Dear Dr. Fournier:
I am a frustrated parent. My question is a bit of a departure from what you typically answer in that it deals with my role as a parent. Many of the recommendations and “solutions” for parents are quite frankly not options for me. I care about my children, but it is very difficult for me to be what I have seen called an “active parent.” For a mother or father who is financially stable enough to be a stay at home parent, these recommendations are relatively easy, but for me, there are not many of these options that I can routinely pick. For example, one tip I saw was to “Attend all of your children’s special functions at school.” I would love to, but I can’t.
The job of parenting is full of paradoxes: Joy and pain, fear and comfort, rewards and frustrations. So it’s natural that parents want to turn to “experts” who can give tips, literature, or handy checklists.
However, I firmly believe that there is no “one-size-fits-all” solution for parents or children. Each case is different, both in the values and rules of the home and the circumstances surrounding parental work schedules and the like.
My approach is to search out each person’s uniqueness and then use his or her strengths to create individual strategies to overcome any potential weaknesses.
When someone else offers tips about what to do as a parent, they are speaking about what they think is right. And it probably is – for them, but not necessarily for you.
For example, many tips for parents suggest setting a regular bedtime for your child. This may be a very good thing for a parent who is home by 5:00p.m. every night, prepares a family dinner, and has time to spend with the children before they go to bed. But what about parents who work late, or work alternating shifts? Adopting this parenting tip just wouldn’t make any sense.
Read these tips, and mine for that matter, with an eye to the fact that while the goal to aid you comes from a position of caring, only you can decide what will work best for you and your family.
WHAT TO DO
Parents need to trust in the fact that they have their own recipe for parenting written in their heart. The best way to make decisions is to have the courage to trust your own instincts and challenge other people’s assumptions about the “right” and “wrong” ways to parent.
Instead of adopting other people’s rules, parents need to adapt them to their own reality.
Here are two examples:
PARENTING TIP #1: Attend all of your children’s special functions at school.
ASSUMPTION: Parents can leave work whenever school has an assembly or other special program.
REALITY: Your job does not allow you to leave during the day.
I’LL ADAPT: I’ll call the teacher to get permission to send a camera so someone can shoot the video for me. That night or at the earliest convenient time, I’ll watch the program with my child, and use it as bonding time.
PARENTING TIP #2: Have your child do homework in a quiet place with good lighting, preferably at a desk in his or her room.
ASSUMPTION: All children work best in isolation and silence.
REALITY: Your child loves to hear the noises in his home. He works better when he is close to you and can ask questions or start a conversation related to his assignment.
I’LL ADAPT: I’ll let my son do homework at the kitchen table. By conversing, enjoying, and completing some tasks together (such as writing sentences with vocabulary words) we will be able to bond and build memories, while other families continue to view homework time as “separate time.”
When he has to learn content for a test, I’ll have him put it on note cards, with a question on one side and the answer on the back. That way, I can call out questions while I cook.
Each of us has a unique child who requires a unique way of being parented. The reality of our life offers us the specifics.
Throw out any preconceptions about “right” and “wrong,” and instead help yourself adapt and create a parenting strategy to fit your own reality and unique circumstances.
CONTACT DR. FOURNIER