You love your child. (Duh! 🙂 ) That makes you a loving parent. Most of the time, you try to be a nice parent as well. You put in a lot of effort to make your child happy, give him what he wants, and generally keep things as pleasant as possible between you both.
You are shooting yourself in the foot.
It took me years to realize that there is a big difference between being a loving parent and a nice parent. In fact, there are 5 big differences.
1. As a loving parent, you work from your beliefs and convictions and stay true to them. If you change your belief, it is for a good, solid reason. A nice parent works to get approval from the child.
As a loving parent, you might frown on your child breaking the curfew rules. As a nice parent, you might relent ‘this one time’, because you want your child to think you are nice. Or because you think you are being nice.
2. If you are a loving parent, you are consistent. You make rules, decisions and choices that follow a particular line of thinking, and your child finds it easy to understand what you are all about – what you expect from her, what she can expect from you, what you would approve and disapprove of, what you value and what you don’t, and so on.
To be a nice parent, you need to be an acrobat, swinging from one end to the other of a perpetually shifting circus ground. Since ‘nice’ is a response from your child, her response will depend upon her mood. When she is feeling good and you refuse her a request, you may continue to be a nice parent. When she is feeling crotchety, and you deny her a second helping of dessert, you may suddenly stop being ‘nice’. You’re not really sure of your ground.
Your child is unsure too – of himself and of you. He doesn’t really know what behavior is okay and what is not, since so much seems to depend on your reaction at a particular moment. And that is always unpredictable.
3. As a loving parent, you are in it for the long haul. This is why you may choose to withhold approval even when it is due – maybe because your child is getting addicted to approval, maybe because he needs to learn to appreciate rewards other than your approval, maybe because he needs to look beyond approval…
A nice parent responds with what feels good at the moment. If you are being nice, you may respond to your child’s tantrums by pleading or cajoling or yelling or giving in (this is the last time!) or holding your ground… – with whatever you think will make the tantrum stop soonest. The tantrums continue, because your child is not sure when he might get lucky and get away with it.
4. You may seem unnecessarily stern, even harsh, if you are being a loving parent. You may choose to stand back and see your child fall, let her face problems, without doing anything to help her. She may wonder if you really love her. (“If you love me, you will help me, take my troubles away, make it easy for me…”). That doesn’t bother you, because you are in the business of being a loving parent, not a nice one, and you go about your business as usual.
If you want to be a nice parent, you will always step in to ease things for her, till one day, circumstances will make it impossible for you to ‘make the troubles go away’. I don’t know what you’ll come up with at that time, but you might be able to swing something.
5. As a loving parent, you aren’t always nice. But then you don’t really care about being nice.
As a nice parent, I’m not so sure you’re a loving parent. But you want to be one! “I’m sure it’s possible to be both – loving and nice, isn’t it?” you ask.
Sure it’s possible to be both loving and nice – but only occasionally. Most of the time, you can only pick one.
So which do you want to be: a loving parent or a nice one?