The 7 Ps of Parenting
Raising Emotionally Healthy Children
I always try to make things easy to remember, hence packaging my parenting tips as the ‘Seven Ps of Parenting’.
The first P is one that you’re unlikely to find in any parenting handbook, yet one that I find crucial to effective parenting; and that is PUT YOURSELF FIRST. It sounds counter-intuitive because as parents we are meant to be selfless and self-sacrificing. The truth is, if you are not physically and emotionally healthy, then you are not able to be as effective in your parenting. Putting everyone else before you and trying to juggle several responsibilities can lead to lifestyle diseases and burnout. And think about it for a moment – if you had to be lying in a hospital bed, how would those who depend on you cope? The most effective parent is a calm parent, so you need to care for yourself enough to ensure that you can be calm.
The second P is PARTNERSHIP. We’ve all heard the saying ‘It takes a village to raise a child’, and ideally it does. However, we’re all not lucky enough to have an entire village backing us up. In many cases most parents are not even together which complicates the partnership. The best interests of the child should always take precedence over everything else. Parents need to partner on and agree on rules, discipline and boundaries. If, for example, a child asks for the latest iPhone which is releasing soon and mum says that the child needs to get good results at the end of the year first, dad should not go against this and buy it as soon as it releases to be the good parent. Children can become manipulative over time when they know that parents are not consistent. They need to know that regardless of which parent they ask for something, the answer will always be the same. Parents need to set appropriate boundaries and maintain them by not breaking rules, for example, except in exceptional circumstances. It’s also important to partner with other roleplayers in your children’s lives – such as the school, psychologists, etc. If there are complaints from school, before seeing them as the enemy, think about how you can work together in the best interests of the child. Many parents bring their children to therapy expecting us to fix the problem, though many are not prepared to play their own part. E.g. a parent pay bring a child to therapy for substance abuse, but still give the child unreasonable amounts of pocket money that is fuelling the problem – just because they want to be the ‘good parent’. But if you form partnerships with all roleplayers, then you have a whole team working for the best interests of your child and there are no perceived enemies to expend your energy on fighting.
The third P is PRACTICE WHAT YOU PREACH. Children do as you do, not as you say. Parents need to be very mindful of their words and behaviour as children learn from this. Something as innocent as a mum commenting on her weight or another aspect of her appearance can unintentionally instil in a child that physical appearance in important and to be valued. Sometimes parents return from work, and may comment what a rough day it’s been while pouring themselves a drink. If children then learn to associate alcohol with managing stress, they learn unhealthy coping mechanisms. By all means, have a drink socially at times, but don’t associate it with managing stress. You need to be the adult that you want your child to grow up to be. Model the qualities that you want to see in children. Don’t complain to your partner about a friend and continue being friends with them, as you will then not be effective in helping your child choose good friends.
The fourth P is PROTECT, BUT DON’T OVERPROTECT. It’s a parent’s most important duty to protect their children and ensure the physical and emotionally safety of children. What we shouldn’t do is overprotect them in ways that will disadvantage them in the long run. E.g. always give constructive criticism. Do not tell your child they’re the best at something if it’s not true. But what you can do is praise them on their passion and dedication in wanting to excel in that field and them find ways to help them excel. I knew a parent who didn’t want her children to experience sadness, so every time their hamster died, she quickly replaced it with a new one so they didn’t have to grieve. No parent wants to see his or her child sad, but sadness is part of life, it’s a natural emotion that we need to process. Allow them to feel negative emotions, while providing comfort and being there for them. Children should not e shielded from everyday realities, as long as sufficient guidance is provided. Children should do chores at home because they need to learn that every member of a household needs to contribute somehow. And no, they do not need to be rewarded for chores, because every time you ask for something extra, they will attach a price tag to it.
The fifth P is PREDICTABILITY. Sure, life shouldn’t be boring and repetitive, but predictability and routine in the major part of the week can contribute to calmness and stability at home. Family members will know what’s expected when routine is set. E.g. times for waking up, breakfast, leaving for school, who does what chores, etc. There is less chaos, as everyone knows what’s expected. Predictability is also important because if something is wrong, it’s easier to pick up. E.g. if your child always has breakfast but suddenly stops, then it gives you a chance to explore what’s wrong. Or if mum is usually up first and has breakfast ready, children will know that something is wrong if this doesn’t happen one morning.
The sixth P is a crucial one for parents and children – PATIENCE. As parents, we need to be patient with our children. Each child is unique and we need to understand them. Patience is difficult for parents at times. Sometimes a child may take longer with homework and a parent may become impatient because they still have a lot to take care of, so they just complete the homework for the child. The child then learns nothing and may struggle in the exam. When a project seems too huge, parents often do it themselves or hire professionals to. The reality is that when a child writes exams or when they are in the workplace, no one else can do their work! We also should refrain from using technology as babysitters because we start to feed a bad habit.
Patience is also an essential quality to imbibe in children. We cannot really blame children who grew up in a world where technology dominates, but we have to teach the virtue of patience in a world of instant gratification. Today everything is on demand – television, movies, live streams of concerts in other countries, instant messaging, etc. You can even meet potential life partner just by swiping right (or is it left?). However the meaningful things in life take time. We need to teach children to work for what they really value. This way, they will treasure the reward as they had to work for it. Children will not be appreciative if everything is given to them on demand. There’s only a certain limit to fulfilling all your children’s dreams, but what happens when they cannot get the job they want or the person they fall in love with doesn’t love them back? So allow children to experience disappointment while being there for them and teach them the value of working towards their goals.
