Having a Positive Mother Figure Will Make You Stronger (If It Doesn’t Kill You or Her)Posted by Howard County Library System on May 14, 2012 in Mental Health, Parenting | 4 comments
There’s tons of information out there on how our parents screw us up. Entire schools of psychology and sociology focus on the damage parents can do. But, on the heels of Mother’s Day, we decided it might be nice to focus on some of the benefits of having a positive maternal figure.
Let’s start with a very obvious benefit. A parent’s #1 job is to keep a child safe and help her/him survive to adulthood and, hopefully, become a contributing member to society. This actually requires a lot more thought and effort than keeping the toxic cleaners out of reach and teaching a toddler to stop biting. Even young adults need a mother or father figure to help them navigate the hazards of sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll that crop up as they age. Simple things, like making sure children are well-fed, are not so simple. Not to be sexist, but moms are traditionally the organizers of family meals, and these meals have proven to be extremely beneficial and not only in providing and modeling healthy diet. Sharing in regular family meals “improves academic performance, reduces risky behavior, promotes physical well-being, stabilizes emotions, and eventually enhances your family relationship, all at no cost….”
Mother figures are also crucial in promoting a healthy body image, particularly among young females. So a girl whose mom or female role model is not overly concerned about her own weight or the girl’s weight or appearance, encourages healthy eating habits and physical activity (while discouraging drug and alcohol use), counters negative media messages, and praises the girl’s accomplishments is less likely to have eating disorders and more likely to have a positive body image and high self esteem.
Self esteem leads us to another key role of mother and father figures – developing emotional stability. Parents are often on the front line in equipping children with what they need to cope with trauma. HealthyChildren.org suggests that it is a parent’s task to meet the multiple demands of family life with energy and creativity, thus enabling children to grow and develop in positive, healthy ways and to experience satisfaction and success. Creativity and energy can be tricky though. One mom’s creativity may feel like nagging or abject humiliation to the child. Ideally, a mother figure “instructs children and gives guidance about personal values and social behavior… instills discipline and helps them learn and internalize codes of conduct that will serve them for the rest of their lives… helps them develop positive interpersonal relationships, and…provides an environment that encourages learning both in the home and at school.”
And what about learning? Did your parents help you to be smarter? Parents can and should (and often do) help kids become better learners through the development of some critical skills:
- Building spoken language through talking and listening and teaching them the sounds of spoken language
- Familiarizing them with print and books
- Teaching them about letters and numbers
- Reading to them
- Helping them spell and write
- Building vocabulary
- Building their knowledge of the world
At the end of the day, being a good parent is a tall order. Moms and dads are charged with keeping a child safe (difficult when she prefers pointy rocks to dolls); spending time, showing affection, and listening (even if he’s told that knock knock joke 300 times…today); providing order and consistency (whether or not if there’s three feet of laundry to get to); setting and enforcing limits (“but whyyyyyyy?”); monitoring a child’s friendships and activities (did someone say Facebook?); and, of course, leading by example (probably the most difficult one).
So, if you are reasonably happy and not too much of a threat to others, perhaps you can thank your mom (or dad, or anyone who helped you turn out pretty okay). And to better understand, help, or celebrate the mother figure in your life, or if you are a mom looking for solidarity and support in this “mom is the root of all my problems” world, check out some of these:
Making Babies: Stumbling into Motherhood by Anne Enright
Good Enough Is the New Perfect: Finding Happiness and Success in Modern Motherhood by Becky Beaupre Gillespie
Mom Energy: A Simple Plan to Live a Fully Charged Life by Ashley Koff