What is parenting?
Parenting can be hard, and parenting advice can help guide you when feeling at a loss. Parenting is a process of bringing up a child and looking after that child’s physical and emotional wellbeing, including intellectual and social needs.
During a child’s development, parents provide a secure base for learning and exploration. It is crucial that parents are not only protective of their child and responsive to their child’s needs but also let their child explore the environment around them and develop their own identity.
During those early years, children learn very quickly about their environment and form bonds with their parents. The type of relationship that you foster with your child from the very beginning plays a crucial role in shaping their life and the kind of adult they become.
What are the main styles of parenting?
Research suggests that there are four different styles of raising a child, each characterised by a different approach:
- Authoritarian – parents tend to be strict and use punishment to enforce the rules; child’s thoughts and feelings are rarely taken into consideration.
- Authoritative – parents set clear rules that they explain to their child, as well as discuss consequences of misbehaviour; child’s thoughts and feelings are taken into consideration.
- Permissive – although parents set the rules, they rarely reinforce them and tend to be more forgiving when a child misbehaves.
- Uninvolved – parents do not seem to take much interest in what their child is doing; there are generally very few rules, and little guidance is provided to the child.
Each of these approaches will have a different impact on your child and their future. Children of authoritarian and uninvolved parents are at a higher risk of having low self-esteem or developing mental health problems, such as anxiety or depression. Although somewhat counterintuitive, children growing up with very permissive parents are also more likely to develop mental health problems, struggle to accept authority or perform well at school. They are also at a higher risk of developing physical health problems like obesity or teeth problems, which could further undermine the child’s self-esteem.
On the other hand, children of authoritative parents tend to be confident, have good mental and physical health, be good at making decisions and evaluating safety risks. Authoritative parenting is the right balance between being authoritative and permissive. Getting a balance can be difficult.
What do parenting skills involve?
Parenting can be challenging, not only for first-time parents. Below are some tips that can be helpful to in your journey as a parent:
- Show affection.
- Lead by example – children are like sponges, soaking up what they observe, and mimicking behaviours of the people closest to them, their parents. The way you behave permits them to act in the same way.
- Be assertive – set the ground rules and explain them to your child calmly and clearly; then stick to them.
- Talk with your child and plan to do some engaging activities together.
- Have realistic expectations – work out your child’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as your own.
- Use praise and rewards to encourage positive behaviour – research shows this works better than punishment! You could try setting some SMART goals (specific/ simple, measurable/ motivating, achievable, relevant/ results-based, time-based/ time limited), and using behaviour charts.
- Take care of yourself as a parent – having some ‘me’ time is not selfish but rather a necessity to help you cope with the challenges of being a parent. If you don’t look after yourself, looking after your child can bring up unhelpful feelings and test your patience.
- Ask for support if you are struggling.
How can a parenting consultation for advice and therapy help you?
Perhaps you are a new parent and are struggling with the task of raising your child. Maybe you found parenting more challenging than you expected. Perhaps your child is a teenager, and you find it now more difficult to communicate with each other. Maybe you are struggling to support your child through a difficult time.
Being a parent can be extremely demanding, regardless of your age or experience. When you have a child, your world changes irreversibly, and many of the things you enjoyed doing are no longer an option. This can bring out painful and complicated feelings, like anxiety and depression, that can be challenging to ignore.
There is no shame in finding parenting a challenge. All the parents I’ve worked with told me that it’s the single hardest thing they’ve done in their lives.
The aim of parental support, individual or group, is to help you cope with those feelings, as well as to help you develop your parenting skills, help you understand your children’s needs and help you develop strategies for repair when things go wrong. A consultation with a trained professional can also increase confidence and improve self-esteem in both yourself and your child. Additionally, parental support group provides an opportunity to meet and share experiences with other parents.
What do parenting advice and parenting therapy involve?
The sessions are aimed at prospect parents and parents of children irrespective of their age. Parenting advice and therapy sessions typically involve:
- Introduction to some key concepts, such as child development, containment, reciprocity and behaviour management.
- Discussion and exploration of your child’s feelings and how to respond to them effectively.
- Exploration of different ways of being a parent.
- Learning how to communicate with your child effectively, including having fun together and interactions around sleep and meal times.
- Exploring the ways to deal with difficult emotions, such as anger, and how to recover when things go wrong.
Sometimes Family Therapy is better suited than parenting advice. In these cases, I will let you know and explain the reasons why. Find out more about Family Therapy.