When I worked full time, our in-home nanny told me she wished taking care of children came with goals, objectives, and measurable feedback.
Now that I’m a stay-at-home mom, I totally crave a report card. What makes a successful mother? How do I know that I am prioritizing and emphasizing the correct areas?
I would love for someone to give me goals and objectives and provide constructive feedback on my mothering. But where do I get my feedback from? A social worker? My friends? My kids? My husband? Me? I ran through some options that I could measure my parenting success level on. I eliminated these scales, then did some research to find me a working model performance review.
What I’m Tempted to Use & Why It Fails . . .
My Children’s Behavior: My friends can testify: My 5 year-old daughter’s tantrums are absolutely torture. Nothing keeps you eating humble pie like a kid hitting, kicking and screaming at you in the middle of a play-date. But then there are some days like this week, when she demonstrated resiliency and maturity beyond her years while getting treatment for nasty eye infection, bravely tolerating “moldy sock flavoured” antibiotics and quite a bit of poking and prodding.
My 12 Step Program for friends and family members of drug addicts taught me invaluable lessons. Listening to parents struggle to process how the same parenting style led to drastically different results for their children taught me that it is foolish to view children’s outcomes as direct correlations of your parenting. If your kid abuses drugs, you don’t deserve the blame. Your kid made choices. But if your kid becomes a doctor, you don’t deserve the credit. Your kid made choices. I watched this play out over and over again as parents asked, “How can this be?”
When you stop looking at your child’s behaviour as a direct reflection of your parenting (and it is a struggle), you allow them to suffer their own consequences, figure out their own path, and experience victories that they earned. You can recognize their strengths and weaknesses without guilt or pride fogging up your view. I’m working on giving myself some space AND most importantly, other parents some grace for their kids too. Bad kids aren’t always the product of bad parenting.
Their school performance: The UK and US education systems both struggle to measure academic performance. Does it account for multiple intelligences? That would be hard to argue. So what is a standardized test actually measuring? Can your child regurgitate information? Sit still and fly under the radar? Because our kids have different temperaments and innate abilities, it isn’t really fair to measure your parenting by your child’s report card. It might not be a reflection of your effort, but, for better or worse, their own unique potential or the system’s preference for particular personality traits (introvert vs. extrovert, linear thinker vs. creative, etc.).
Comparison to their co-horts? Conclusion: My kids are better than some, not as good as others. Whatever I am looking for, I could find it.
Our relationship: I am not one of those moms who is their kids’ BFF. I’m an enforcer of bedtime, TV turner-off-er, vegetable police, and a clean room boss. We have great times together, but when push comes to shove, their morality/character/discipline is higher on my list than their approval of me. So I won’t let how my kids feel about me on a moment-to-moment basis drive my performance assessment. Tough love is true love.
So What is the Goal here? What am I looking for? What am I doing?
Being a nerd, I searched for a good-old meta-analysis about parenting. I found this nugget of gold in a literature review on enmeshed parenting. You can learn so much about what something is (good parenting) by what it is not (enmeshment).
Here is a good summary of healthy parenting according to these researchers. I created my own version of a performance review, a self-check to see how I’m doing. I identified some strengths and some weaknesses to work on and put it on my fridge.
“An important task of parenting, then, is one of striking a healthy balance between attachment to the child and separating in a way that encourages and supports the child’s development of autonomy”(Bradshaw, 1989; Forward, 1989; Hann-Morrison, 2006; Love, 1990; Minuchin, 1974).
Parenting Performance Self-Review: Emotional Development
by: Mommy2mummy, adapted from Dee Hann-Morrison’s “Maternal Enmeshment: The Chosen Child”
Circle the rating that best describes your performance in each area.
NI= Needs Improvement, S= Satisfactory, EE= Exceeds Expectations
|1.||My child has the freedom to think and feel independently of me without feeling a sense of betrayal.||NI||S||EE|
|2.||I actively create opportunities for my child to participate in age-appropriate privileges.||NI||S||EE|
|3.||I develop and assign age-appropriate responsibilities for my child.||NI||S||EE|
|4.||I encourage my child’s independence.||NI||S||EE|
|5.||I have established clear guidelines and rules for bedtime.||NI||S||EE|
|6.||I have established clear guidelines and rules for mealtimes.||NI||S||EE|
|7.||I have established clear guidelines and rules for public.||NI||S||EE|
|8.||I have established clear guidelines and rules for ________.||NI||S||EE|
|9.||There is an appropriate exchange of physical affection.||NI||S||EE|
|10.||I actively encourage my child to be inner directed.||NI||S||EE|
|11.||I assist my child to develop a solid self- firm individual beliefs and interests.||NI||S||EE|
Looking at this sheet, I can tell you that several times this week, I failed to give my kids consistent clear behavioral expectations and it resulted in fits that could have been avoided. I’ve got some NI areas on my sheet for sure, but I also highlighted some strengths- I’m good at encouraging my children’s independence.
I love this because it provides a good framework for parenting. it’s not so much about French lessons or horseback riding, cry-it-out method or co-sleeping, but fostering environments that nurture your child’s own unique design. I can measure the opportunities and guidelines I am accountable for, stop comparing my efforts to other mothers, relax that I’m doing the best I can and thank God for the resiliency of children in the areas I lack.