PARENTS

Backlash Parenting. Are You Determined To Do Things Differently From Your Own Parents?

14/08/2014 16:46 | Updated 22 May 2015
Going against the grain: parenting your way

Do you go out of your way to raise your kids in the complete opposite way to how you were brought up? I do. And my poor son hates it.

"Do we HAVE to go out for dinner AGAIN?" he asked me last week, as I squashed his stiffened, angry little body into his coat and marched him round to the local pub for an evening meal.

On the way I found myself launching into to one of my oh-so-familiar When I was a Girl stories.

"When I was a girl," I began.

"You've ALWAYS been a girl," he interjected, which has become as much a part of the routine as my ensuing tale of woe.

"When I was a girl," I continued, "I would have LOVED to have been taken to the pub for dinner. I didn't eat in a restaurant until I was 15, or go ice skating until..."

Again my son interrupted: "Go ice skating until you were 19, use a telephone until you were a teenager, and were not allowed to join the Brownies or have ballet lessons. I KNOW."

I suspect under his breath he then added: 'And as a result, I am suffering'.

Which is kind of true. I know I go so far out of my way to ensure my child has an upbringing that is entirely different to my own that it does, on occasion, annoy him, wear him out, and leave him longing for nothing more than a chilled, housebound, pyjama-clad weekend existence. In fact, one of his oft heard refrains is "Can we PLEASE have a staying-in day?"

I freely admit I am very hung up on certain issues from my childhood; although I do not doubt I was loved, I feel that my parents were not in tune with what children – and certainly not teenagers – need in terms of outside stimulation and interaction with people who were not immediate family.

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They discouraged me, I felt, from trying new things, experiencing new places and embracing everything life has to offer. Life existed only inside our home and via Coronation Street.

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Indeed, I really wasn't allowed to join the Brownies, or have dancing lessons or go ice skating. We didn't go swimming, or out socially, or have have people other than relatives to the house.

And the effects of that were not just confined to me being frustrated and bored, it also often left me excluded from friendship groups, missing out of trips and events, teased, and, ultimately, rebelling.

And I don't want any of those things for my son.

My colleague Wendy knows exactly how I feel – and she is also making huge efforts to ensure her two daughters are brought up very differently to how she was, and to not endure the mickey-taking she suffered as a result of how she was raised.

"I go out of my way to apply make up in front of my 19-month-old daughter just so she has a role model for personal grooming," she told me, revealing she was not encouraged to practice good hygiene or take any interest in her appearance when she was growing up.

"I also buy my girls new clothes all the time, even though they grow out of them really fast," she says, admitting this is a hangover from having been dressed entirely in hand-me-downs and second hand outfits as a child, despite money not being an issue and her being an only child.

Mum-of-one Karen also made a decision to bring up her son very differently to how she had been parented.

"I didn't have a happy time as a child," she says. "And I resolved to do pretty much everything differently to my own parents. They were volatile and argumentative, so I have tried to keep my own family and home calm.

"My dad used to drink a lot and turn loud and slightly scary, so I would never get drunk in front of my children. They were completely closed about any issues in the family, whereas I try and talk about things I think might be worrying my children."

Karen says they are some things that she is grateful to her parents for though, and that she tries to replicate with her own son, Jack.

"They instilled a sensible attitude to saving and earning money in me – although they were reasonably well off they still encouraged Saturday jobs and saving up for things, and they were great at introducing us to a wide range of cuisines and I do that with Jack, too."

Given my son's endless complaints, I asked counsellor and life coach Eve Menezes Cunningham if I should back off, and take my 'going out' cues from him, rather than constantly providing a packed timetable of entertainments just to make up for what I felt I lacked in my own childhood.

"I think the fact that you're aware that you're making up for what you missed out on and conscious that your son isn't you and has different needs means you're doing well!" she assured me.

"Even if it takes some adjusting to get the balance right, you can practice listening to him. Be kind to yourself when you overdo the going out (or even staying in as you redress the balance) - paying attention to how things are changing and doing what's best for both of you now may take some practice, but just being aware gives you a huge head start."

Which when you feel you are constantly battling to strike a balance between exorcising your own demons and being a good parent, is very reassuring to hear.

Do you consciously do things differently from your parents?

Or do you find you parent in a very similar way?

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