Updated: Jun 26, 2020
How it all began ....
Years ago, when my son Jasper turned 2, I suddenly realised that I was facing probably the most difficult job I’d ever had. Being a father to this spirited, energetic, little person was more challenging than anything I’d experienced before. I was staggered by the intensity of his feelings and his strength of character and I found myself completely unsure of how to ‘do it right’, whatever that meant. I knew that I did not want to repeat the mistakes my father had made with me. I didn’t want to become the domineering dictator of the family and yet I didn’t know how to set healthy boundaries, how to say 'No' in any other way. It was scary to see what words automatically came out of my mouth when I was under stress; it was almost as if my own father was talking. As a result, I swung to the opposite extreme, letting his needs and wants dominate me and our small family and feeling increasingly powerless, ineffective and annoyed.
Our easy trip out for a coffee ....
Whether we were dealing with sleep or food or just getting out of the house, everything seemed like a bit of a battle. I remember a day when my wife and I had decided that the three of us would go for a coffee on a Saturday morning. Simple enough you might think… By the time our son had consented to putting on his coat and shoes we’d already lost half an hour. He protested violently at the idea of getting into his car seat because he wanted to drive. He loved sitting at the wheel pretending to be in charge. Pretending! After allowing him to play for 5 minutes (he was part of the family after all, why shouldn’t he be allowed to do a bit of what he wanted) we spent the next forty minutes trying in vain to cajole him into his seat. When he eventually consented, we realised it was too late to go for coffee after all. We were due at my parents for lunch and it just wasn’t worth it. This little person had completely taken over, we had lost the plot and our coffee!
Getting some support
So, I looked for some support and found a wonderful psychotherapist who guided me to be the parent I am today. I remember her asking me how my relationship was with my own father and feeling defensive with my response. She then went on to say "Well, sometimes the relationship you have with your father can impact the relationship you have with your own son". Sounds obvious now but at that time, it really got me thinking.
She taught me how to say ‘No’ and mean it without being harsh, loud or abusive. She taught me how to make sure that I didn’t ignore my needs just to keep my son happy, she taught me how to help him to express his anger in a way that was appropriate. I could go on….
Along the way I grew more and more passionate about becoming the best parent I could be and empowering others to do the same.
Maintaining an open heart and mind
Being a parent is an art, not a science. I get it wrong a lot. I am far from perfect. I keep learning new ways of being, understanding how my default behaviours and responses aren't always the best in the moment. What I’ve discovered is that the things that make parenting easier and more enjoyable are not necessarily difficult or complicated. It’s about trusting ourselves and getting a bit of input and support; and that’s what I encourage when working with parents. If you’re reading this then the likelihood is you’re doing a pretty good job already, the fact that you’re interested in how you parent is key!