Recently, a well-known, national, conservative, radio talk show host had a discussion about parenting coaches. (A parenting coach is a consultant who is hired to discuss and advise parents about how to deal with the many challenges that parents face as they guide their children through childhood.)
Far from being supportive, this radio talk show host suggested that parents were resorting to using parenting coaches because they did not want to spend enough time with their children. She hypothesized that parents wanted a parenting shortcut so that their children could take a back seat to their careers. “Back in the day,” she stated, parents just raised their children and their children listened and developed into great people. It was clear from her disparaging comments and her insensitive insights that she is not a mother facing today’s challenges.
This commentator, although not particularly sensitive to the feelings of parents, did make one interesting point. Parenting coaches and other supports are a new phenomenon that past generations of parents did not have as a resource.
Why do parents today feel the need for outside assistance?
In an informal survey completed by parents, mothers and fathers expressed great concern about making parenting mistakes.
– “If I don’t parent correctly I will cause irreparable damage to my children.”
– “If I make the wrong parenting decisions my child will end up on drugs.”
– “If I lose my temper my child will never forget it, and hate me forever.”
– “If I discipline too harshly I will damage my child psychologically.”
Today, with the huge amount of information available to parents, even discussing pediatric health concerns before conception, parents feel an overwhelming responsibility that parents of yesteryear were not burdened with. With access to the internet parents are bombarded with data. From ADHD to potty training, parents are overly informed about all of the issues of parenting. Any small symptom that a child exhibits can be dissected and attributed to a terrible malady.
The massive amount of information that parents take in, much of it contradictory, undermines parent confidence and causes them to second guess their decisions. Parents can feel an undo amount of stress and anxiety resulting from the vast amount of research they now do on parenting issues. Far from looking for shortcuts as the talk show host surmised, parents are hyper-vigilant about getting the parenting job done perfectly and raising happy and successful children. Every decision made is a crucial one that will have a lasting effect on their child.
One mother wrote about how frightened she was for her unborn baby when the ultrasound showed a “low normal” reading of her amniotic fluid. Another mother-to-be was told that one of her baby’s kidneys was (although within normal range) slightly larger than the other. Both babies were born completely normal but their mothers started their parenting journeys “on-alert”. Before their babies were even born, these poor moms spent countless hours on the internet researching all of the potential problems that their babies could face.
Parents choose to use parenting tools, parenting aids, parenting coaches, family counselors and parenting books because they feel enormously committed to and responsible for raising the next generation of adults and fearful that they could make a terrible mistake and hurt the precious life to whom they are responsible.
With the advent of the informational-technology age, parents have been barraged with parenting content. Many well informed parents, parent self-consciously and without confidence, worried that any slip-up will do irrevocable damage to their kids. One mother in the survey, apologized repeatedly to her child after yelling at him to stop hitting the dog with a toy, she wrote that she was very worried that she had broken her son’s trust in her.
Do parents have cause for alarm? If a kind and caring parent makes some parenting missteps will the child suffer irreparable harm?
One father answers with insight, “As parents we have to have faith that our child rearing instincts are right on. Will we make parenting mistakes? Of course, but our children are resilient and will be fine.”
Contrary to what the radio personality believes, it is not a bad thing for parents to use the resources that are available to them. From behavioral products and parenting aids, to parenting coaches and parenting websites, there are terrific resources available to support parents in their goal to raise great people.
Parents should not let the large amounts of parenting information intimidate them. While some information can be helpful and empowering, too much information can be scary and can take the joy out of parenting.
Resources like parenting coaches should be used as a support not a crutch that usurps their own ideas and parenting styles. Similarly parents should remember that these resources are aids and should not be used to replace time parenting. Parents should listen to their internal voice and be confident that the decisions that they make will most likely be good ones and that parenting with love and intellect will help them in their quest to raise kind and caring adults.
Elena Neitlich is the co-founder and CEO of Moms on Edge, LLC. Moms