The last P is PRIORITISE. In a life with so many responsibilities to juggle, it’s important to prioritise .What are your priorities as a parent? Quality time should hopefully top that list. And I mean UNDISTRACTED quality time with no technology. Prioritise the values you want to teach your child and place emphasis on values and qualities as opposed to physical appearance and achievement. E.g. being kind is more important than being pretty.
Parenting is a tough job – perhaps the toughest in the world, and because no one is ever going to pay you for this job, the truest reward comes from raising happy, healthy children.
What's in Your Bag?
During a recent trip to Europe I experienced the most excruciating pain that I've ever known. My face may not have shown it - but it was the type of pain that keeps one up at night, pacing about because no medication or treatment helped. But I've gotten to a stage in my life where instead of moping about difficulties, I try to find meaning. Whether I found it, or created it, it inspired this article - because one of the major contributing factors to my pain was my HANDBAG - my constant companion, which has over time become an extension of myself. I'm like a modern day Mary Poppins...my bag has everything i might need on any given day. Most women carry handbags constantly. They don't appear to cause an obvious problem, but carry them for long periods of time (like I did while travelling) and they become a burden or in my case, a contributor to really excrucuating pain.
So this got me thinking about another type of handbag we carry; i.e. emotional handbags. Perhaps even a much bigger burden than the physical ones, they weigh us down & can cause significant stress.
So what are these things that we need to offload from our emotional handbags?
1. The first is toxic people. We all have them around us, sometimes family and sometimes disguised as friends. Notice how you feel after a conversation with someone - if you are constantly more drained than energized, it may be time to keep a distance. We can't always avoid them completely, but we can set our own boundaries so they are not able to affect us. We often give a lot more attention to such people than they deserve. If you think about it, you may realise that we spend a lot of time thinking and talking about people who upset us the most. Sometimes instead of having a relaxing dinner, we spend the evening talking about how this person has upset us. Giving toxic people so much of our time and energy is akin to putting them on a throne and worshipping them.
We also often have 'gaslighters' in our lives. These are people who strategically make us unhappy by getting us to doubt ourselves. Notice those that are not happy for your success & achievements. I lost weight a few months ago, with a lot of effort. The real friends are the ones who said 'wow Rakhi, you are looking amazing'. The gaslighters are ones who commented, 'you've lost weight - 'have you been stressed? Are you ok?' They are the ones who, when you achieve something amazing say 'well I chose to put my kids first'. Instead of sharing your joy, the they make it about themselves. Those that are not truly happy about themselves, find it difficult to share in others successes & intentionally or not, make it about themselves. Notice who they are and create healthy boundaries.
2. Then we have the notorious FOMO. Working with both adults and teenagers, I can confidently say that FOMO seems to affect more adults than teenagers. We don't always have to do what everyone is doing or have what everyone has. The more confident we are in ourselves and in our own likes and dislikes, the smaller the need we will be to keep up. The pressure to keep up with every event, every place to be, every new beauty product, every new fashion trend, etc. can be exhausting. I discovered a new concept recently...I wish I could take credit for it, but it's it's not actually mine. The concept is JOMO - the joy of missing out. And I love it! You should be able to find joy in looking at Facebook and being happy for what a fabulous time your friends had at a party on Saturday night, without feeling that you missed out...but rather being glad that they had fun, while you were home in your pjs, eating pizza and playing board games. Because we're individuals it makes no sense to find joy in the same place as everyone else. Joy is something unique. I love using the fable of the musk deer to illustrate our search for joy. Musk forms in the navel of the deer, and, being fascinated with the scent, the deer run around like crazy searching for the source of the scent, not knowing where it comes from. And human beings are the same when it comes to joy and happiness - seeking it in relationships, material possessions, fame, etc., when it really is something that comes from within.
If anything upsets your peace, you don't have to do it to just to please others. Be proud of your uniqueness and be comfortable to be yourself...even if it's not trendy.
3. The third thing we need to offload is the need to be liked and please others. You can say NO and be a good person - it's necessary for your sanity. Women are often raised to put everyone first - children, spouses, parents, friends, etc - eventually this can burn you out, you can become resentful and an unhappy person. Your happiness lies in putting yourself first - it's not selfish, but necessary. Make the time to do the things you love - no matter how little. Once you feel fulfilled as an individual, the benefits include being a happier wife & mother and more productive in your work. Mind you, toxic people will still convince you that you're selfish. Those are the ones you keep at arms length.
So what should we carry in our emotional handbags?
Certainly nothing too heavy.
1. The key to your own happiness. Your joy is such a precious thing...why entrust it to someone who won't value it as you do?
2. Your ID card - knowing who you are and what sets you apart from others - and owning that! What you do, how you dress, what you spend your money on is for your happiness -not others.
3. The intention to spread kindness. Women have it hard in life...so let's pledge to support other women, celebrate their successes and be there for them in times of need.