CategoryParenting

Positive Parenting Strengths

Chuck and Priscilla were at their wits’ end. They are the parents of two teen-aged girls, and two younger boys. The eldest, Charlotte, is out-of-control. As each child approaches adolescence, they seem to become impossible. “We don’t know what to do anymore!” Priscilla wails. “I do everything for them. Charlotte and Chuck fight constantly. He expects her to respect him, but she swears at him when he makes the slightest demand. Then he gets mad and starts yelling, and it’s all over! She’s a top student and athlete. Why won’t she be more compliant at home? And now Gertie, my 13 year-old, is starting to act out. She talks back something fierce! The boys never do anything around the house. Their grandparents think they are all out of control. I don’t know how much more of this I can take!”

Many parents feel confident in their skills while their children are little, only to wonder how it all got away from them as their kids reach the pre-teen years. And who are these strangers inhabiting their adolescents’ bodies, and what did they do with the off-spring we knew, anyway?

Parenting is not the same as it used to be. Fewer families include a stay-at-home parent. Economically, most families need both parents to be in the work force. More women are single parents. The kids who are teens now were in daycare or otherwise looked after by people other than their parents. They don’t see us as the arbiters of their lives or as the holders of all the keys, because we no longer are. As well, TV and computers have made information easily accessible by children – information that, just a few years ago, was the domain of adults. The way we protected children in the past from overwhelming material such as sexual images, disasters, and pictures of war-torn bodies, was to keep it unavailable. Now that is almost impossible. Children are traumatized by the news.

They are also feeling immense pressure to be involved in activities and interests that their peers and the media tell them they are ready for. Advertising, loosened standards in TV programs and movies, and the availability of adult content, are all making our children (and many parents, actually) believe that ten-year-olds should be concerned about deodorant, and engage in sexual behaviors.

We are all racing – kids and parents alike. Society runs at a much faster pace. Music, TV shows, sentence structure and pacing in books, magazines, even symphonies, have sped up drastically. There is an overwhelming amount of information bombarding us and demanding that we respond to it instantly. There is more information in one Sunday issue of the New York Times than in all the books that existed in the 16th century. We work longer, vacation less (in the USA), and are expected to be available by phone, hand-held, and computer 24/7. On top of all this, neighborhoods are not as safe as before. Gangs, drugs, and violence are not restricted to inner cities.

When parents come to me, often they want to reduce some unacceptable behavior in their child. Old parenting styles that many of us were raised with, were based on behavior control. They worked moderately well then, because children were more dependent on their parents. Today, the same methods often have wildly unsuccessful results, in that they spark dramatic reactions in our children that are often the exact opposite of what we hoped for. When parents now use a domineering tone, lay down the law, and are unaware of their child’s point of view, while expecting instant and unquestioning obedience, pre-teens and teens often react with aggression or rejection in terms that we’d never have dared to use. We cannot focus simply on behavior cessation or our own comfort levels. There is nothing more silly and helpless than the feeling you get when you bellow, “You’re not going anywhere until you clean your room!” and have the kid shoot you that who-are-you-kidding sneer and stalk out of the house. Parents feel shell-shocked and confused, and the children feel disrespected, misunderstood, and alone.

What we need now are the skills that will help our kids see us as their major support. We need to help them learn to navigate the world as it is today. They need to take risks within a reasonable range, learn from their mistakes within the safety of a family that knows the value of trial and error. We need to make sure that our families help young people think about situations, options, and consequences.

It is difficult to give up old patterns and to try new ones. The benefits are legion. As painful as the tumult often is in today’s families, we can see it as an opportunity, if we view the chaos from within a positive psychology framework. We have the chance to lay a foundation for continued connection and understanding with our young children, to build real and lasting closeness with our adolescents, and in so doing, to work beyond some of the hurts we may still be carrying from our own childhoods, by learning to have more meaningful and warm relationships with our kids. It is so easy, in the face of kids’ changing behavior and moodiness, to lose sight of the fact that we have wonderful skills. While they treat us as if we are clueless, ridiculous, and offensive, it is imperative that we maintain our own reality. The more we can maintain our own equanimity and center, the more they will acquire these same strengths, to help with the pressures that face them in years to come.

Priscilla and Chuck started by uncovering their assumptions about families, as well as the patterns they inherited from their own upbringings. We looked at the effects of these patterns on the present. Then we discussed what is causing their children to act the way they are. This information included normal developmental phases as well as how modern culture and environmental factors have accelerated kids’ behavior. (It is not only a relief for parents to have more insight into their child’s reality, it helps immeasurably in staying calm and in being understanding during conflicts, rather than reacting only to the surface behavior.)

