My kids love the board game Trouble, and every time I hear the name, the jingle from the TV commercial of my childhood pops into my head—"You've got trouble? Wait, don't run! THIS kind of Trouble is LOTS of fun!"
I like to look at parenting problems with that attitude. Kids are fun, but they sure do cause a whole lotta stress sometimes for us parents, don't they? Let's face it, we all want to be the best parents we can be, but kids sometimes get in the way of our best parenting plans. Or do they? Are we putting too much stress on ourselves? Is our biggest parenting problem really about us and not about them at all?
I think it's a possibility.
On an hourly basis, we are inundated with blogs, articles, memes, jokes, websites, books, magazines—you name it—that instruct us how to be the best at everything we do with, or for, our children. I'm all for reaching for the stars, if you're keepin' it real, but I worry that all of these "suggestions" of perfection are causing us parents to think that we have more parenting problems than we really do. Parenting problems shift and change as a child grows older, but the constant problem of worrying, "Am I completely messing this up?" remains, no matter what your child's age is, or what their specific problems are.
If your kid has tantrums, won't eat or sleep from time to time (or all the time), talks back, has a mind of his or her own, makes you want to pull your hair out, makes you want to weep with frustration, or makes you want to consume copious amounts of alcoholic beverages with a side of chips or chocolate, chances are you are NOT messing it up. You are normal and so is your kid. All of these things aren't really "problems," in my opinion. They are simply what parenting is all about. If our kids didn't do any of these things, parenting them wouldn't be required. We'd lose our jobs to automation.
Even worse, do we unknowingly cause some of these so-called problems with our children? Do our own fears, hopes, wishes, childhood issues, competitive natures, or high expectations all jump into our parenting styles and project on how our child behaves? Could we possibly be our own worst enemies by simply over-thinking what comes naturally?
I try not to judge myself too harshly—a task that is often easier said than done, because believe me, my children present as many challenges as the rest of the kids out there. I'm not a perfect parent, and if you were to ask me right now what my biggest parenting problem is, I'd have a hard time narrowing it down to just one, but the point I'm trying to make here is that perhaps my biggest problem isn't really about their behavior, but my reaction to, and interpretation of, their behaviors. Perhaps I've classified some of their behaviors as "problems," because society has told me that those behaviours are problematic, when really those behaviors are part of my job and a part of my children growing up. Don't get me wrong, obviously certain behaviors are unacceptable and it's my job to teach my children more appropriate ones if I want them to grow into emotionally successful adults. Perhaps I simply need to accept that children do all of these annoying and frustrating things, but that's exactly what I signed up for when I decided to become a parent. If parenting is a job, then like any job, maybe I just need to accept that there are some great aspects of my job—hugs, kisses, I-love-yous—and then there are the parts that balance out the fun parts and make it feel more like work than fun some days.
Would nurses classify having sick patients as a "problem" in their job? Would teachers say that a child who needs extra help learning math is a "problem" of their job? Why, as parents, do we feel our children's normal developmental behavior needs to be classified as "parenting problems" then?
Solving parenting problems might require more than a simple change of terminology. We're all used to calling them "parenting problems," but it may also take a monumental shift in attitude—from thinking our children cause us parenting problems to accepting that those things our kids say and do that drive us bonkers are simply the realities of parenting. Most of us parent well. We need to trust ourselves more and not get so caught up in worrying that we are failing to address our "problems" properly. I'm not talking about letting your kids do whatever they want—I'm a fairly strict parent—I'm talking about modifying our perception and interpretation of what they do, as well as our worries and insecurities about what we do. If you need to try a new approach to teaching your child, try one. If you need a fresh idea on how to parent, by all means, seek one from the many resources available. Just don't internalize that as a failure on your part, or as a "problem" with your child's behavior. Part of being a child is learning, experimenting, testing boundaries, trying on independence, etc. Dealing with kids doing what kids do isn't a problem, it's simply part of the job description.