8 reasons why I do my homework when it comes to parenting

1st February 2022 Posted by Emilie

8 reasons why I do my homework when it comes to parenting

As a species, we are born to be parents – whether that’s through having children who are biologically ours, or adopting, or being involved in the care of the children of others within our community. It’s not a choice everyone makes of course, which is just as beautiful a choice. But in biological and evolutionary terms, as a species, we are designed to make and care for babies - indeed, the continuation of the human race rests on at least some of us doing so.
baby in Moses basket

And information about parenting abounds in our culture. So if our desire and ability to become parents is so innate, why do we need all these books, articles, and other snippets of information to guide us along the path? Many people I’ve met are surprised that I read and research as much as I do on the subject, and I completely understand why many people don’t, or don’t want to, do this - not enough time, reading isn’t their thing, difficult to access information, overwhelmed by the amount of information, happy with how parenting is going… There are many reasons why this isn’t a path someone might choose to take, and you will find no judgement from me on that front.

Here, I hope to explain a little about why, for me, it is important to look more deeply into the parenting research and to use that information to inform my parenting practices.

Reason 1: I love reading! I love reading, I love learning, I love going deep into subjects that interest me. And parenting really really interests me! At school you are very much encouraged to go broad - to learn a little of everything - rather than to go deep. Well - woop woop - I’m not at school now, and I’ve found something I love, and I am going to devour whatever I can about it! I read pretty discerningly (you will see many many pencil marks in the books on my shelves), and I keep what fits for me, and what is based on the best possible psychological and neurological research, and leave the rest. One or two books have even ended up in the recycling box in the past (there are some parenting books no one should have to read)! (Audiobooks, or other ways of accessing this sort of information, are just as valid – I just happen to like reading!!)

Reason 2: Parenting is exceptionally difficult in the culture we live in. We live in isolated bubbles in our own little brick boxes; we often don’t even see our neighbours from day to day, let alone supportive family - and although some of us are lucky and know we can call on people local to us in the community anytime if we needed to, we don’t like to be a burden so we tend to keep quiet except in the most dire of circumstances:

Isolation, struggle.

We are presented by society with unrealistic expectations about what our children ‘should’ be doing - both in terms of behaviour, and in terms of development and academics - and then we wonder why we can’t get our children to meet those high levels:

Guilt, failure.

We have to do all the jobs that in evolutionary terms should be done by a whole community - cook, clean, get kids to school or to this club or that event, play with our kids, spend time with our partners, work:

Exhaustion, burnout.

We don’t really know what we’re doing, because we no longer learn parenting first hand, within a close-knit community. For the most part, we have a single model of parenting in our lives, which is based on living in a society which doesn’t support parents (or children for that matter) well at all. So our own parenting is based on a flawed set of assumptions and behaviours, which often don’t serve us or our children well:

Confusion, worry.

If I hadn’t researched parenting, I would still be thinking that it’s a problem when I feel like I can’t cope with all these demands. As it is, I now know that we are not meant to have to parent like this. And I hold tight to that when things are tough!

Reason 3: Researching parenting helps me feel less isolated. Parenting does not come easily to me. I am not chilled out, Zen-like or laid back in any way [although I’m very happy to report that things feel a lot more ease-ful and flowing since I originally wrote this post!]. Small things stress me - and any more than a small amount of mess makes my head want to explode! Your parenting issues might be completely different to mine, but reading about, and talking with, other parents helps me to see that my struggles are normal; that others are going through things too, and I am not alone. And looking into parenting has brought together a community where we look to each other for the emotional and practical support which is missing in our nuclear families.

Reason 4: The art of parenting is no longer instinctive. What we think is instinct, is in fact upbringing*. When you shout at your child - that’s not instinct, that’s usually a stuck pattern from your childhood. When you speak sternly to your child - that’s not instinct, that’s every fibre of your being remembering how you were spoken to by your own parents. When you are or want to be physical with your child - that’s not instinct, that’s a position of believing you have no other option; of feeling powerless. We want to parent from instinct, and I do think that parenting could come to us more instinctively, but because of the lack of good information and practice we are exposed to within our immediate communities, it just can’t ever be so. Without looking into our parenting, we are stuck with society and its influence, and with whatever parenting we received - and then we are bound to repeat the mistakes of the past.

Reason 5: I need new ideas. I don’t know it all. None of us does. Yes, you could get very bogged down in the information that is out there, but there are ways to overcome this. I tend to focus on websites or books which are more about the latest research, or that present a range of ideas that people have found have worked in their experience, rather than sources that have a one-way-only ‘it worked for me, so it must work for you and you should do it this way’ kind of stance. I think about what sits well with me; what feels right. What am I already doing that works, and what melds well with that? Talking to trusted friends, whose parenting approach I admire, is a great way to get new ideas and share thoughts or challenges. But whatever works is fine - for me it’s reading, and reading, and writing, and reading some more, and talking, and reading, and going on courses, and reading a bit… Anything to keep myself actively thinking about what I am doing with my children, rather than doing it all automatically. (But yes, there are still times where I just play and be and enjoy them too!)

