No one would argue that parenting is at times hard work. Many parents are not prepared for the difficult task, and when the child for whom they have such expectations – educational, emotional and physical – develops into a much more complex person, parents have many questions. Acknowledging some of the negative feelings of confusion, blame, guilt, embarrassment, isolation, fear, inadequacy, exhaustion and grief allow parents to find a sense of hope when they ask the question, ‘Am I doing too much or too little?’
Expectations of the family are highlighted every day in the media. We are all familiar with the following scenarios. The beautiful little girl playing contentedly with her doll, speaking distinctly and looking very, very cute. The young boy with a scratched knee who looks plaintively at his mother for help with never a whimper, or the little boy who arrives home from football covered in dirt, undresses and puts his clothes into the washing machine for the magic powder to whisk away the filth. Mother and father take the children on a long driving holiday to Central Australia in their spotless four-wheel drive, children laughing and playing all the way. On arrival they jump from the car, help set up the campsite and cook the barbecue. Even conflict situations are depicted with a sense of humour and a happy conclusion. Life is rarely that easy
Many people are unprepared for parenting. It’s often a case of learning on the job. If the child has an even temperament and is a good match for the parents’ personalities, then the parenting process usually proceeds without too much drama. Parents with children who are not particularly difficult learn from their parental mistakes and the children, despite the normal frustration with their parents, generally adapt to the family environment. These children are able to adapt to the errors of parents and learn from the process of give and take within the family. In these families, adequate or good enough parenting is usually sufficient.
For parents whose children have a difficult temperament and who may also have learning and social difficulties, life can be exceptionally hard. Good enough may not be good enough when raising these children. For these parents the job is much harder, takes longer and is more intense. In particular, the margin for error is less.
Parents: it is not your fault!
Many parents make the statement that having tried every intervention they can think of without success, their child’s unacceptable behaviour must be the parents’ fault. However, once parents recognise that the child has been born with certain temperamental traits, it is possible to reassess the parental role and begin to take positive action to introduce EFFECTIVE discipline. While parents wallow in self-pity or guilt, they are not able to assert their parental role effectively.