So, what does make a good parent? Ms. Barbieri concludes that it must be trust. Trust in your child and also in yourself for doing as good a job as possible at this parenting lark. And to that end, I agree. But, I think the the 'secret' (if there is such a thing) is more than that; more complex, more difficult but also so rewarding.
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Parents as role-modelsI think it's important for parents to lead by example; it's not enough to tell your child right from wrong, good from bad, what's dangerous from what's safe, you ideally need to show them. Our children will develop their sense of identity and personal views and opinions from the people closest to them. As their parents, that's us. This is a major responsibility and one I feel bearing down heavily on my shoulders at times.
I am conscious that the things I say or the behaviour I exhibit can be easily interpreted and repeated by Sophia and Dexter. I always try to be careful to make sure I am a positive influence and role model. Sophia once caught me shaving my legs and then said hers were too hairy. She's three-years-old, there's no way I'm going to be encouraging that sort of talk at her age. I spoke to her about it, complimented her, I didn't dismiss her comment but spoke to her about it and explained why her legs are fine the way they are. I've since contemplated binning my razor to show her it's something she shouldn't be ashamed of (I haven't though, I just make sure I do it in absolute secret). I don't want to be overly serious about it but I know from personal experience how a flippant remark can have a major impact on you.
I've needed to wear glasses since I was about three-years-old or so. I never thought it out of the ordinary as I'd worn them for as long as I could remember. But, when I started school, I stood out as the one with the glasses and some of the other kids at school would make fun of me. Being called 'four-eyes' is never fun and I've grown up with a strong dislike of my specs as a result.
Likewise, as a young teenager, my parents came up with one or two 'funny' nicknames for me. They were weight-related - 'Chunkasaur' was one - despite me not being overweight (I think this was where the humour was supposed to lie). If I'm honest, those nicknames cut into me like a sharp knife every time I heard them. I tried to laugh along but deep down inside it didn't do my self-esteem a lot of good. My confidence has always tended to be on the low side (when I first met my husband, I was convinced it would only be a matter of time before he found out the 'true' me - boring and plain) and I'm very critical of the way I look. I'm not saying that these comments were solely responsible for this, but I don't think they helped.
Now, I'm not in any way accusing my parents of being bad parents. They weren't. I think I've turned out pretty well with good morals, ideals and a sense of right and wrong. They did their best and yes, perhaps made some mistakes along the way but who hasn't? No-one's perfect. It's how we learn from these mistakes and move on that's important.
Listening to our children and understanding and empathisingWe need to listen to what our children are telling us. And take it seriously. Their thoughts, worries, excited squeals or anguished cries shouldn't be dismissed. It can be easy for children to take things to heart, especially if they are sensitive souls (see my examples above!). Not listening properly risks signalling to a child that they're not important when we all know they are the most important thing in the world (or our worlds at any rate).
But children also need to feel that they can talk to their parents. I suppose this is where the issue of trust comes in. And tied within that, I think, is the ability to understand and empathise with our children.
I remember that someone I knew was bullied when they were in secondary school. Thankfully it wasn't an overly lengthy episode but did culminate with the bully in question stamping on this person's glasses (and no, this isn't about me. I got made fun of because of my glasses but never bullied, not like that). I think the parents handled it in the right way. They listened to their child, comforted them and didn't fly off the handle with the bully's parents, according to their child's wishes. Instead, they spoke to the school, demanded the bully's family pay for replacement glasses and insisted that his family give them the money directly. I think it was this last act that shamed the family so, the bullying stopped from that moment on.
Making time for our childrenOne of the things I believe above all else about children is that, for the most part and especially for young children, the most important thing to them isn't the latest toy, or getting the most fashionable trainers, or where they go on holiday. It's how you spend your time with them that they value the most. With technology as it is nowadays, it's so easy to get carried away checking emails, or keeping track of what friends are up on the various social networks. The housework is always there to do and then there's the weekly food shop; bills to sort out; rushing here, there and everywhere for various groups and clubs. It can be very easy to sit on the sofa with a cup of tea while watching your child take on a jigsaw, or watching their imagination flourish with a game they've made up.
But, it's always more fun - more exhausting but always way more fun - to get on the floor with them and join in. One of my children's most favourite games at the moment is to pretend I'm a horse. They'll climb all over me while I crawl around the floor singing the "Horsey, horsey, don't you stop..." song. They love it. I love it. This is what my moments at home were made for. The housework can wait.