Reason 6: To keep on top of the research. If I don’t keep some sort of an eye on current parenting literature, how will I find out what’s new as our knowledge of things like psychology and neuroscience is added to and refined over the years? Yes, things are always changing, and yes, some of the research will be found to be wrong, but to ignore it completely is like wandering around with blinkers on just in case you see something that makes you question your vision of how you’ve been doing things.

Reason 7: I want to, and can, do better for my children. When we parent from a fixed stance, we continue to practise old habits which we accept as the norm. In fact, most of what we do doesn’t have to be that way. If we can see (and crucially, re-feel) our reactions for what they are - mimicking old patterns and old thinking which we have been exposed to in the past - we can start to look to change them. I can’t in all good conscience say ‘I’m shouting at my children, but that’s normal, that’s what was done to me, that’s just the way it is’, without pondering whether children can in fact be brought up well without raised voices. When we avoid questioning these damaging patterns, when we say ‘Well, this is what was done to me, and I turned out ok’, we are copping out - just because I turned out ok, doesn’t mean I can’t do better. Doing ‘ok’ is not what I want for my children - I want them to rise, to excel, to grow, to devour life, to thrive!

Reason 8: This is my work at the moment. And my work deserves critical analysis, and continual development. What is/was your paid day job? Perhaps it is full-time parenting, like mine, but perhaps you are the one who brings home a pay cheque. Did you study to reach a point where you were able to do the job you do/did? Did you learn on the job, from trained, respected and experienced colleagues? Do you keep up your skills with regular training, reading a professional magazine, or taking time talking to colleagues? Well, parenting is my work - and never before in my life have I done work as important as this. It is challenging work, with little support, reward or recognition, and certainly no acknowledgement that we might want or need to work at it, but that is exactly what many of us want to do. I could say that I was a child once, with parents, therefore I should be able to parent my own children without outside influence. But could you be an effective teacher just because you were taught once upon a time at school? It feels like that is the analogy we are being forced to make, in order to explain why learning about parenting is indeed important – it is assumed that because we were once parented, we must automatically be able to parent our own family well. And yet our model of parenting as a child (generally by a maximum of two role models, although often one, with maybe a few others playing supporting roles) gives us even less scope than the influence of the teaching style of the many many teachers we will have encountered over the years. I have no intention of standing still in my parenting - every day there are new challenges, and I need help and ideas and support to work through them, and to develop my skills as a responsive, trusted, conscious, connected parent.

Many people are happy with their parenting choices, and don’t feel a need to look into the parenting literature further, and that is completely fine. But I hope this post helps with an understanding of why some of us do want to spend specific time and effort in furthering our parenting skills. And if you reach a point where things just don’t feel like they are working for you, like you’re getting stuck in patterns of behaviour which don’t reflect the parent you wanted to be, or like you just aren’t feeling the joy in your parenting anymore, then there are things out there which can shake things up for you, too. No one knows your children better than you, and no one is going to be able to tell you what to do - but you can make changes if that’s what you want. And if I don’t keep reading, keep looking, for ways to improve how I do things in my own family - and keep working to build my support network - I will be overcome by the overwhelming task of parenting. At best I won’t be enjoying my parenting work - at worst, I will just fail to cope at all.

And a final note - we don’t have to constantly focus on doing better either! It’s a bit of a paradox, but yes we want to be the best parent we can be, AND sometimes that just means taking a break from all the inner work, the thinking, the re-learning… And just being, just as we are! So whether you’re on a ‘working on something’ part of your path, or whether you’re on a ‘rest and sit back’ part of your path - I fully trust that that’s right where you need to be, and I’m celebrating you, right now, just as you are!

Further information which you may find useful (if you want to do some more homework!):

  • If you’re feeling stuck with your children’s behaviour, and want some fresh ideas to help you move forwards, I invite you to look into the very non-judgemental work of Hand in Hand Parenting - they will meet you with understanding wherever you’re at, and help you to get to where it is you want to be.

  • All those on the peaceful parenting path are very very welcome in our Mighty Networks community space, which is the loveliest, least judgemental, most compassionate community you could ever hope to find!

Emilie Leeks

Emilie is a heart-centred life mentor and space holder, supporting those on a healing path. This is not an easy journey, and often we can find ourselves losing our way. Emilie's work meets you where you're at, with beautiful, accepting support and connection, and weaves that support with practices and explorations in self-compassion, body connection, and a return to a deep trust in ourselves. Note: all blog post content which refers to them, has been read and agreed to by Emilie's children.

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