When I was a teenager I dreamed of what kind of parent I would be. I just new I would be one of those cool moms who had great relationships with her children and always did fun stuff.
My husband also had similar visions of coolness. I remember that when we got married he declared. “I don't want to be one of those dads who doesn't play with their kids. I am going to be a cool dad and really do stuff with my family.”
I've heard many people over the years talk about this 'cool parent' idea. It's interesting what makes a cool parent in some minds and what society has taught us about being cool. And it's even more interesting to know what really makes a cool mom or a cool dad.
Some Social Research
I recently spoke with some parents about what they thought being cool meant. These are some of the answers:
A cool mom is friends with her kids friends. In fact, her kids friends will come over to hang out with her even if her child isn't home.
A cool dad buys his kids what they want. Treats, toys and amusement are part of time with dad.
Cool moms are fun to play with.
Cool moms don't boss their kids around.
Cool parents get their kids the things that make them happy, and support them in their activities and with their friends.
So, according to the above comments, cool parents worry a lot about their kids friends, and about play. And, cool parents don't really focus their attention on correcting or parenting children.
Does this description of a parent seem funny to anyone else besides me?
I know that these statements are not made by parents who want to destroy their child's life. They are not even selfish people. These people are pretty regular type parents.
They want to be liked by their children. They hope that if they are good friends with their child, then they will always have a good relationship.
Where did this idea come from? Is it new?
No way. It's been around for a while. In fact, throughout history this idea of being a friend to children or spoiling children seems to show up from time to time. It is probably because parents are always trying to be better parents and are willing to make changes if it means helping their children.
In the 1800s, a time when it was generally considered immoral not to train a child properly, parents knew that the homes where parents were too lenient or indulgent of children were apt to produce less than desirable adults. Spoiling or neglecting to properly train children happened then, and it happens now. I do think, however, that it was less common in the 1800s for a parent to forget his role as trainer for the child than it probably is today. But, the debate about the proper role of parents was alive and well 200 years ago.
In the mid 1900s Dr. Spock wrote books and spoke about focusing on becoming the child's friend instead of their parent. This modern progress parenting movement was partially responsible for the hippie movement. And, Dr. Spock's philosophies are still taught today. The current parenting social structure is still trying to recover from this abandonment style of parenting.
What Has Happened?
Due to the current friendship based parenting social trend, there has been “an emptying out of the adult identity,” as Mark Wanstall called it. Parents don't really know what it means to be a parent. In fact, I think some parents are afraid of being a parent. We are now multiple generations into this modern progressive style of parenting. Some children, now grown up, saw that the model was not good, and know they need to do something else, but aren't sure what. Other young parents are going to the other extreme of parenting and bullying their children to 'keep them in line.'
Both models of parenting is wrong. There is another way. In fact, the other traditional way of parenting creates really cool moms and dads.
What Does Cool Mean?
In Webster's 1828 dictionary the word cool means:
“To moderate excitement of temper; to allay, as passion of any kind; to calm, as anger; confident...”
So, if parent is 'cool' then they moderate their tempers, are calm, loving, and able to quiet their passions. It sounds to me like a cool parent knows how to govern their emotions. They are able to assess their usual reactions and deliberately choose to communicate effectively instead of emotionally.
Once a parent chooses to be 'cool' it is really hard to stay 'cool' unless they have the proper skills to
support their decision. If they don't have the skills and home structure they need to correct the children in a clam way, then they will fall back into old 'hot' habits or abandonment after a short period of time.
Becoming a Cool Parent For Today's Children
Becoming a 'cool' parent requires self-government. When a parent is calm and confident they automatically develop a strong bond with their children. Then life is much more fun.
People often think that fun leads to a strong relationship. But, actually the strong relationship leads to fun.
I don't know if you have ever been around a child who is determined to be grumpy no matter what kind of fun thing the family is doing. This happens because the child is determined to be detached from the parents no matter how much fun is being had. Even if the child gave in to the fun for a short time, it wouldn't repair the relationship completely.
The relationship can only be repaired with honest evaluation, safe correction, and connection. This process is most easily accomplished when the family has a shared vocabulary about the self-government skills needed.
For example, understanding what disagreeing appropriately, or dropping a subject, etc. really means frees the family to problem solve and repair relationships.
So, go ahead be the coolest mom or the coolest dad on the block. Be the kind of parent who is governed by certain principles, who makes deliberate choices instead of emotionally reacting. When you are this kind of parent, you will be respected, and you will be understood, and you will be fun. Your child's friends will want to hang around you. You will be a safe, wise adult. They will trust you, not just use your kindness.
Today's children need truly cool parents more than any other generation. We need to cool ourselves down so that we can be those parents they need.