How To Not Be A Dickhead Parent
I have been thinking about parenting. My children are now adults. Well, as close to as possible, with the youngest only 6 months away from being 18.
They're both exceptional. Funny, smart, they work hard, they're kind, they are strong and they have a strong sense of social justice. I am proud of my part in their upbringing and prouder of them managing to get over the shittiest parts of my parenting.
As I get older, I see what made a difference and what didn't, where I wasted energy and where I was right to remind them to push a little harder in their own life. This is also based on watching other kids and their families and the ones who have taken refuge in our house away from their dickhead parents. I have had several children here, so I get it.
I've had to try and reason with mothers who don't understand why their child is suicidal because of their appalling parenting. I've had to go to court for another as their advocate. I've fostered one because the parent refused to stop drinking and kick the abusive boyfriend out. I've had 2am calls from a desperate kids who have made bad choices and need an adult to help. I have done pickups from parks at 4am for drunk teenage girls, I've pulled kids from fights. Told parents off for pushing so hard their kid was on the edge, ready to jump. I've sat with a kid and told him it wasn't his fault his mum killed herself after he found her body. I have taught kids how to set boundaries with their fuck-wit parents. I have listened when my own kids tell me how I can do better.
So, here is my list for do's and don't in raising kids:
- Don't be a Tiger Parent. Don't demand they practise until they hate the thing they're learning. Just because you didn't get to learn the violin doesn't mean they want to. They will hate it and you in equal parts in the future and hold it against you. Start saving for therapy now if you continue this.
- Don't push them at school. Get them to pass and teach work ethic. My kid just passed her final year but focussed on her passions. She is now going to graduate with a double degree and is starting her Masters in what she loved since she was small.
- Don't go away on holidays for weeks on end and leave them behind. I'm not talking about a weekend away and they get spoiled while staying with beloved grandparents or rellies. I'm talking four weeks in Europe and they're stuck with a nanny. They remember. This will come up in therapy. It's called abandonment and it's gonna bite you in the bum one day, hard. Real hard. Keep adding to the therapy fund if you keep doing this too often.
- Don't lecture your kids about not drinking when you drink every night in front of them.
- Don't tell your kids to not try drugs. They will. You can't stop them. Educate them about safe choices instead.
- Tell them to have sex when they're ready when they feel really okay with it, and not before. Give them the power, and they will make the best decision for them, based on their feelings and self-knowledge.
- Teach them to laugh at themselves more than they laugh at others.
- Teach them self-awareness. Really. Stop with the selfies so much kiddo.
- Don't worry about the Grade 2 teacher. Ten years later and you won't remember their name.
- Help your kid find out what they're good at and build their interests and co-curricular activity around that.
- Ask them to try a food 10 times before they decide they hate it.
- Ask them to wait six months before they give up the instrument they are learning. If they still loathe it, then it's gone. My son said he wanted to give up guitar. We waited the 6 months and now he's studying it for his final year because he loves it so much.
- Being a kind person will get them further socially, than being smart.
- Tell them you enjoy parenting them, often and always. Don't make them feel like shit for being born. That was your decision, not theirs.
- Don't pay for them to go to a private school and then make them feel guilty about the fees. Again, that was your decision.
- Don't tell them you need "grown up time." That's a shitty thing to say. Find grown up time. You're a grown up.
- Answer every question as honestly as you can. Children remember the lies.
- Don't live through them. Let them shine on their own terms.
- Work. Especially if you're a woman. Show your children you are capable and able to earn your own money and that women contribute to the world also. If you aren't working, then tell them you used to work, and will work again and explain your time at home with them is your job, so they get that women do things and do them well.
- Spending quantity time with them is more important than quality time. No such thing. They don't remember the 'special' time. They just remember the time. The gaps of you not being there create anxiety and they turn on each other. Be present.
- Tell them you love them, even when you don't like their behaviour.
- Saying no is good when it is going to protect them from themselves.
- Don't fuck around with mental health. Remind them that there isn't a problem in the world that can't be solved and that everything passes. Today's gossip will be replaced by something else at school tomorrow. Lie in bed with them all night if you're worried. Stroke their hair, tell them stories about when they were little and how loved they are, tell them about when you were pregnant with them. Remind them they are wanted and loved and that they can and will survive what is happening.
- Ask them about pop culture and things you don't get. Find out about their lives and what is in it. Don't dismiss it because you don't get it. Learn their language, enter their world, and they will enjoy teaching you about it all.
- Laugh at yourself and often.
- Say sorry for when you are a shit parent. It matters to them. It also teaches them how to apologise to others.
- Don't tell your kids they owe you because you feed and clothe them. You're supposed to do that, you absolute idiot. You don't get respect for doing the bare minimum!
- If your kid hates you, you caused that. Sorry, but you did. Sort it out, now!
- Don't invalidate their feelings. To not have your feelings heard and recognised is a form of child abuse. If they are upset, acknowledge it first, then respond.
And that's Katie Parenting Class 101.
All of this comes from my learnings, the children who have passed through my doors looking for help for their life issues, and their home life. These are the things that stick. Thank you for reading.