Understatement coming up: There are a lot of opinions out there when it comes to parenting, and not just from other parents. There are experts, authors, doctors, advertising campaigns, people who aren’t parents, teachers, grandparents, blogs, and even the government — all setting some sort of invisible benchmarks for parents to attain.
I discovered early on in my parenting journey, that I had to learn to be a confident parent — by myself — in amongst the noise of the parenting landscape. I say learn because, although I’ve always had a very strong sense of self, I don’t see myself as a naturally confident person. I constantly over-think and second guess myself. I don’t like being the centre of attention. I have my own thoughts and ideas, but I’m not a leader. And fear of failure (which I talked a bit about here) is often a stumbling block for me.
My journey to become a more confident parent is not about reaching the made-it mark, neither is it about constantly making the right choices or having all the answers. Rather, it’s a process; a journey; an acceptance; and as I look back, I can see key factors that helped me to feel confident about parenting.
1. You WILL Be Judged (so get over it)
Somewhere along the line, probably sooner rather than later, and maybe even on a daily basis, you will be judged for your parenting ability, or seemingly lack of it. Whether that be annoyed glances from onlookers as a toddler has a tantrum, well-meaning but misplaced concern, passive condescension or an outright put down. Once I accepted the fact being judged is, unfortunately, something that seems to come with parenting, I stopped giving it air time. Sure, it still affects me, but I no longer allow judgement from others to rule what I do, how I do it or allow negativity to shape the way I see myself as a parent. I got over it, I guess you would say. I allow judgement from others to roll off my back, and I do what is RIGHT, not what is EXPECTED.
2. Know yourself
A popular posts on the blog is Don’t Try and Be The Mum You’re Not. I wrote it as I came to acceptance about who I am as a person and how that translated into parenting. I think there is an invisible myth (perhaps it steams from our own desire to be the best parent we can be) that a mother needs to be everything for their child to thrive. It’s just not true. I realised the best I could be for my children is myself, while facilitating and nurturing them to be who they are, patiently and with unconditional love. Know yourself, BE your beautiful self confidently and joyously, rather than focusing on what you’re not.
3. Take the time to get to know your kids
I focus a lot of time and effort on knowing and understanding my kids. Not just what they like but who they are. Watching these little people grow in into themselves is one of the great joys of parenting. However, in as much as this process thrills me, it’s hard…because so often I need to battle my own prejudices and expectations so I can be flexible when it comes to parenting each child both individually, and as a collective.
- Unconditional love – always a foundation
- Time – Focused time, snippets of time, capturing time: it all counts.
- Talk – Communication is vital for any relationship.
- Notice – It’s incredible how much you can learn when you take the time to notice and absorb things about your child…and over time, they draw a picture that becomes ever clearer.
- A voice – I often say to my children, “You are free to say anything to me. Even if it’s something negative about what I did and how it made you feel, as long as in a respectful way.” That my children feel they have a voice in this family is becoming more important as they mature into the teen years. It’s about mutual respect.
- Encourage – I’m my children’s biggest fan and greatest advocate.
- Balance – I’m also (very) blunt with my kids about their faults, not in a discouraging way, but in an edifying and constructive way. I wrote this post three years ago touching on this approach. It’s about edifying negative traits, rather than enabling them.
Know to understand and combined, they are wisdom; and wisdom leads to confidence. Thinking about it now, I would say wisdom is a foundation of true confidence. But it takes time, and investment. It takes patience, and endurance. It takes unconditional love.
4. Family identity
Accept who you are; know your kids; invest in family life; priorities: they come together to create a family identity. I love the idea of an evolved family identity because it gives weight to the choices I make. Some of things important for our family are exploring, adventure, creativity, nature, faith, family.
There’s wisdom in asking advice from professionals, friends, people walking the same path and those who are ahead in the journey. But when it comes down to it, I have learned the importance of filtering the input through my own funnel or the information, meant to help, can make me more confused than ever!
I filter advice and information through what I know about myself, my family, my children, my faith and my values. Not everything will work for each family/child circumstance and part of being a confident mum is being able to adopt what works by marrying information given with what you already know about your family. And never underestimate the power of a mother’s intuition.
7. Trust your intuition
In a post about trusting your gut as a parent, I explored the ability to accumulate vast amount of conscious and sub-conscious information over time and make sense of it to get a feeling for things, even though the exact reason for the feeling can’t necessarily be traced. This ability has been proven to me time, and time, and time again and I’ve learned to trust my intuition when helping me make decisions for my family.
8. Own your decisions
Own your decisions, acknowledge when you stuff up and learn from your mistakes. I’ve stuffed up so many times, I can’t even begin to recount. And honestly, I often feel a keen sense of failure, like I am totally wrecking my children with my errors. But I believe it’s important not to be afraid of mistakes in parenting (and this is hard because the consequence often hurts the ones we love the most!). We are all learners, and it’s important to worry less about the mistakes you make as a parent and more about how you learn from them. Perhaps mistakes don’t damage as much as disconnection. And so I would prefer to strive for connection with my kids than stressing about every little thing I’ve done wrong, and in that, be a living example to my kids.
9. Don’t be motivated by guilt
Mistake is the action, guilt is often the consequence. The anti-guilt culture is a popular one, and I get that, but guilt is an emotion, and it happens, especially when you’re prepared to own your decisions. So for me, the issue isn’t guilt in itself, but rather falling into the trap of allowing guilt to rule and motivate. The problem with this is it quickly becomes an unedifying merry-go-round.
If my feeling of guilt arises from a mistake, negative interaction or difficult situation, there’s an opportunity to grow, change and adjust. As an example: at the moment, I’m over-committed, and I feel guilty about not spending as much time with the kids and investing in the calmness of home life. Now, I could decide to do more fun things with the kids on the weekend to make up for it…but there’s the trick…because by thinking like that, guilt is talking. In essence, if I was to be brutally honest with myself, I would be using the kids to appease the guilt (and I can speak because I have fallen into this trap before). And so the merry-go-round starts because it’s reactive.
In this instance, I see the feeling of guilt I’m experiencing as a red flag. A warning. Circumstances aren’t going to change over night, even if my attitude/priorities do, but I’ve recognised the need to readjust the balance, so I’m compromising where I can and purposefully slowing things down for the future using priorities as an anchor. I will spend more time with the children and be more conscious about doing so because it’s a beautiful investment of connection and beneficial in the action to re-group our family, but not because I feel guilty due to a couple of extra busy weeks. To be proactive, I sometimes need to stand a few steps back from my emotions, because they need to be a measure, not a motivator.
I don’t buy into living in guilt. It’s there: acknowledge. Question: why? Examine: causes. Action: adjust, change or accept.
Because there is always a choice, even if it’s hidden sometimes.
10. Learn from others
Many parents have been instrumental in shaping myself as a mother. I believe we can learn a lot from each other when we’re not judgemental. Even if I don’t adopt all the ideas, I can celebrate difference in others.
11. Be open
Be open to change. Be open to be wrong. Be open to growth. I know things that were important to me 5 years ago, aren’t so important anymore. May stubbornness and arrogance never stop me from seeing the beauty around a corner
12. Be Humble
Because confidence without humility is arrogance.