My first reaction to Channel Nine’s new reality program Parental Guidance was an eye roll any teenager would be proud of.
A show pitting different parenting styles together for gratuitous reality TV viewers? That’s the last thing parents need.
But, after viewing the premiere last night, like a remorseful teen, I take it back.
From ‘parenting by feel’ to finding routine
I’m not alone in calling out parenting as the hardest job I’ve ever done. If I were to put my own parenting style into a box, I think it would lie somewhere between routine, free-range and a style I’m calling “parenting by feel”.
But I wasn’t always that relaxed.
When I had my first daughter almost 16 years ago I had no idea what I was doing. For the first nine months, we would have been lucky to have had seven hours of sleep between us.
Then one day I was given a book on routine parenting. At that stage, I was ready to try anything. If that book had told me to build a nest and don a bird costume, I would have given it a shot.
Thankfully I didn’t have to. The strict feeding, sleeping, and play routine worked. My daughter began to thrive. In fact, we all did. When baby number two came along a couple of years later, you can guess what I did from day one; routine. Baby number two was a dream. And so my parenting style was born.
I knew routine parenting was a thing, but I had no idea there were so many different styles of parenting, and they had names. Weren’t parents, like me, just searching for what worked? Or were parents really researching what style of parents they wanted to be?
Was that now part of your Tinder profile? “Only those with nature-style parenting values need swipe right!”
But which one is best?
The premise behind the show is to “search for Australia’s best parenting style”. But is there really a best parenting style? And although the controversial topics such as the “to smack or not smack” question no doubt garnered juicy debate, the show presented an honest and balanced account of the 10 parenting styles covered. Of course, there are many more parenting styles.
What surprised me the most was how much it made me think about my own parenting style. Was I too strict? Was I not paying enough attention? Was I allowing my kids to grow and be their own person?
According to Justin Coulson, co-host of the show and parenting expert: “This [show] is going to change the conversation about parenting in this country”.
And for me, it has certainly sparked conversation in my own household.
The surprising conversation
While there was plenty of debate and questions raised on the show (and in my own head), what I found most surprising was the conversation that it fostered between myself and my children.
My 13-year-old daughter, who was watching alongside me, tilted her head and pondered, “Mum,” she said, “This show really gets you thinking, doesn’t it?”
And she was right. It did. And it got us talking. We chatted not only about what my parenting style could be defined as but also about our mother/daughter relationship. And, how we can both do better. This was such an important conversation. One I didn’t know we needed to have.
The thing is we get caught up in the minutiae of life and do what we’ve always done. But there are always ways in which we can reflect and improve.
For me, this reflection has reminded me to focus on connection, to pay attention and listen — all great reminders.
We all have good intentions
As was evident in the first episode of Parental Guidance, despite our choice of parenting style or natural leaning, we all love our kids and want them to grow up to be strong, independent, respectful, happy, and most importantly to know they are loved.
There’s no one style of parenting that gets to stand on the winner’s dais. Most of us don’t even have a style that could fit into a box, we’re just parenting by feel. And that’s OK. Because really, when it boils down to it, we’re all just doing our best and we all love our kids.
And that is what matters.
Jodi is a freelance writer, fiction author, and good-enough mum to four girls.
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