How the heck do you know what you're supposed to be doing, and 'what's right', and 'how do I decide'.... It's such a hard job and, well, they don't come with a manual do they? And if you do 'get it right' on a particular day or with a particular child, it tends not to work the next.
So how do you know what is the right thing to do?
Here's your PARENTING 101 GUIDE:
There are actually only three things a parent really needs to do:
1 - PROTECT the babies
Doesn't matter if you're a bird, a wolf or a human; this is number one. Major stuff-ups in this area tend to end up on the front page of the newspaper but there are challenges here for all of us as I'll explain soon...
2 - PROVIDE THE NECESSARIES
You'll note that this is 'the necessaries'.... not everything the kids want. Roof, warmth, clothing, food, care, is about it in this category.
3 - TEACH the babies how to be an adult. Mother bird kicks the babies out of the nest (before they can actually fly btw), mother wolf brings home a maimed rabbit for the cubs to 'catch', humans traditionally involved the children in all aspects of their daily life, farming, gathering, hunting, cooking, nursing the sick etc. So your job as a 21stC human parent is to teach your kids how to be self-sufficient in life and be able to earn a living. To do this they need certain skills.
Nigel Latta https://www.facebook.com/nigellatta/ says his philosophy is "teaching them how to survive the zombie apocalypse" which I think just about sums it up really. To do this they need to be responsible, humble (understanding they are part of the world, not the centre of it), compassionate, resourceful and resilient, and have determination (understanding that anything of value always takes work, sacrifice and focus).
You may now see that some of the requirements of your Job #1 and your Job #3 are contradictory, and this is one of the most difficult areas of parenting. How far do you 'Protect' and how much risk do you allow in your job of 'Teach'? This is of course the eternal parental dilemma but it is very clear that parents in the 21stC are actually very often 'over-protecting' causing problems in the 'Teach' area. As a child grows from baby to early teens it is necessary for the parenting to transition from '100% Protect' to 'Mainly Teach'. Somewhere in there you will need to stop reminding them about their lunchbox and homework, doing their project for them, and let them suffer the consequences of their actions. And generally the sooner the better.
Take one simple example - getting to school. In the 1970's around 85% of children walked (or biked) to school. This taught kids many, many LIFE SKILLS - to regulate their time in the morning, be organised, learning about friendships in an unstructured environment, responsibility for clothing, responsibility in general, weather evaluation, exploring their surroundings, learning about bullies, saviours, financial transactions (which shop had the best deal on Toffee Milks), and the creepy guy who lived at #62. Today, apparently, only about 12% of children walk to school without an adult. Besides the headache of school parking this is not doing our kids any good. Yes there are risks but many of these can be mitigated and the benefits are huge.
I've heard many parents say they don't have time to let the kids walk because of the other 'learning activities' they need to get to .... I'll just park that there for you to ponder.
So, yes, this parenting job is hard. But if you are struggling on any given day it might be helpful to come back to the core of what you are doing here - Protect, Provide, Teach. I hope this brings some clarity to your decision-making process.
I highly recommend 'The Modern Family Survival Guide' by Nigel Latta, available form all good bookstores and The Parenting Place.com , another great NZ resource.
CORLIGHT Programmes provides a seminar for parents and educators on understanding children's emotions. Seminars can be held for your group or school and can be structured as a fundraiser; http://www.corlight.co.nz/workshops.html