Parenting is not what you expected. Children are not the joy you anticipated. You’ve turned into the type of parent you vowed you’d never become.
What went wrong?
Perhaps this is related to your expectations. You had such high hopes for what it was going to be like to raise children. In an environment of love and acceptance, you knew that children would respond with kindness and affection. You put your children as your highest priority, ahead of your own interests and even before the relationship with your spouse.
In return for that passionate commitment, you expected to be around children who were generally well behaved, creative, sensitive, bright and engaging. While your kids sometimes act those ways, they are typically self-absorbed, insensitive and even mean-spirited. Completing simple chores become battles. For all that you have given them and for all of your sacrifices, why the heck can’t they just take out the trash once a week? Your kids don’t do as they are told, and it really doesn’t seem to matter what effect this has on you and your spouse.
You have responded in ways that you could never have imagined. You’ve lost your temper and occasionally spanked your younger children. You have threatened, cried, sworn and yelled. You have even repeated some of the exact words your parents said to you, breaking a solemn vow that you would never do some of the things your parents had done. When you are alone in the car, you wonder about the kind of person you are becoming. Rather than bringing joy into your life, kids have transformed you into a person you barely recognize.
There are three things you can do to get out of this dreadful and depressing cycle:
- Stop making your children the center of your world. I realize that children take lots of time and energy, but always making them your highest priority is a mistake for them and for you. Kids shouldn’t feel that their wishes and wants always come first. The real world will never treat them that way, and neither should you.Take some time for yourself. Enjoy a hobby, read a book, exercise and make arrangements to do things with your spouse. Nurture that relationship. Stop feeling guilty about doing things that don’t involve your kids. It will make you a happier person and a better parent.
- Become a more effective parent. Parents with “Child-Induced Depression” have one thing in common — they are generally ineffective disciplinarians. They don’t have any real control over their kids. They feel overwhelmed just getting through the day. They threaten, beg and yell — and yet nothing changes.Try the three techniques used by effective parents – make a clear and specific rule, develop a reasonable consequence, and consistently enforce your expectations.Focus on one specific behavior of concern. Don’t pick a big problem. In fact, it’s better to work on a small annoyance at first. Let’s say you want your child to empty the trash every day after dinner. Perhaps the new rule will be that using the computer or watching TV depends upon the trash being emptied the previous day. Don’t remind, plead or negotiate.Be willing to seek professional help if you can’t do this on your own. Eight sessions of therapy focused on parenting skills can transform your family and change your life.
- You cannot determine how your children turn out. Your children’s development is the result of a complex set of environmental and genetic factors. You can’t control the type of people they will become. Accept that reality.
[Reprinted by permission from the November 2, 2008 edition of the Dayton Daily News, “What if you’re not the parent you wanted to be?”, Family Wise, Gregory Ramey, PH.D.]
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Guest Contributor Gregory Ramey, PhD, Child Psychologist and Dayton Daily News Columnist
Gregory Ramey, PhD, is a nationally recognized child psychologist and columnist who has worked at Dayton Children’s Hospital since 1979. In addition to his weekly column in the Dayton Daily News about effective parenting, Ramey has conducted more than 200 workshops and has recently been quoted in articles in Redbook, Parenting, Ladies Home Journal as well as columns distributed by the New York Times Wire Service.