Sometimes as parents, we are sure that some approach we are using is absolutely the reason why our children’s behaviors have improved. But here’s the thing—sometimes their behaviors improve in spite of our approaches and not because of them.
In spite of parents, can kids turn out okay?
Sometimes parents proudly think their children became good sleepers because they had let their children cry it out when they were babies. What if, instead, their children were somehow able to survive those experiences that for other children caused abandonment issues? Therefore, are these children doing well in spite of rather than because of how their parents treated their sleep struggles?
Sometimes parents will say, “My parents did that and I turned out okay.” It may be that a person did turn out okay, but it also may be that it was in spite of what was said or done rather than because of what was said or done.
Parenting in the ways you were parented because you seemingly turned out okay may appear to be a logical decision. And sometimes it genuinely is!
At the same time, in meeting with many people over the years, I have learned their definitions of being “okay” are sometimes questionable, especially once a person really starts to examine the impact of what is now deemed less than healthy parenting practices. And sometimes protective factors and high degrees of resiliency allow a person to survive and even thrive what might be toxic for another child.
Underlying principles of emotional and relational health
Taking the time to learn more about healthy and effective parenting, especially the underlying principles, can mean children’s emotional and relational health and more acceptable outward behaviors are indeed because of and not in spite of parenting practices.
There are many times for parents to be proud of how well their children seem to be doing in life. And certainly parents deserve credit for all their efforts to help guide, support and direct their children. At the same time, it can be a good parenting practice to stop and reflect on whether children’s apparent emotional and relational health actually is because of rather than in spite of parenting practices.
Continuing to learn, grow and research what constitutes healthier approaches, especially to children’s more challenging behaviors, can mean that more of the apparent successes of parenting are actually because of and not in spite of healthy responses.
We can’t always tell exactly why our children do or don’t do as well, nor what the reasons are behind issues and struggles. Sometimes it is the result of parenting decisions and sometimes it is a result of other circumstances. In many cases it is extremely difficult to determine which outcomes are because of and which are in spite of our parenting choices.
Invitation to Reflect
- Are there parenting practices you are sure resulted in healthy outcomes for your children that researchers have been stating are not recommended (things like spanking, using fear tactics and shame to control children, teasing or mocking children “all in fun”)?
- How possible is it that there might be parenting practices that you need to reconsider because your children seemed to be able to handle more so in spite of, than because of your decisions?
- At the same time, as you think about your decisions with regard to parenting, give yourself credit for those parenting practices that resulted in the emotional and relational health of your children that really are because of and not in spite of your decisions.
Diane Wagenhals, Director of Institute for Professional Education and Development, Lakeside Educational Network