Parents Have Rights, Too!
Many foster-care-givers, mothers and fathers worry too much about the right way to bring up children
When I was growing up, my parents frequently said to me, “Children should be seen and not heard.” Fortunately, this type of thinking has passed from the scene. But my mother and father had an advantage over today’s parents. They were blissfully unaware that their child-raising mistakes could affect their child’s future. They went right ahead and made their errors, free from the guilt that plagues parents nowadays.
Many mothers and fathers lack my parents’ self-confidence. No one gives parents the training necessary for bringing up children wisely. The result: we are living in the ‘Land of the Uneasy Parent’. Again and again, anxious parents ask psychologists, psychiatrists and paediatricians, “Did I do the right thing?” Or, “If I do such and such with my child, would that be wrong?”
Guilty feelings lead many parents into an unconscious contract with their child. It reads: “Since I feel guilty and I’m not sure I’m doing right by you, I will try to make up for it by giving up my rights and freedoms as a person and devoting myself to you.” This is unfortunate. Whenever parents cater to a child’s whims, inside they feel they have been taken advantage of. This causes them to be angry with the child, making them even less effective parents.
Children have the right to be treated with respect and understanding. They have the right to their feelings and to the expression of those feelings. But parents also have rights, and those who do not hesitate to exercise them are far better parents than those who constantly try to appease their child.
In order to establish justice and ensure domestic tranquility, I propose a Bill of Rights for Parents:
You have a right to your own feelings and the right to express them to your children.
Many parents become full of anger about something their child has done, but are afraid to express themselves for fear it may be bad for the child. Nonsense! Feel free to say such things as, “I’ve had enough of your bad behaviour, and I think you’d better keep out of my way today.”
You have the right to be the authority in your home.
I know of parents who have actually asked their children whether the family should move to a new house, and of divorced and widowed parents who have, in effect, asked their children’s permission to remarry. Of course, there are certain things the children should be consulted about or even have a voice in, but not issues such as these.
Children who know they can push indecisive parents around are in for a tough time when they become adults and discover that life does not treat them that way. And deep down the parents feel shame and self-disgust for allowing their children to run the show. Many parents will allow a teenager to talk on the telephone for interminable periods, or to play the stereo at an ear—shattering level without telling him forcefully to turn it down. Tolerating a child’s unpleasant or rude behaviour is not good for parents or children. Your feelings as a parent should be, “This is my house and these are the rules for behaviour in my house.”
In the hierarchy of family loyalties and priorities, your marriage comes first and your relationship with the children comes second.
Too many families are child-centred rather than marriage- centred. This is not psychologically healthy. The marriage should maintain its own centre of gravity, and the children will inevitably benefit from a happy and stable marriage.
You have the right to take periodic rests from being a parent.
We grow stale in our jobs if we go too long without a holiday. The same is true with parenthood. Once in a while Mother and Father should leave the children with a grandparent or baby-sitter and take off for the weekend. I encourage parents to take the whole family on a yearly holiday, but I do think it’s important for the husband and wife to get away by themselves at times. - “Be together, but let there be spaces in your togetherness.” - Kahlil Gibran
You have the right to make mistakes in bringing up your children.
When we undertake any new skill - playing bridge or golf, riding a motorcycle, playing the piano—we learn by making literally thousands of mistakes. Why should learning the complex skills involved in bringing up a child be an exception? So I advise parents: “Blunder bravely! Go ahead and make your mistakes, but believe more bravely that, on the whole, you are doing a good job of bringing up your children.
You have the right to pursue your own career and interests.
Being a mother or father is not the only role in your life. You are also a person with your own interests and needs to fulfill. It is psychologically unhealthy for your life to revolve solely around your children. It is healthy to fulfill your own needs, wishes, aspirations and talents, as long as your children are cared for. If you don’t meet your own needs, you are not likely to be able to cope with their needs either!
You have the right to be a fallible, imperfect human being.
You have the right to have bad days, to be cross, illogical, biased and opinionated; to be furious with your children on occasion; to feel like pampering yourself; or to be uptight about various things. As parents, we have a right to be the imperfect human beings that we are.
You have the right to be yourself.
Each child has a personality as original as his fingerprints. And he has the right to be the unique person that he is and not he squeezed into an artificial mould. Allow your child to be himself, and you will bring up a happy and psychologically healthy individual. The same reasoning applies to you as a parent. So bring up your child in your own unique way. Have the courage to be yourself - as a foster-care-giver, husband or a wife and, above all, as a parent!
(Adapted from FitzHugh Dodson by SB)
Should one truthfully explore parenting, in it's entirety, it kind of boils down into the basic end that we want our charges to be able to get by through life, not only when we are there for them all the time, but more especially when we are no longer able to be there.
If you can get them and, more especially, yourself to that point, all peace of mind is eventual and your own life's desires and destiny are immediately fulfilled and met...
To achieve this you have to let go, and allow them all the hurt they shall have to bare and endure while you are still around to catch and release them... ~SB