This article is prompted by a full page spread in the Sunday Times that headlines with “Top schools teach fretful parents in bid to ease pressure on pupils.” It goes on to say that “For the first time parents as well as children are being taught techniques to help them stay calm amid concerns that youngsters are buckling under pressure from home.”
The article comes from a point of view that parents are putting their children under unnecessary pressure to succeed and they need to get the message to “ease off.”
This may be the case in the “top schools” which in the case of The Sunday Times means fee paying schools. I guess that if I had paid a sizeable amount of money out to get my child the best education I could afford I would not want it wasted. This, however, is not the case for most of us yet I still notice the profound effect the environment created at home either consciously or most commonly subconsciously has on the behaviour and mental health of our children.
My Recent Experience
I stopped working with children and young adults a few years ago. This was not a deliberate act of withdrawal. More a case of taking note of the underlying challenges and seeking to do something about them actually stopped me doing this work. I’ll explain.
I spent about a year where several angry young men in their teens were brought to me by their parents with the implied questions “can you fix them please?” They were desperate and would not have sought professional help unless it was a last resort. I took these young men on and asked the parents to sit in, thinking that they would soak up the techniques we were discussing and the whole family would benefit.
What actually happened was that I spent many weeks making progress only to see it undone by the culture and environment created at home. The parents were not prepared to change yet they expected that of their child.
This led me to a policy decision which remains today. That policy is that I will work with your children but only if you work with me for a period of at least 10 weeks first. This is for a number of reasons –
- Your child will not change simply by being brought to me one a week.
- To change your child needs support by way of holding the boundaries and role modelling
- Often, part of the challenge (not all of it) is the role modelling the child gets at home
I still get calls for me to work with children or most commonly young adults. When I state my boundaries however in 100% of cases so far the parents go away to think about it and never come back. I assume they somewhere else that will not risk their reputation by doing half the job.
The challenge for parents
We all encounter stress. We all have conflicts and challenges to face up to. The way we deal with those is the role modelling we give to our children and children learn more from role modelling than anything else.
As yourselves these questions. Do you….
- Always role model the behaviours that you expect from your children?
- Do those behaviors that you expect and role model remain in place when you are under stress?
- Do you admit to your children that you used to act like they do when you were their age and then expect them to behave differently?
- Do you ever find yourself acting in the “do as I say, not how I do, way?”
Children learn from role modelling. They learn what they want to be and what they do not want to be and their biggest role models are us…their parents.
Amongst many other things we role model the following –
- Our relationship with stress
- Self esteem
- Our relationships with
- Body image
All of these often fall inevitably down to our relationship with ourselves.
I am not putting all the world’s problems at the feet of parents. I am, however, recommending that before we allocate problems and blame elsewhere we examine the profound effects we could have by making changes in our own lives and behaviours. I am recommending we take responsibility for the part we play.
Taking responsibility means not seeking a diagnosis for ADHD for my child because I have not put in place healthy boundaries at home and I can’t control them. Taking responsibility means not blaming the school for my child’s relationship or stress issues and instead looking at my own behaviour and working out whether I could provide a better example. Taking responsibility means just that….taking responsibility.
Being a parent is not easy. Babies do not come with handbooks and the internet is so full of criticism (such as this) and solutions offered across such a wide range that it is easy to feel that you cannot do right under any circumstances.
My offering to you is simple. If it does not appear to be working then work out what you can change and have a go and do it consistently. Sitting there and being helpless and blaming others is not an option.
That’s it, I’m putting my soapbox away for a while. I will stop preaching. Please understand that this level of preaching comes from passion.
Finally, based on that article perhaps I should be marketing workshops for parents of stressed teenagers…..based on the rant above though I’m not sure they would fill
- Am I perfect? No
- Are my children perfect? No but I am immensely proud of the way they have turned out so far
- Does not being perfect disqualify me from preaching in this way? Some may think so but I disagree.
We are all a work in progress…….. Some more consciously than others.