Once the elements feeding into the tumult were uncovered, Priscilla and Chuck paused to remember why they wanted to have a family in the first place – the spiritual, loving, giving, connected, creative, nourishing reasons for generating and supporting life. Then they identified their signature strengths, as identified by the research in positive psychology spear-headed by Chris Peterson and Martin Seligman. We brainstormed parenting applications. Parents feel empowered to acknowledge and utilize their Values In Action (VIAs, as they are called) such as curiosity, loving, perseverance, genuineness, open-mindedness, kindness, leadership. For example, Priscilla has perseverance/diligence as a strength. We talked about how she could redirect it from doing all the chores and running herself ragged, to setting up job plans and following through with consistency. She could apply her strength to learning more about child development, new approaches to discipline, as well as putting more emphasis her own well-being within the family.

But the VIA signature strengths are not the only characteristics that parents have or need!
After working to upgrade my own parenting skills and helping many families, I
have identified a list of Positive Parenting Strengths (you could call them Values in Parenting – VIP’s) that are explicitly helpful in family life. We have many of the Positive Parenting Strengths in abundance but don’t always recognize them as valuable. As parents recognize these attributes and attend mindfully to expanding their use in situations, we feel more assured in our parenting. Increasing our reliance on these strengths also tends to give us more confidence in our communities and in work lives, as we see them help in all relationships.

The VIPs list is meant as an adjunct to the VIA list, so I have not replicated the many valuable parenting skills, such as authenticity, curiosity, love of learning in the original. The two can be used together to focus and enhance parents’ efforts.

Here, then, is the list I propose as Positive Parenting Strengths (PPS’s). These are skills that help parents of any aged child improve communication, feel more calm and confident, and maintain loving connections. Read through the Strengths and identify those which you recognize as your top five. Following the list are some exercises you may use to apply your strengths to sticky events in your family.

1) Staying Grounded

You are able to stop, breathe, and connect in with the lower half of your body, especially when you find yourself getting worked up. You settle, turn inward, and feel the energy moving in your abdomen, pelvis, thighs, knees, calves, ankles, and feet. You feel your energy joining with the energy of the earth, so that you feel connected, rather than like a helium balloon that someone forgot to knot after blowing up. You stay internally present in difficult and emotional situations.

2) Centered

You have a strong sense of your true self, and you feel it as a place in which you reside in yourself. You have a clear experience of the distinction between your personality and your Being. You are good at gathering yourself, not being distracted, or pulled into self-judgment. When the going gets tough, rather than reacting by scattering or closing down, you make a point of staying open and self-aware. You know that being centered connects you to spirit and to well-being.

3) Empathic

You are able to see the world though your children’s eyes. You see their feelings and reactions as valid, given their experience and level of development. When they have a hard time, you make an effort to reflect back to them an understanding of what it must be like for them. You look beyond rude behavior to try to see what is going on inside. If there is a situation that repeatedly drives you crazy, you make sure you take the time to imagine, not only what this situation must be like for them, but what it must mean, given their history. You are able to imagine the scenario as if you are in their body and mind, see what it means to them, and what gets stirred up. You gain insight that helps you modify future situations. Doing so frees you from feeling upset by their behavior and often leads to their being calmer and more open.

4) Communicator

You recognize that good communication is a skill and is not automatic. You think carefully, and in advance, what you want to accomplish in communicating with your children. You plan and practice communication patterns that elicit thoughtful and relatively calm interactions. You are good at orchestrating conversations that enable children to learn life skills. You know that it is much more important to ask questions than it is to provide answers. You help them, by asking questions, learn to think through situations, anticipate consequences, and consider alternatives.

You want them to learn how to work things out for themselves, so you work to control your emotional reactions to things that they might say, in order to reach the larger goals of open interaction, problem-solving, decision-making, self-confidence, and social skills.

Your strong points are paraphrasing what they’ve said, so as to make sure you heard correctly, asking questions about the topic and about their thoughts, feelings, responses and actions. “How did you feel then?”, “What possibilities are there?” “What happened next?” “What do you want to do about it?” “Who could you talk to about that?” are your stock in trade. You love it when your kids surprise you by coming up with solutions that hadn’t occurred to you.

5) Connector

You place a high value upon staying emotionally connected with your children, even when they act badly or when the two of you are having an argument. You stay present, authentic, and aware of your own feelings, as well as those of your child. You work at finding ways to maintain energetic and emotional ties with your child and stay with it to work things out, rather than giving up. If you need to take a break, you call a time-out, so that everyone has a chance to cool off, without anyone feeling rejected or shut out. If they come home in a bad mood, you let them have their chance to cool off, yet you maintain the sense inside yourself that you are together and that you love each other.

