There are three things kids need for optimal happiness: love, time with their parents and good boundaries, Perth researcher Dr Bronwyn Harman says.
Dr Harman is well placed to make such statements. She has a doctorate in what makes a good parent and studies children and parenting at WA’s Edith Cowan University. Her work is a reminder to mums and dads that we might have made parenting a little bit more complex that it needs to be.
The quest for parenting perfection makes many parents completely miserable. Confusing information online and unrealistic Instagram-fuelled depictions of family life have conspired to make mums and dads feel they might not be measuring up.
Thank goodness someone is taking up the gauntlet and advising parents to calm their farm and take things back to basics.
Dr Harman advises parents to avoid this bombardment of often conflicting and potentially demoralising info and find pals or parenting groups that support and encourage them.
“Playgroups and parents’ groups are really good for community networking, but you need to find the parenting group that is good for you, the one that makes you feel validated as a parent not worse when you leave,” she told the ABC.
Turn down the noise
Dr Harman suggests turning off Facebook, shutting down the high-pressure parenting forums, relaxing any lofty expectations and simply giving your kids more one-on-one time.
She implores parents to accept that they are not perfect, but rather that they are doing the best they can on the day. “Every parent makes mistakes because they are human and your kids are going to be OK,” Dr Harman advises.
“Just chill and enjoy your kids. Before you know it they will be all grown up and living their own lives.”
Love, time and boundaries
Dr Harman’s research confirms that emotionally available parents are key to kids’ happiness. When faced with iPads, swimming pools and other ‘treats’ or quality time, she says kids would almost always choose time with mum and dad.
While children are often quick to test boundaries and rebel against them, they’re really vital, making kids feel safe and secure.
“It’s important that they are aware of what happens if they behave in a certain way and that there are consequences to that behaviour. That’s what gives us good and resilient adults,” Dr Harman explains.
Stop the judgement
Not only has Dr Harman confirmed that (most) parents need to ease up on ‘perfecting’ themselves and their kids, she says that harsh judgements of single mums, older mums, same-sex parents and teen mums are unfounded and often sexist.