Why Parenting Can See So Hard
Susie E. Caron (c) 5/20/16
Nobody told you it was going to be this hard – parenting – raising good kids.
Remember when you discovered that you were going to become a Mommy or Daddy? Remember how you felt - full of hope that you & your children would enjoy each other. You just knew they would grow up to remember how good you were to them and love you forever.
What happened after they reached ages 3, 4, and up? Were your hopes and dreams shattered? I hope not. However, if you are feeling discouraged, I’m about to help you.
Here’s the scoop: It’s not your fault and it’s not their fault either. You and your children may not get along from time to time because you are each under the influence of your own dilemmas. At those times it looks like you are ‘fighting’ each other, but each child and parent is also dealing with their own, unconscious, internal conflict. This is what makes parenting so hard and causes you a lot of stress and confusion. However, understanding how these conflicts influence you and your kids can help you parent with less stress.
Let me clear this up for you.
Here’s the parent’s conflict:
You want your kids to grow up while you secretly wish they could stay yours forever.
Here’s the child’s conflict.
Children are born with two strong driving forces: the drive to grow, expand and conquer, and the need to be protected.
Now, because you are an adult, you can handle your conflicted feelings. Just recognizing that they exist helps. It’s equally important for you to understand your children’s conflict and how that influences their behaviors. Then you will be less likely to take most of their resistance personally and parent them without feeling guilty. (It is futile to explain their dilemma to them. They can’t understand it and as I will explain below, they will still be driven.) However, when you understand, it can make parenting them easier for you.
Here’s what’s going on inside your kids.
As I mentioned, children are born equipped with two, strong, conflicting, instinctive drives: First to grow and second to be protected.
Drive #1: To Grow
The instinct to grow drives them to expand, grow, challenge you and everything they encounter. It’s not conscious or intentional. It’s built into their DNA and becomes their “Modus Operandi”. (MO). They continually test their abilities. They grow bigger physically. They take over more space in their environment. They take things apart and stick things into other things. They make messes, and also accomplish many wonderful things. They instinctively want to figure out and conquer everything. They reach, grab, crawl, sit, stand, walk, ride bikes and drive cars. However, while they're doing all this, they challenge you, everything and everyone to test themselves, their strength and understanding of the world.
This drive never diminishes. It continues to grow stronger with each passing year. In fact
Their drive to expand, grow and challenge becomes more dominant over time. That’s how they become adults, go to college, join the military, get jobs and marry. However, when this drive is active in childhood, they resist everything you do. They act as though you are interfering with their freedoms. In fact, most kids grow up holding onto a secret fantasy - that they really don’t need you and they could admit it, their motto would be, “Feed me and get out of my way.” This is why you can feel challenged, pushed, and just plain tired.
Whenever they seem to fight you they are often struggling against their second drive – to be protected.
Drive #2: To be Protected
The instinctive need to be protected, functions to keep children closely tied to the parent to help insure survival. Kids instinctively know they are dependent on you for their care and safety. This need is the strongest at birth and diminishes over time. You can see kids driven by this when they are really tired, struggling with friends, school, whining, whimpering and behaving as though suddenly they regressed into more babyish behavior. When their need for you to take care of them erupts in later childhood, they fuss about doing chores, completing homework or taking care of other responsibilities for which they are entirely capable. This dependency is adorable while they are infants and babies. However, it is upsetting to parents who wonder things like “Will they ever grow up?” and “What am I doing wrong?” or worse yet, “Has something horrible happened to my child to make him/her act this way.”
So, what makes raising kids hard?
As a parent, you want your kids to grow but also to be happy. At times you probably feel conflicted, confused or worried about how to raise your children. It’s difficult to be a good parent and know what to do. That’s your struggle.
Kids struggle too. They don’t come into your home dreaming of blissful family life with you. They are driven by the need to grow, which gets stronger, and the need to be protected which gets weaker. They want to grow up, leave home, do their thing, but at the same time they want to be babied and kept safe.
These are the reasons for their resistances and why parenting sees so hard.
There isn’t an easy solution. However, now that you understand your own conflicted feelings and how your kids unconsciously struggle with two opposing forces within, it can be a bit easier for you to 'parent' them. It's your right and responsibility. You can make good decisions, discipline them, comfort them, and do all the things you know you want to do to help them on their way to maturity. Now you can do it all without taking their thoughts (words) feelings and behaviors personally.
Parenting is a job, a great job and one for which only you are well equipped to do with your children. Take it seriously, but at the same time have fun and enjoy your kids as much as you possibly can. When they resist, decide whether it's time to comfort or to be 'matter of fact' and say something like "This is how life works, so get on with it."
Recognize it’s as difficult to be a kid as it is to be a parent. So when the kids push you or pull you, resist you or want babied, don’t take it personally or feel guilty about the decisions you make. Just do your best for them and you will be the best parent you can be. Who knows maybe by the time they turn 32, they’ll even let you know that you were and continue to be the best parent ever.
Twee’ means you and me,
Working to raise good kids.
Susie E. Caron MA,
Author, Blogger, Podcaster,
Christian, Wife, & Mother, helps build parent-child relationships, 1 blog, book & podcast at a time.
Welcome! I recently retired from combined careers in teaching, psychotherapy, and parent coaching to spend more time writing.
When I'm not busy creating books or articles, you might find me looking for dark chocolate or riding my beautiful horse Apple in the woods and fields of Vermont.
These articles are for educational and self-help purposes only and are not intended as psychotherapy.
If you experience unusual symptoms or discomfort please see your medical or mental health practitioner.
No patent liability is assumed for use of the information contained. The author disclaims any responsibility for loss or risk for use or application of this material.
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Blog Reviews & Thank You!
July 13 at 7:17pm ·
Just wanted to say that I love your posts about the different ways to connect/relate/understand your child. It has given me a new approach towards understanding my daughter and allowing HER to tell me how she feels instead of me suggesting to her how she should feel. Thanks Susie!