Ask Yourself: What Kind of Parent Am I?
The parent you have become can be described by answering the following three questions.
QUESTION ONE: WHO ARE MY PARENTING ROLE MODELS?
We often ask children who are their role models, who are the people they look up to that gives them the inspiration to be unique, to succeed, and to fulfill their dreams. Children’s responses vary from teachers and firemen, pop stars and athletes to doctors and astronauts. Sometimes parents may even be the role models of their children’s dreams! But who are the role models to parents?
Television has provided us with role models from Ozzie and Harriet to the Osbourne’s. The silver screen has produced movies that depict parenting styles from “The Parent Trap” to “Ordinary People” and “The Birdcage.” The public persona of parenting is represented by soccer moms, absentee dads, single parents, and stay at home moms or dads. The popular culture’s view of parenthood is either saccharine sweet or replete with negative connotations. There is no blueprint or instruction manual on becoming a parent.
Ask yourself: Who are the parents you consider parenting role models? What are the qualities of these parents that you want to emulate? Create a list of at least three parents you identify as parent role models.
QUESTION TWO: HOW DO YOUR MEMORIES OF CHILDHOOD INFLUENCE YOUR DECISIONS AS A PARENT?
Our memories are powerful. What we remember from our childhood is a constant filter of how we interpret the world. We are whom we are from where we were when. Do the following comments ring a bell? “I walked 10 miles to and from school.” “I dressed up in my finest clothes before a train ride or plane flight.” “I played outside my house and in the neighborhood to all hours of the night and didn’t have to worry about being safe.” “We had only one TV in our house.” When we hear these comments and others like them, there is a clear and daunting message to the recipients that something is inherently wrong with them or, at least, the society in which they live.
Our childhood memories are also mixed with difficult memories that are kept private and not for disclosure. Nonetheless, they become constant internal motivators of how we do not want to behave as parents, or reminders of how similar our behavior is to that of our parents.
Ask yourself: What choices have I made in my parenting of my children that are predicated on the experiences I had as a child? What childhood memories fuel my behavior as a parent? Create a list of two to four childhood memories that influence your current parenting style.
QUESTION THREE: WHAT DOES YOUR BEHAVIOR AS A PARENT SAY ABOUT WHAT IS IMPORTANT TO YOU AS A PERSON?
Jean Piaget, the famed child psychologist, wrote about how children begin to understand the world. He believed the child assimilates and accommodates to the world around him/her in order to make sense of it. Piaget called the shifting between assimilation and accommodation the process of adaptation. In other words, our children adapt to the world we provide for them. Therefore, the way we live our daily lives significantly impacts our households, and more specifically, affects the psychological growth of our children.
The most valuable gift you can give your family is a good example. – Jerome Bruner
Our actions often speak louder than our words. Our behavior as parents creates an interactive backdrop from which our children grow.
Consider the following list:
- Being available vs. Being distant
- Strict rules vs. Lenient rules
- Long work hours vs. Not working
- Yelling vs. Talking
- Active social life vs. No social life
- Punctuality vs. Tardiness
- Clean house vs. Messy house
The above examples represent extremes and are not an exhaustive list. With each example, we can identify where we fall on the continuum. When we add up the behaviors we exhibit, we create a mood in the home and make an unspoken message about what we value. These behaviors are transformed into values. For example, the values of determination and perseverance in your academics or athletic pursuits may evolve out of a parent’s commitment to work as well as clear and firm rules about studying in school or practice in sports. Also, when children are taught by example to be responsible for deadlines and available during trying and difficult relationships, they may embrace the values of respect, honesty and integrity.
Ask yourself: What do my behaviors as a parent teach my children about what is important to me as a person? What values am I teaching my child? Create a list of 5-7 behaviors that help describe your parenting.
When we ask ourselves the above three questions, we begin to answer the larger question, what kind of parent am I? Taking stock of our parenting facilitates the growth process of…on becoming and being a good parent…