Parenting! Are we ready for the job?
In my over half century of life I haven’t met any “wanna be parents” that didn’t believe they weren’t ready to be parents. “ I feel I’m ready” “I know I’m ready” “I got this” “It’s instinctive” These are some of the things I’ve heard from couples and even single women about their readiness to be parents.
The maternal calling can be strong and likely more widespread than the paternal calling. At least this is what is said publicly. “Wanna be” Moms have a yearning sprung from a number of sources. Culture plays a role, Family as well and of course females are reminded once a month of their creation vessels. So I give the edge to females when it comes to a need or wish to become a parent. But do these environmental and natural reminders constitute parental readiness?
Life has a natural and biological program that calls for survival and reproduction. To become a parent fulfills this mystical perhaps spiritual purposeful design. There is a knowing that truly is instinctive. Is as if there is encoded source of understanding that persuades us to think we are ready to parent. So when a young person says they are ready they are really identifying with their biological readiness. A 20 or 30 something year old body will be strong enough to endure the enormous changes that occur during the nine month gestation period. Today humans are in better shape than ever before at older ages so many 40 and even 50 year olds can handle this physically demanding ordeal. So we humans are pretty good at gaging our biological readiness for creating another human being. How good are we a determining our readiness for everything else that comes with the role of parenting still remains as the big mystery question?
Practitioners of NLP understand that cognitive distortions make up a part of how it is we make meaning of our life experiences. One of those distortions is Optimism Bias. Tali Sharot, perhaps the worlds foremost expert on this topic has done a number of TED talks and written books on the subject and has a Phd in Psychology and Neuroscience. She speaks to this phenomenon in this way. On Friday we feel great and on Sunday we don’t. As humans we like our time off from work. However Humans generally feel upbeat on Friday even thought they are working. On Sunday when having the day off we feel bad because of the anticipation of returning to work on Monday. What Tali is telling us is that we are constantly visiting the future in our minds. Her research suggest that we believe outcomes to be far greater than reality allows for. The logic doesn’t support how optimistic we tend to be. Especially when we compare ourselves with others. It is estimated that about 80% of people operate routinely in over optimistic manners. Now while we can debate that percentage it isn’t hard to find someone that we know that is overly optimistic about future prospects. For example: You probably have a few friends that play Lotto! Billions and Billions of dollars are spent each day around the world on lottery tickets. The vast majority play because they believe they will win. But each drawing tells us that often times nobody wins or one or a very few win. The odds of getting hit by lightning are better than winning most big lottery games. Yet people spend rent money with the dreams of being a millionaire. Las Vegas, Macau and countless other cities rake in trillions from gambling. Casinos are rigged against the gambler yet people will waste their life savings in hopes of beating the odds. This is optimism bias at its worse, well…there is something more egregious than throwing away your life earnings.
When it comes to parenting Optimism bias maybe at it strongest. I call this Parental Bias, as it is specific to how parents think about their children. Author John O’Sullivan wrote in his book “Changing the Game” about the odds of a child playing youth sports receiving a sports college scholarship. A number of surveys were done with parents and nearly half of the parents believed their 6 to 11 year old child had the talent to win a sports scholarship that is offered to less than 1 in 500 high school athletes. Over 30 million kids play youth sports in the USA each year. There are not 15 million full ride scholarships available, not even close! Now Parents agree that only thousands of scholarships and not millions are available yet their Parental bias makes them believe their child is the “one” in 500, even before their child is old enough to play high school sports.
Optimism Bias has In general parents believing their children are more intelligent, in better shape, healthier, nicer, more attractive, more popular, have greater potential etc…than logic dictates. This brand of optimism bias spills over into parenting itself. Many perhaps even most parents believe that they know everything they need to know to be not just ordinary parents but great parents.
This mindset in parents sets a terrible precedent and creates an untenable environment for children to be raised in any sort of realistic or “prepared for real life” kind of way. Parents often over push their children or when reality sinks in, the parent quits on the child and the once over positive feedback turns to constant negative feedback. The degree of behavior by parents due to optimism or negative bias can greatly impact a child’s feeling of self-worth, self confidence and self esteem.
Now this phenomenon isn’t new this has been prevalent since the dawn of humankind. The growth in NLP, CBT and Life Coaching is the result of humans being raised by optimistically biased yet profoundly ignorant parents. Even for parents who are highly realistic and have managed control over these biases, the truth is, for a great deal of the time when parenting, we are clueless as to the impacts these naive actions have on the psyche of our children. We don’t know what we don’t know. When our children are born we don’t know who they are, who they will become! Another truth is that they don’t come with instructions! Another unfortunate fact is that our schools don’t prepare us for the many roles and the many changes that await parenthood. We are not made aware of the differences in the stages of developing life and how it will impact the effectiveness of communication with our children. We are not taught simple skills that we can in-turn apply to parenting such as conflict resolution, active listening, emotional language, I-messaging, solutions based coaching, positive reinforcement, time and change management, family constitution, accountability growth, the cognition tower, a whole assortment of mindfulness techniques and alternative learning methods. No frameworks, No understanding of cognitive & psychosocial development or the difference in chronological and developmental ages in growing human beings. Our parents are not equipped to teach us this stuff. Ok so, Yes we can change diapers and warm up bottles galore, drive our kids to school and practice, we can shop for their clothes and prepare their food. Most of this we can do relatively well without much practice and can be taught to us by our parents. But parenting is a far more complex job, a more important job and the job with the greatest of all responsibilities. We are preparing the next generation to not only raise their own children but to take care of us when we can no longer fend for ourselves. We are preparing our children to take on a faster paced world than the one we adopted from our parents.
Now think about this, Our parents and theirs before them prepared us for a certain kind of world. History runs in cycles. Every so many years we have recessions, we engage in wars, and then we cycle up to prosperity and peace. What have we’ve learned? We are greedy and we fight then we share and we love. Lessons we learn that cost millions of lives and billions of suffering souls. But then we do it all over again as if we’ve learned nothing. We will repeat these cycles until we break the method of how we are taught. We grow up without the lessons that teach peace and prosperity. Because at the core of these things are lessons we could learn at home from our parents. How to get along with one another, how to share and inspire greatness in ourselves and in others, how to be grateful, how to forgive, how to listen, really listen, how to take care of ourselves our neighbors and the planet we all share, how to find inner peace, happiness and how to help others find those things for themselves. Imagine if we learned these things as children so when we grew into adults we wouldn’t behave as children and become greedy and fight. How do we teach these world changing lessons when we haven’t learned how to parent? Lets take a look at the world we have today! Are we ready for this? As parents, will our children be ready for what we leave them? So it comes back to the original question. When it comes to parenting, Are we ready for the job?