Preconceived Parenting

Before we become parents we tend to have some idea of the kind of parent we would like to be. I know that before and during our adoption process I used to watch the way other parents handled situations with their children and wonder how I would have dealt with them. The problem with having these preconceived notions is that things very rarely go the way you plan.

If you’re planning on adoption as a way to become a parent then you may as well take all your preconceived ideas, screw them up into a little ball, and throw them in a bin. You will rarely know the full story about where your child came from, what they experienced in their early life, or how they will react to seemingly innocuous situations. Some preconceptions may survive into actual parenting, but usually with a slight variation.

The adoption process attempts to prepare you for this by putting you on a few training courses. The usefulness and quality of these courses will vary from location to location. Most of us probably do what any parent would do though, we take what we do know, adapt, evolve and cross our fingers that we can do the best for our children.

Here are some things that I have had to alter my thinking on, not all of them are adoption related:

  1. I’ve watched Super Nanny – Timeouts are great for getting your child to behave if you do them right.
    • Ha! Yes. Leaving your adopted child on a step or room on their own when they have possibly been left to fend for themselves with no adult supervision for hours on end, may not be the best idea. Do you really want them to think you’re abandoning them because their behaviour is a bit raucous?
      Instead we have something called ‘Quiet Time’ it is similar in nature to a Timeout, but doesn’t involve the child being removed. Some would call it a ‘Time In’, we stay with them, make them sit quietly with us, and once they’ve become quiet (which can take a while sometimes) speak to them calmly about why they were in ‘Quiet Time’ and get them to think about what they should be doing instead.
  2. We will not be taking our children into fast food restaurants such as McDonald’s, there are plenty of other places to eat out if we want to.
    • We abandoned this one during Introductions. We weren’t overly confident about the behaviour of our children in public at that time. Fast food chains, McDonald’s in particular, are a safe environment for kids to be kids while getting fed. No the food is not very good for them, but a once in a while treat will not hurt them. We’ve tried other restaurants, but it can get very stressful for us if the toddlers are in awkward mode!
  3. TV will not be used to keep them quiet.
    • Guilty of breaking this one. Sometimes you just need a few minutes to do things. You know: shower, prepare dinner, do a poo.
  4. I will not compare my children to other people’s children. It doesn’t create a good environment for them.
    • I don’t do this consciously but it’s very difficult to have a conversation with another parent without feeling like you’re comparing milestones or how well they’re doing at certain things. I think it’s actually ok to do this, but only if you’re not doing it in a competitive or judgemental way. Leave competition to the sports field.
  5. I will let my child play with any toy they want, I don’t care if it is meant to be a ‘boy’ or ‘girl’ toy.
    • This one can be easier said than done. The other day my eldest son pointed at a Ariel from the Little Mermaid toy in a toy shop and told me “That is Ariel, that’s a toy for girls” and I responded with “Not really, it it just a toy that anyone can play with if they want to”. My sons play with dolls sometimes too, which is actually quite endearing. Having said all that our house is filled with cars, trains, dinosaurs, monsters, work benches and anything else you can think of that are stereotypically ‘boys toys’. Was this a subconscious effort by us to make them play with ‘boys’ toys or do they have those toys simply because that is what they show the most interest in?
  6. I want my children to go to the best school they possibly can to get the best results.
    • This one still holds true. The difference between now and my preconceived idea for their education is that my definition of ‘best’ is now totally different. When looking at the league tables recently released the school we picked for our children to go to is one of the lowest ranked schools in the area. I look at this, laugh, and say “That’s not why we picked that school”. The more I read about the way the school goes about things the happier I am with the decision.

That is just a few of them that I’ve managed to think of in the time I’ve been writing this post. There are probably countless more.

So, preconceptions are a good starting place. It shows you’re thinking about the type of parent you want to be, and gives you an idea of the values you want to uphold. However, if there is one thing I have learned is that every parent has their own ideas, their own preconceptions. This doesn’t mean they are the right way of doing things, and just because someone does something differently to you doesn’t make either of you wrong.

We have two children, both of them require slightly different methods of parenting. We hold true to the values behind our preconceived notions of parenting, but the methods are quite different.

Whether a child is your biological child, adoptive child, or foster child, every single one is unique. So what makes people think that the parenting of that child shouldn’t be?

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