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?
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
Empowered Parents feel anger, and know how to express it without
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
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
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.
Shortly after the birth of child number three, the family moved to a new
town because of her husband’s job. She soon established a part-time clinical
practice, plus parenting three toddlers. Six months after the move, her
husband asked for a divorce. What allowed her to remain empowered (and sane)
as a parent was a weekly visit to her own therapist. She spent each session
growling and complaining about each of her children, how burdened she felt,
how she couldn’t stand the responsibility of parenting (or was frightened by
it) and how she pictured life if she didn’t have to cope with all this
frustrating stuff! She said things she’d NEVER want her kids to know or
hear! AND, having said all that, she was able to go home each week, and be
cheerful, and loving, and consistent, and fair…an Empowered Parent.