“In the daily grind of parenting and the competing demands of family life, it’s hard to zoom out and look at the bigger picture and assess how we as parents are performing,” writes Mummy columnist KATE MEIKLE
REGULAR readers of my column will be familiar with my “boss baby” daughter who has ruled our family since she was tiny.
It might seem that compared to the boss baby, our older son is the angelic one out of our pair, but we have had our fair share of dramas from him. Before he turned four we actually sought help from a child psychologist. Gasp!
Sounds a bit shocking but it all started when I took him to the GP for his four-year old vaccinations and health check. The GP asked a routine question regarding our boy’s aggression to others which made me think twice.
My answer was: “No, he doesn’t hurt other children at daycare but come to mention it, he can be quite rough with me and my husband.”
My GP gently suggested that we should find strategies to knock these behaviours on the head quickly. He said that most of the time kids grow out of it, but it might be quicker and easier if we engaged a professional.
My husband and I have long been of the mindset that seeking help of mental-health professionals is akin to having a check-up for any physical ailment and something we should not feel ashamed about, so I booked an appointment with a child psychologist.
But I hesitated in sharing this with family and friends because of my worry that they might look at our boy in a different light, mother-shame me (I already had enough guilt!) or say things such as “it’s just a phase”. I clearly wasn’t as comfortable with us seeing a child psychologist as I thought I was.
It was confronting but we needed some extra help and were fortunate to be in a position to access this sort of support. As it turned out, meeting with the psychologist became less about our son and more about us as parents – the psychologist helped give us strategies, tools and guidance to navigate topics such as “gentle hands”, personal space and more effective timeouts.
I like to think of the sessions as coaching classes, helping us be better, more confident and able parents.
It feels empowering to know that there are ways that we can deal with our children’s more challenging behaviours and it feels liberating to talk to someone completely impartial about the kids.
In the daily grind of parenting and the competing demands of family life, it’s hard to zoom out and look at the bigger picture and assess how we as parents are performing.
When we frame these coaching sessions in that way, it’s not about fixing problems with the kids, but becoming better parents. Goodness knows, we all need some help from time to time!
Our son’s behaviour concerns are happily now all in the distant past, but we have kept a standing six-monthly check in appointment with the psychologist so we can keep ourselves on track and chat to her about any concerns that crop up.
As we try to keep match-fit as parents, the coaching is a big part of it. As the kids enter different phases, we need to adapt our parenting skills. Any tips I get I gladly pass on to my friends with little ones because we definitely aren’t alone or unusual in the issues we are dealing with.
We are now chatting to her about the boss baby and getting some good coaching around how to better manage her tantrums and need for control. Let’s not feel ashamed to admit that we as parents might need some extra coaching to help us stay on track and keep everyone in the family supported.