Sydney based clinical psychologist and mother of four, Renée Mill teaches parents to give themselves and their children a break with practical advice and by challenging common misconceptions about parenting. Recently I spoke to Renée about these misconceptions and how parents can give themselves a break without feeling guilty.
Renée Mill has written a book for parents who are tired. No Sweat Parenting is for parents who are tired of living up to unrealistic expectations; tired of second-guessing their own authority; tired of making excuses as to why they can’t play games; tired of pretending that their responsibilities and wants don’t exist; and tired of buying stuff.
Renée Mill told Australian Women Online, “In my practice I’ve seen a rise in anxiety and depression in children because they are very fearful of things that most kids in previous generations wouldn’t have been fearful of – and having overprotective parents is a big part of it. They’re not given the opportunity to try new things or to fall down and pick themselves up, and so they’re afraid.”
“At this time of year back to school anxiety is common. Social anxiety is another common one that I never use to see. But children can be afraid of anything new – going to a new friend’s house, moving house – whatever is new that can be their anxiety,” Mill said.
Despite the growth of the Internet, Mill says this has never come up as an issue with the children she sees in her practice. “Anxiety about scary movies is quite a common one. But the anxiety is already there, the movie is just the trigger,” she said.
One of the biggest issues confronting parents in the 21st Century is the myth that children who misbehave must be suffering from some type of disorder.
Renée Mill explains, “As soon as kids are misbehaving or an impulsive, the school are sending them off for ADHD assessment and the doctors aren’t finding it and the parents are having to learn new behaviour management strategies – and the parents are wishing there was a medication they could put them on.”
“The other topical diagnosis is Oppositional Defiance Disorder and it’s quite hard to get around that idea that a child is oppositional and it’s a disorder.”
Renée Mill wrote the book No Sweat Parenting to help change the way mums and dads think of themselves, their styles of parenting and the unrealistic expectations they assume.
Mill says there are six myths about parenting that need to be debunked in our society:
Myth 1: I must be a perfect parent
Although this is by no means new, Mills says parents are more afraid than ever to get it wrong. “Parents have always had a bit of guilt that they weren’t doing it well enough. But I think more and more parents are really scared of doing anything that they feel would not be appreciated by their child.”
“But I think we live in a generation where there is an expert in everything, so people have lost confidence in common sense and they have lost confidence in the way their parents did it. I also think because there has been a whole wave of information published on parenting, the younger generation feel their parents are out of date,” said Mill.
Myth 2: I am firm, my child will have low self-esteem
Mill says this problem comes up in families so often because parents don’t know what discipline actually means. “When parents ask me about discipline, what they really mean is punishment. My whole idea of discipline is like being the captain of a ship – it’s having a direction, it’s setting boundaries and teaching self-discipline, then there is no real need for punishment most of the time.”
Myth 3: Quality time means playing a game with my child
Mill says spending time with your child doesn’t necessarily have to be completely child focused. “Obviously both of you need to be in the room and interacting. But what I find causes parents stress is that they’ve been busy all day and they’re thinking how am I going to find that extra half an hour to play a game with my child – and I’m saying you can incorporate quality time with your child into what you’re doing in the day.”
Have a conversation with your child when driving in the car; or having your child help you to prepare the evening meal are just two examples of how parents can incorporate quality time with their child during the day.
Myth 4: Parenting must be carried out separately from living an adult life
This myth is related to the idea that once you become a parent you must give up being an individual and a loving couple. But as Mill points out in her book, being a happy person and sustaining a happy marriage is possibly the best gift you can give your child.
“I think there are so many marriages where parenting issues are breaking them apart – everything is child focused and they’re always doing what the child wants. But there is no way you can sustain your marriage that way and in the end the child suffers much more,” said Mill.
Myth 5: My child must have every material benefit in good order to be happy and successful
“This is about the parents themselves realising that happiness doesn’t come from material things. The myth in western society is, if you get the new game or you get the new car then you’ll be happy and people often think they can’t be happy until they have it. But all the research shows that happiness in children does not come from material things. Taking your child to the park is just as good or better than buying the new video game.”
Myth 6: I must do everything for my child so that he will feel good about himself and feel safe in the world
This myth drives a parent’s need to do everything for their child. And how many households actually get their children to do chores without teaching them to expect something in return? Not that many says Mill, “We pay them to do it.”
No Sweat Parenting: Six Parenting Myths Debunked by Renée Mill can be purchased from the website at www.parentchildself.com.au.