It Is A Fine Line
Parenting or nagging? I find myself asking this about my interactions with my son quite often. They are two distinct actions, yet the line between them is thin and seems easily crossed. I personally have a tough time calibrating just how much guiding and correcting is truly helpful with my son’s development.
My son is 4. He is a sweet, considerate, and smart kid. I recognize all of this, yet something inside of me is often on the lookout to nudge him or correct something he is doing. It can be anything from looking to avoid a perceived danger in our home to trying to better his attitude or attempting to teach some sort of grand life lesson in an otherwise mundane moment. I feel I am often compelled to coach him up or protect him in whatever he is doing.
A Hovering Helicopter?
I am aware of the helicopter parenting phenomenon but I do not believe I fall into that category of parenting. The potential to nag that I am acknowledging in my parenting is less intense and less pervasive. It is thankfully not the overarching dynamic in my relationship with my son, but I do feel it can be a detriment to his growth and self-confidence if left unchecked. From shared conversations with friends, I do believe the challenge of parenting versus nagging is a widespread and recurring concern amongst my peers. What exactly are the underlying factors driving us beyond the line of balanced parenting at times?
Our Own Childhoods Impact Our Parenting
As parents we bring our entirety of life experiences into every interaction we have with our kids, for good or for worse. Our own experiences from our childhoods can play a major role in the tone and manner in which we parent. Any baggage we may be carrying around is ready to be stirred up as emotions in an instant and can easily color a parenting interaction with our kids. For me personally, past challenges of weight and body type issues, loneliness, and insecurity over sports and competition can all creep up and impact how I approach my son in certain life situations.
Our Biology Plays A Role
In addition to our own baggage, we can also look at our own biology and genes as a factor in parenting. There are fears and instincts that have been biologically stamped in us as humans from when we were hunters and gatherers and faced legitimate threats of being preyed upon by the wild super predators of that day. We are all now thankfully removed from the direct threat of early man’s predators, but the threat response is still hard-wired in us and can be triggered by innocuous events. When it comes to parenting in our modern world, we clearly need to keep our kids out of harm’s way, but also need to recognize when our kids are truly safe and sound.
Falling Prey To Pressures
Beyond the personal baggage and biology, we can also be falling prey to societal pressures. We seem to be living in an era of hyper-parenting. Just go out anywhere and you will likely run into a parent that is fully intertwined which each breath their kid takes. Even though we recognize that model of relationship may not be right for us and our kids, it is easy to feel like a parenting slacker in comparison. When we witness kids displaying certain skills and behaviors it can make us question our own efficacy as a parent. I struggle at times feeling I need to live up to and achieve some level of mastery of being a Dad. I feel a tremendous weight of responsibility and at times it gets the better of my emotions.
As parents, we can all be too hard on ourselves. We need to proactively seek help and learn skills to cope with the unrelenting challenges of parenthood. The two biggest bits of help in my life for parenting have been seeing a therapist and maintaining a daily practice of meditation. I am far from a polished parent now and still often struggle with challenges, but I have worked actively to become a better father and husband.
Therapy Is A Powerful Process
In therapy, I was able to identify pieces of my life that could be interfering or clouding my ability to parent with clarity and presence. I discovered through this work that I am highly sensitive. It has been helpful to be aware of just how often and deep I tend to feel things. I tend to overanalyze and set myself up for some pretty unrealistic expectations in life at times.
My son seems to have inherited my own manner of being highly sensitive. Handled with awareness, sensitivity can truly become a blessing for my son as he grows and goes out into the world. Handled poorly and forgotten in certain moments, an overbearing parenting moment could be counterproductive for my son. I just need to be conscious of this and weigh the true potential of danger, let alone poor behavior, versus letting my kid simply be a kid.
In therapy, it was also incredibly powerful for me to set realistic expectations of my responsibilities as a parent. It was especially helpful to go a step further and look at the judgment I heap on myself for falling short of my own parenting expectations. Giving ourselves a break emotionally and mentally from self-doubt and internal criticism is good for us parents and for everyone surrounding us.
Prior to getting back into therapy, my third stint overall, I was becoming too reactive and emotional as a parent. The work I did and corrective steps I took from the therapy sessions were invaluable. It was growth as a parent I would never have been able to achieve without the paid professional help of a therapist.
Seek Presence Through Meditation
My daily meditation practice has directly helped my parenting by allowing me to parent with presence, as opposed to emotionally reacting all the time. There have been times when I parented as a distracted and thought ridden mess. Those interactions with my son typically ran astray. When I have been able to approach my son with awareness and attentiveness, it established a better energy between us and gave us the best possible chance to work out a resolution for an unwound situation. Meditation has been a great tool for allowing me to find presence within myself, which I can then bring into my relationship with my son.
The Struggle Is Real And Enduring
I still struggle with seeking the proper balance of parenting with love and presence versus being an overbearing nag. Maybe that is just a persistent challenge of being a parent that never goes away. I do know, as a parent, I want to learn, work, and progress to overcome this challenge as best as possible. I do not want to be positioned as a domineering figure in my son’s life. I must be aware of counterproductive urges when dealing with my son. Between our biology, baggage, and societal pressures, we continually face forces that can easily derail balanced parenting. These urges may never go away, but we do have a choice in how we can act on them. Choose presence and give you and your kid a break. You both deserve it.
As a parent, have you ever felt yourself becoming a nag to your kid? What drove you to that unbalanced place? How do you stop yourself short of nagging your kids? Please share your experiences in the comments.