What does it mean to be a parent?  Is it a purely biological need to reproduce?  More importantly, once we produce what have we taken on?  Parenting styles differ all over the globe, from one street to the next and even brothers and sisters will parent their children differently.  Here I want to look at the many roles we have as parents, almost like drawing up a job description if you will. I have set out to write up some of the significant roles a parent has.  Is this what we signed up for when we were planning our ‘perfect’ families?

 

Without a shadow of doubt, how we parent will have a lasting impact on the children we raise.  Rearing a child involves physically, emotionally, socially, and financially supporting that child til he or she reaches adulthood.  A quick glance over the voluminous research on parenting will show that there is no standardised pattern on how parenting roles are played out in society.  Parenting also differs depending on the age of children, economic circumstances, work circumstances, and household composition, i.e., single, dual and shared parenting etc... to name but a few. We hear all sorts of parenting terms bandied about, helicopter parenting, positive parenting, tiger parenting, effective parenting, mindful parenting and on and on… Enough to make the head spin and most of us switch off!

 

Here are what are presented by some experts as the key parenting roles, so here’s the job description if you like:-

 

1.   Basic care-giving.  Providing food and nourishment, cleaning and housekeeping, i.e., taking care of kids and their living space.
 

2.   Protection.  Naturally parents are obliged to keep their children safe and out of danger. 
 

3.   Financial support. Parents must buy food and clothes, pay for school, activites etc.  This is a role that can go on well into young adulthood….
 

4.   Guidance.  Everything from helping with homework to moral guidance of older children.
 

5.   Discipline.  Parents are in control and teach their children right from wrong to prevent children from engaging in risky behaviour and to keep them safe. 
 

6.   Emotional support.   Hugely important but often overlooked, children need to know you support them and that they are loved unconditionally.
 

7.   Family bonding.   Joint activities or simply cheering at a game… The family meal and so on..   Parents need to create a strong sense of family for the child to feel confident and grounded.  Whatever the make-up of the family, bonding and being there for the child is crucial.  Traditional Mom and Pop families are not the only way…
 

8.   Guiding towards autonomy/independence.   It is a parent’s most important job to guide the child to an independent adulthood.

Ok, so there we go.  There’s the roles.  So how do we do all this?  Is there one right way?  Personally I think that while there are general common sense parenting norms globally, there isn’t one perfect way of doing anything and parenting is no exception.

I recently while whiling away time in a dentist’s waiting room and browsing magazine articles,  10 tips on this and 10 tips on that and I came across one entitled:- “Ten Commandments of Good Parenting”. The title grabbed my attention for its irritatingly condescending tone at first, but I decided to have a look to see if I felt there were any salient points contained therein….  The “commandments” ran as follows:-

 

1.   “What you do matters”…  No way!!!!  Of course…  Our children watch us all the time, so we are their role models.  Same though out there in the world of non-parenting interaction.  What one does matters.  People are watching…  So ok, valid point, but pretty obvious.
 

2.   “You cannot be too loving” Now here is where cultures will clash on approach.  Of course all people all over the world love their children and would probably willingly die for them if necessary.  However, I agree gifting and being overly lenient are not the way to go.  Lots of cuddles, I love you are perfectly fine.
 

3.   “Be involved in your child’s life”…  I agree here, a parent should not contract out their child permanently to hired help in my opinion.  That said there are many situations mostly work related that mean parents have to hire help and this is ok.  But it is very important to make time for your child each day, know what is going on and be fully involved in decision making.  It is also important that your child gets the full “you” during the time you have with them, so reading a story or playing a game without jumping to your smartphone during it, is a great start!
 

4.   “Adapt your parenting to fit your child”.  .Here again I feel a bit like laughing, coz if feels like this is stating the obvious.  Basically children change over time and have different needs.  Adapt with them.  
 

5.   “Establish and Set Rules”   I feel the need to laugh again.  I think the majority of parents will automatically put in place similar systems that their own parents used.  So sure, I agree, rules are important. 
 

6.   “Foster your child’s independence” Again nothing new here.  We are aiming to raise independent children.  Little by little we allow our children to do more by themselves.  Common sense again will dictate how much and when…
 

7.   “Be Consistent”    I always feel that non-parents write this type of ‘tip’, ‘commandment’ etc….  Yes, super in theory.  In reality, bribery works wonders!  I generally live in reality! lol
 

8.   “Avoid harsh discipline” This is surely relative to the crime and here in Western Europe in any case, corporal punishment is against the law. 
 

9.   “Explain your rules and decisions” Again a typical non-parenting statement….  Sure, but in reality, not always practicable! 
 

10.                  “Treat your child with respect”   I would hope this is a given same as we should treat all people with respect.

 

So much for my dental time read.  It was not very eye-opening.  I know some of my comments may seem flippant but really, what is wrong with simply applying common sense to child rearing?  Have we lost the ability to apply common sense?  I have a good friend who once did point out that “common sense is not always so common…”  And perhaps she was and is right.  It is probably useful to reflect from time to time on how we behave and act as parents and make changes where necessary or just pat ourselves on the back too!

This all brings me to another thought though…  Why are we modern people so desperate for advice on doing things ‘perfectly’?  Are we all really so out of touch that we need to consult gurus on everything?  But this I guess is a question for another day. 

 

References:

Parenting Styles and Discipline:  Parents’ and Children’s Perspectives.  The National Children’s Strategy Research Series.  Ireland.  http://www.webmd.com/parenting/features/10-commandments-good-parentinghttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parenting

http://www.wikihow.com/Be-a-Good-Parent

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