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Parenting ‘Off-Piste’

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Definition: ‘off-piste’ Pronounced [awf-peest] -adverb, adjective on an unprepared, trackless area e.g. 1) Skiing : away from regular ski runs: off-piste skiing, 2) Parenting : making it up as you go along : off-piste parenting

I give talks to parents on how to help Raise up Teenagers at schools around Australia and I start each talk by asking the audience to raise their hands if they parent differently to how they were parented, 1/2 to 3/4 of the room raise their hands (some people wouldn’t raise their hands if they were offered $1M dollars) In parenting, the prepared path is to parent the way we were parented because there is some familiarity with it and it is easier than going off-piste but most parents are not doing that. Why? Because the primary style of parenting has been highly authoritarian parenting which is essentially focused on the domination and control of children. There are well documented studies that have conclusively demonstrated the toxic downsides to that style of parenting which I will go into in future blogs.

Not only are parents off-piste (and yes, unfortunately some are off pissed too) but at times we do not even have the references for where the ski field is because the world is so different to 30 years ago (or so) when we did our on the job training by being children. So as parents we are off-piste and in a snow storm, very difficult conditions. Most of us are also trying to do it on our own because the input from Uncles, aunties and grandparents has largely disappeared from our busy fractured disconnected world and the advice from some grandparents can also be more critical than helpful because we are doing it differently.

So let’s take the most important and most difficult job in the world, the one job that shapes the next generation more than any other job on the planet and take away intergenerational support, make the cultural landscape almost unrecognisable from a generation ago, have parents choose to parent in a way in which they have little prior experience, add a generous helping of financial pressure and high social expectation and then act surprised when the rates of depression across the population reach crisis proportions and then do nothing about it except to drug the kids and blame the parents.

“Madness!” you would say, and rightly so, and yet that is what we have done. No wonder so many parents struggle and why so many children are not having their needs met. Parent education and support is critical to helping both parents and children. There were no mobile phones or internet or MMORP games or videos or DVD’s or cable when I was growing up. Advertising was banal compared to the sophisticated, relentless and unconscionable barrage of marketing that is allowed now. Of course the media affects our kids and us too if we watch it. Why else would advertisers spend billions on not just the ads themselves but also on the market research and psychiatrists that use the latest psychological and physiological research to influence as many people as possible. Advertising is designed to get a result and the means to this result are always justifiable even if increased body image anxiety in children is the consequence or if kids prefer fat, fast food to healthy food.

Our children’s minds are precious and whilst they are still developing it is our duty to protect them from media sponsored psychological abuse. In Sweden advertising to under 12yo is not allowed and so it should be here too. It is not OK to manipulate our children psychologically so they can nag their parents to buy something they don’t need so they can be momentarily happy or cool.

The great thing about being off-piste is that it can be an exhilarating ride. There is adventure and discovery around every bend and as parents we are blessed with children that can help us find joy and love in the simple things. We are going to make mistakes, fall over and sometimes take paths that initially look great but end in steep drops. It is how we clean up after mistakes, pick ourselves up when we fall over and take responsibility and learn from the paths that take us to unexpected places that will teach our children how to thrive in an ever changing world.

My children press my buttons. I have over time painstakingly taught them where each of those buttons are and the quickest way to press them. Every time I have my buttons pressed I am presented with the opportunity to grow, I don’t always like it, in fact rarely, if ever, OK I never like it but I am forced to think when it happens and look at my own stuff. Sure I have been successful in teaching other people where a few buttons are but there is something special about the way children push buttons.

As a parent I have been given entry to a club where I am presented with moments of such profound, deep, deep love and connection that are impossible to describe to a person that is not a parent. I can’t imagine not being a parent. I can’t imagine anything more important and I struggle at times but focusing on those indescribable moments help me rest my buttons, not always gracefully but I reset them because I do want to be the best parent I can be for my children and the best grandparent for their children should I be ever be blessed with grandchildren of my own.

To be the best parent I can be I need to learn from other parents, other parent educators because my wife and I are parenting “off-piste” there is no path and oh yeah, there are moments of white out too. Daniel’s Bog can be found at http://danielprokop.wordpress.com

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