Is there such a thing as "effective parenting"?
Anecdotally, I've seen kids of parents who seem to have done much right, turn out disappointingly while kids of parents who muddled along, turn out brilliantly.
We are who we are. Throughout our lives we unfold, or are unfolded to become whatever it is in us to become. Other things being equal (education, social placement, etc), the kind of parenting we receive matters somewhat, but not much.
Some research I've read bears this out.
This notion is hard to accept because we are used to thinking in terms of actions and consequences. But the truth is that the results of any particular type of parenting are less consequential than we'd like to think.
Besides, our children aren't ours to mould. They don't belong to us; they belong to themselves, and soon enough, their selves will claim them back.
So what's a conscientious parent to do?
I think this:
Be gentle, be kind. Be available, as and when needed. Be liberal—free our kids to go walkabout, to unfold as they may (they will, anyway!) Not stressing out over the parenting may be the best thing we can do for them, and for ourselves.
As for our children, they owe us nothing. Though some kindness, some forgiveness, and a hug every now and again would be nice.
So here's to a future of reduced-stress, light-touch parenting—whether you're parenting your kids or dealing with your own tired, grumpy old parents.
Happy new year.