Wondering why parents can be such assholes sometimes? Here are science-backed reasons that influence negative parenting style. May be you are a toxic parent but don't know it yet? Either way, being aware of these things definitely helped me make sense of my childhood; changed the relationship with my mother, and also how I treat my children now. Writing this article was so cathartic for me, so I hope in some ways you find this writeup helpful also.
My article here is inspired by the movie Kramer Vs Kramer. Separated husband and nurturing father Ted Kramer (Dustin Hoffman) made an eloquent and heart-felt court plea - it was the defense of his right to have custody of son Billy (Justin Henry) over his estranged ex-wife Joanna (Meryl Streep), and his admission that he was not a perfect parent; I heard this monologue and couldn't help but wonder, does our gender or backgrounds have anything to do with parenting styles? Here is what I found.
But first -
Why Parents can be such Assholes sometimes: Psychological Reasoning
Mothers who are forced to give up rewarding corporate careers or a thriving social life -- for the thankless and perceivably, less prestigious jobs as a parent could resent their time with the child. Fathers become more involved with their work because now they suddenly feel the weight of the responsibility and try to work ungodly number of hours to bring in more security. All the while, they miss being physically present in the child’s life and eventually start feeling “left out” and even jealous of the mother-child bond.
8 Factors that influence a toxic parent:
- Your attitude toward the pregnancy - was is a good or bad experience?
- If you wanted to have the child or a total surprise package!?
- Your age, parents at a much older stage may tend to make fewer adjustments.
- You wanted a girl and you had a boy Or vice-versa.
- Wanted just one child and then you had triplets or got pregnant, again.
- You wanted the child to be beautiful, but it came out looking like something else.
- You kept failing at the many methods to train your child to eat, potty train or anything else and you blame yourself.
- Your child is not easy to manage, no matter what you tried.
Adjustment to Parenthood
After finding Jesus, being a parent was the most important break in my life. Studies have shown that parenthood is a very important criterion in an adult’s life where you transition into a more responsible adult. Yes, parenthood is awesome; as you would notice, I love being a parent and making babies - so although parenthood can bring a lot of joy, it can be equally stressful as well.
WHY? Because you are going to be making major life adjustments. Not just financial budgets, but major adjustments in attitude, in values, and your role from a spouse to a parent. Even though having a first child in the family is a time of great celebration, it is also a stressful time for the whole family. Everyone needs to rearrange the way they live, act and be. This can be very stressful - WHY? Because -
- You may not feel “parent” enough with your first child.
- Having high expectations from being first-time parents, and its remotely what you imagined.
- Your social life, economic life, and personal life is under the chopper block.
- Your baby is the kabab-mein-haddi (intruder, third wheel, round peg in a square hole, whatever you might call it) between you and your spouse.
Adjusting with parenthood is a big deal and many are overwhelmed with the changes it brings. These changes have a direct impact on the parenting style. So just because a woman is able to give birth, it may not automatically make her a good mother. In the same way, any man can make a child, but it takes someone really special to be a father.
Is Good Parenting based on Gender?
We now have educated millennials like you and me who seek knowledge and information for everything we do - especially when it comes to pregnancy and parenting related matters, if not anything else.
More women are stepping out of their homes, earning equally and sometimes even more than their partners. But regardless of how many degrees you acquire or corporate experience you may have under your belt, I still come across people with the stereotypical notion that the mother is the primary child-bringer-upper-rearer and the father, the primary provider.
We notice fathers hiding behind their newspapers or work or with their smartphones and being a total asshole when it comes to being more involved with their children.
Are mothers better parents than fathers?
Mothers then are burdened with not only the task of cooking, cleaning and keeping the children alive, but it is assumed that mothers will also teach the child manners and build their character along the way. All the while the father works hard and long hours at work to bring home the bread, and children need to “not disturb” the father while he rests over the weekend.
On the other hand, mothers can be very abusive to their children; taking pleasure in hitting, shoving and psychologically abusing their children with guilt, and traumatising them in the name of discipline or entitlement of their own. Asshole parent again.
Sometimes mothers work hard to feed the children nutritious meals throughout the week and fathers invent ice-cream dinners and get their baby sons and daughters candy the whole weekend. I feel angry about this disparity because mothers end up being the bad cop and children want their daddies because they are so much more fun! But God never intended parenting to be that way.
God’s Original Parenting Plan
Like reading an instruction manual to set up devices, I turn to the bible to see what God intended for us, as parents too.
Firstly, God doesn't explicitly say that only the mother is supposed to raise children, engage with them, AND tend to their basic needs. Of course, it is a different matter if a spouse dies leaving the sole responsibility of raising the children to the other spouse. (These days, single-parents are more likely from divorce or illegitimate children than death)
God’s plan was to have both partners involved in the upbringing of their own children. These bible verses speak to parents - not just the mother or the father.
Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6 This verse covers the obvious physical, moral, spiritual principles that all children need to be taught by their parents. The important thing to remember is to parent your children with their future course of life in mind. How you teach them now - what to eat, to dress, their manners everything has an impact in their adult life.
Fathers, do not aggravate your children, or they will become discouraged. Colossians 3:21 This verse points to the tendency of parents to constantly find faults in their children. This is a very foolish thing to do. Children (or anyone for that matter) are discouraged by constant criticism. They eventually give up all hope of ever pleasing their parents (or anyone else). Constant blame and criticism also break a child’s spirit.
I have spent many years studying the bible, and in the Old Testament, in the Book of Kings I noticed all the good kings had involved mothers/grandmothers in their life. These women taught their children the ways of the Lord, so it does show to me that, given a choice, women can be better teachers!
The Equal Role of both Mothers and Fathers
These are the lessons I learned so far and I hope I learn some more...
Children listen when you communicate in a calm, affectionate way. Mothers are nurturing and caring, but it doesn't discount aggressive, short-tempered mothers.
Father's naturally come across as authority figures because of the way they look. So that doesn't discount them from being equally affectionate or nurturing as mothers tend to be.
When both parents can work to earn money, both can share equal responsibilities to raise your children as well. Both fathers and mothers have qualities that children look up to, and subconsciously emulate as they grow up.
The role of father or mother are different, but they need to compliment each other. It is our sinful human nature that drives us away from what God intended for us, as parents. When we centre our parenting around God, it is a beautiful thing.
Are mothers better parents than fathers OR vice versa? If given a choice, both parents are equally great. You just need to decide to be your best self and then, go for it!
Thank you for reading!