Dr. Susan Bartell examines the ups and downs of parenting with the analogy, April showers bring May flowers.
This month always gets me thinking about parenting because I think the saying April showers bring May flowers is the perfect analogy for the trials and tribulations of being a great parent.
Yesterday, I was talking to the mom of a college-age young woman, both of whom I first met when the girl was in elementary school and the mom was exasperated with her out-of-control behavior!
“I am SO lucky,” said the mom, “Matty has turned out to be very happy and loving—and she is really doing well in school.”
“Actually,” I responded, “I don’t think it’s luck at all. I think Matty’s current success is, in large part, a result of the hard work you did as a parent when she was very young. Once you identified the issues, you spent years cultivating new parenting techniques that really worked with your daughter. That isn’t luck. It’s great parenting!”
Of course, no parent has complete control over the way a child turns out. A child’s personality is, in some ways, hard-wired, as is cognitive ability, and whether a child has a genetic predisposition to emotional or learning disabilities or other struggles. Some kids are easy to parent while others are very difficult to manage, requiring all the strength you have as a parent—and some that you didn’t even realize you had! A child may be a parent’s dream for part of childhood, and then suddenly become a huge challenge during adolescence. Or a child like Matty, might challenge a parent for many years, but become a fantastic adult.
No matter how difficult your child may be, you need to have two clear goals as a parent that will guide you through the tough times.
- Parent your child the way that she needs to be parented in order to grow and flourish. Some kids need tough boundaries, while some need a more flexible type of parenting. Be open to what works best for your child at each stage of her life. Different kids in your home may require different types of parenting—this can be a challenge but it is important. The effort you extert to meet your child’s needs, may not feel like fun now, but the benefits will be enormous—for you and for your child.
- Raise an adult child with whom you have a close relationship. This does not mean that you should strive to be your child’s friend. A close relationship with an adult child is the result of many years of setting boundaries (that are disliked), giving advice (that is rejected), and demanding respect (that is given begrudgingly). You may not feel it, but when you see your child bloom and become an adult with whom you truly can be friends, you will know that it was all worth it.
The April years of being a parent (your child’s birth through mid-twenties) are certainly not going to be a garden of roses all the time. You may have times when all you see are the weeds. But as long as you keep showering the right kind of love (and discipline) upon your child, the May years (his or her adulthood), will be remarkable; filled with more love and success than you may ever have imagined possible.
Dr. Susan Bartell is America’s #1 family psychologist and the author of The Top 50 Questions Kids Ask. You can learn more about her at www.drsusanbartell.com