(letter from Emmanuelle Betham, M Ed, educator, coach and mother of three grown up children)
As a successful parent, educator and life coach, I am often asked for parenting tips. So, I’d like to start by clearly stating what I mean by parenting…
What I believe parenting is NOT:
– being your child: giving your child what you had or never had when that’s about you not them. Don’t fool yourself or anybody, be clear on the answer to this question: who am I doing this for?
– being your child’s friend: that would not be fair, from birth a child needs to rely on his/her parent – it’s a one way relationship. Unlike friendship, a parent-child relationship is not equal in that sense. You are responsible your child’s life, they are not responsible for yours. You’ve had your childhood and you rely on yourself now. Not being your child’s friend means making this very clear, from your behaviour and your words. For that reason, I would avoid using ‘buddy’ as an endearing term, I think it’s confusing.
What I believe parenting is:
Parenting is role modeling. What your child learns from you, is your BEING (more than what you say or do) that is, who you are. Who you are is the true you, being as aware as possible, and responsible for your actions. Who you are makes you do what you do, and say what you say. If you are not congruent in what are, do and say, and if these don’t match, children can tell. They will however learn most from who you are. So, it all starts with you, being clear with yourself, so you can send out clear messages.
Parenting means, first and foremost, being your child’s model. This involves showing (not just telling) your child/ren that:
a) You are RESPONSIBLE for choosing what works in life, and that this responsibility is your only freedom.
b) Your are RESILIENT and see mistakes as steps to success, because finding out what not to do is getting closer to what works, because success without challenge would not be success.
c) You are CONGRUENT. You carefully choose the values you want to live by, and practice what you preach. When you say something, you follow through, and if you change your mind, you make that clear and explain your reasoning behind it.
d) You are ACCOUNTABLE. You repair. You apologise.
e) You are LOVE. You love yourself and them, ALWAYS, even when you don’t like what you or they do/have done.
f) You are TRUE to yourself and those you love. A parent cannot pretend to be perfect (see b, c and d above about making mistakes, changing your mind, repairing and apologising). Perfection is not an aim, it does not exist, it’s paralysing.
Only when you (the parent) understand and believe such values without a trace of doubt, can you live by them, and can your child learn this from you. When you consciously choose to be all the above, then that is who you are, and what you model, and what you child copies. You can expect your child to behave like you.
I know those of us humble enough hope for more for our children. We think it futile for them to make the same mistakes we make. Good news are:
– Our PAST mistakes have made us a better person already, and that is the person they copy NOW.
– As we live and gain wisdom, we continue to EVOLVE and improve ourselves, and therefore the role model that we are for our children.
– Children welcome that change as they evolve EVEN FASTER.
– Children have MORE than one role model in their life and they will make their OWN MISTAKES.
– Children NEED to make their own mistakes to learn and grow.
– It is HUMAN NATURE to grow at any age.
Just remember, children copy what you do, much more than what you say. So, question your beliefs, (because that’s what you’ll communicate in everything you do – we live by our principles) and walk your talk! Little ones are following in your footsteps…