong-willed child, a load too hard for a single parent, a financial setback, a background of dysfunction or abuse, a mental illness, a loss, or simply a very stressful day that has overloaded their agenda. No parent, no matter what, deserves criticism or rebuke because they might not be doing what you think is best. Help and support is always needed, but when has anyone, child or adult, done better after they are made to feel worse?

Every parent needs the support of their own village – family, schools, neighbors, community services – to bring up all our children. But what the past decade has brought is a climate fraught with guilt and pressure due to judgments, fears, and unsolicited advice generated by social media on top of what was already there. Parenting has always been a mixture of frustration, worry, and joy no matter the trends of the day. But the internet has put more pressure on parents than ever before – along with that blue-light sleep impediment.

Jessica Grose says in her NY Times article, “The Decade Parents Couldn’t Win”, ‘But now, even if you don’t go to any parenting-specific sites or explicitly follow them on social media, you will be bombarded with other people’s firmly held-beliefs about how to raise children. Someone from high school is so into baby-wearing she thinks parents who don’t do it are harming their children irrevocably (and posts very long Instagram captions detailing these views); a celebrity you once enjoyed for her messy relationship drama is now extolling the virtues of organic children’s foods and plying you with recipes; someone you don’t know and don’t remember following started his 2-year-old on the violin and is constantly posting videos of his lil’ genius. In your heart you know that these folks have their own private struggles and it’s never easy for anyone – but empathy is tough to summon when you feel attacked.’

This in-your-face child-rearing dished out over social media is tough for even the most confident parent to shield against. So what can be done? You can’t ignore the internet. You can’t stop all those do-gooders from telling you what you think you should do. You can only work on yourself and the thickness of your shield.

I don’t like “New Year’s Resolutions” but I am suggesting a challenge to yourself. The most important quality anyone can have, in my opinion, is confidence. Not the bragging coverup of insecurity, but the quiet confidence of feeling good about yourself and comfortable in your world. It is that confidence, I have learned, that is at the root of parenting that leads to confident children no matter what their abilities. I suggest spending a little time with yourself and asking what you need to gain that confidence. And then finding the help to get you there – help that may be right in your village.

Too many parents live with guilt, worry, anger, and feelings of failure that plague sleepless nights – parents who are more vulnerable to pressure from the internet as well as their village. Many search the internet for answers. But those answers don’t satisfy individual needs. Instead they can feed those feelings of failure. It doesn’t have to be this way. But it usually remains because it’s so much easier to simply stay the course and go with the familiar.

I am challenging you to make a difference for your family with a change in perspective. A fresh mindset for 2020. Sounds simple, but perspective can have deep roots into the past. But it’s never too late.

With a shift in perspective, with renewed confidence in yourself, you can turn off your vulnerability to outside pressures, both real and assumed. Use the internet to help you, not hurt you. Find what you want from it and shield yourself from the rest. Have the courage to tell your village that you need their support not their disapproval and blame. When you come from what you need rather than what others must stop doing, you feel stronger and are more likely to get what you ask for.

At the risk of this sounding like an advertisement, there is parenting help here in Peterborough at The River Center and in Antrim at The Grapevine. We offer groups for parents of all aged children at minimal cost for not only instruction and help but support and camaraderie. There is nothing more comforting for a parent than to hear first-hand that you are not the only one dealing with what you fear you alone experience. Make this new year one in which you take on those little demons lurking in your mind telling you you’re not good enough, you don’t know enough, you can’t hack it. Our groups can be your new village until you’re ready to take on your larger village.

Bonnie Harris, MS Ed, director of Connective Parenting, is a child behavior and parenting specialist. Her two books are When Your Kids Push Your Buttons and Confident Parents, Remarkable Kids: 8 Principles for Raising Kids You’ll Love to Live (Toadstool and Amazon). Bonnie offers individual parent counseling, parenting workshops, professional trainings and speaking engagements internationally. Bonnie founded The Parent Guidance Center, now The River Center, in Peterborough where she teaches. To set up an in-person or online coaching session, email her at bh@bonnieharris.com. You can sign up for her email newsletter on her website bonnieharris.com.




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