Once upon a time, long, long ago, almost all families were made up of a mommy, a daddy, a baby or two, perhaps a dog, a car, and a home. Daddy went to work; mommy stayed at home and took care of their children. Parenting wasn’t considered to be a big deal, and mommy took care of most of it.
Then came the 1970s, and the women’s movement. Soon the size and shape of families was changing, and the jobs of Mom and Dad changed too. Suddenly, parenting, one of the most natural functions in the world, was becoming land-mined territory. There were no simple answers, not even ideal models, to previously basic questions like: Who supervises toilet training, and when? Or, who supervises homework, the computer, the cell phone, and television? And, who decides on punishments when rules are broken?In contemporary families, with working parents and child-care-givers of a variety of sizes and shapes and relationships, we have to stop a minute and actually decide: WHO MAKES THE RULES?? What’s a parent to do when s/he is carving out new territory (no matter what the shape of the family)? I know of no simple, reliable list of do’s or don’ts to refer you to, but after years of parenting, and working with parents as a family therapist, I do have some observations on parenting that may be helpful.
Empowered Parents care about their relationships with their children, and give time and thought to both the child’s needs and their own. Parents must make the time to learn and love their child(ren). Once you are going to become a parent, and then, from birth on, take the job to heart.Empowered Parents love their children, and know how to say so, and to show their love too. Their love is natural, and not a show for others to be impressed by.
Empowered Parents feel anger, and know how to express it without terrorizing.
Empowered Parents may be single or in a partnership; their empowerment comes from Inside.
Empowered Parents are consistent; there are rules in their home and they are meant to be followed. There are consequences for breaking rules, and the consequences relate directly to the rule that is broken.
Empowered Parents do not know all the answers, and they will admit to needing time to think when confronted with new or puzzling situations.
Empowered Parents know how to listen to their children and to reflect back their concerns and accept their problems as real.
Empowered Parents take a breather from the hard work of parenting. They know they deserve and need some “time off,” and make it a part of their daily or weekly schedule.
Empowered Parents have a support system that helps them through the natural trials of parenting. This may range from a formal or informal group of friends, to a parenting group led by a therapist or facilitator, or some close friends with children of roughly the same ages as your own. Parents need a place to have their own needs responded to! A California colleague of mine tells the story of her first six years as a parent:
In summary, Empowered Parents are people. They may be married or single, but they recognize their limitations, and know that life is difficult and that parenting is complex. They take care of themselves so that, no matter what the magnitude of problems they are facing, they can function effectively in this enormously important job: Parenting.