6) Educator

You remember that the goal of parenthood is to educate over time. You are able to keep in mind that growing up is a process, and that you are engaged in raising wonderful, normal, fallible humans, not robots. You can remember, even in the heat of the moment, that the present behavior is not as important as the lessons you want your children to learn, such as thoughtfulness, self-reflection, and problem-solving. You tailor your parenting to further the long-term goal and remember that education takes years and many steps, and that your children do not have to master adult skills instantly, just work toward them gradually.

7) Process expert

You know that the goal is not what is important. The journey is. It is in the process of everyday routines that life is lived and savored. You are comfortable with the messiness and incompleteness of the mundane. You keep you eye on what furthers the processes of family life – communicating, being, allowing, working through, tolerating, and the like. You are able to pull back from a situation and notice what is going on in the way that it is unfolding, which you often find more important than the topic. What is important to you is the way things are engaged in, more than the thing itself. You also relax and take time to be with your children while they are going through their processes, thereby helping them to be comfortable in the moment.

8) Acceptor

You really see who your children are – their strengths, weaknesses, the direction they are going – rather than being locked in a view of who you want them to be, or who you can tolerate them being. Much as you would like to raise a concert pianist, you appreciate and nurture your child’s talent as a wrestler. You raise the child you have, in the way that they need, even if it is not your first choice. If your child needs firm, clear boundaries delivered in imperative sentences, even if you tend toward the gentle and talkative and like to ask for acquiescence, you rally yourself to provide structure in the way he or she needs.

9) Holder of Optimism

You hold in your heart, and therefore hold for your child, conviction of their potential, who they truly are, and who they can become. You remember that, if they are adolescent, their brains are changing and they are hormonally challenged. Even in the face of strong evidence to the contrary, you know that they really are the kind, caring, loving, skillful, intelligent people you remember from before. You keep reminding yourself of this, so that you don’t think for too long that monsters have taken over their morphing bodies. You present a picture to them of their best selves. You know that, inside all their posturing, teens are very brittle, sensitive, unsure, confused about what is happening, of the new pressures, and of their own actions. You know that it matters to them, a lot, to see in your eyes the people they hope they are becoming.

10) Structure expert

You know that structure makes growth, opportunity, relationships, and achievement possible, that boundaries do not cut people off from each other, so much as they clarify, define, and protect. You are clear about your own boundaries and the areas of life that are impacted by boundary issues. You are clear who you are, and what your bottom line is in different areas. You take care of yourself, have clear limits, balance various areas in the way that works best for you and your family. You are able to be flexible, not rigidly adhering to dogma when unforeseen factors indicate the need to take a different approach. You communicate your expectations clearly in a way that each child can hear.

11) Equanimity

You remain contented and peaceful, even when those around you are having a hard time.
You take a deep breath and maintain the feeling of calm that helps storm-tossed children and teens to orient themselves. You do not cut yourself off from them in order to feel happy. You are present and available, without being pulled into their angst. You remember that things mostly work out for the best, even if they don’t look as if they are going so well at the moment.

12) Autonomy

You see yourself as a unique individual, and you see your children and partner as individuals as well. You know you can stand on your own, and you stand up for yourself. You treat yourself compassionately regarding your shortcomings. You honor your history for the experience and wisdom you have gleaned from it. You have come to terms with pain in your past, so that when it is triggered in the present, you are not thrown into reactive behavior without catching yourself. You know you are responsible for your experience and your behavior. It is fine with you that other people are humans with strengths and weaknesses. You accept them as they are.

13) Sovereignty

You know that, ultimately, each person must depend upon themselves. You know that the best way to train children to be self-reliant is to treat them as individuals with rights to be treated respectfully and with honor, even when they make mistakes and are still learning, even when they screw up royally. As Elizabeth Cady Stanton said in 1892, in front of the Judiciary Committee of the U.S. Congress, “Nothing strengthens the judgment and quickens the conscience like individual responsibility. Nothing adds such dignity to character as the recognition of one’s self-sovereignty; the right to an equal place, every where conceded; a place earned by personal merit.” You know that teens feel badly enough about themselves, and that their shame escalates very quickly, if they feel reacted to as if they are despicable. You are committed to treating them considerately, honoring their boundaries, and responding to their difficulties in ways that teach deep respect through example.

14) Enthusiast

You love the many possibilities there are in life. You love to learn and are interested in many things. Through your enthusiasm, you turn your children on to the arts, the sciences, bugs, stars, microscopes, cooking, crafts, tap dancing, old movies, badminton, the colors in leaves. You sit on the porch and watch thunderstorms together. You ride your bikes down new roads. You keep having adventures even when they roll their eyes and are too cool to go with you, because you know that later it will be important for them to have seen their parents involved in activities. And anyway, it’s your life that you’re enjoying!

15) Fun-lover

You enjoy your children. Just hanging out with them gives you deep satisfaction. You play with them when they are young, introduce them to activities that you value, and join them in play that they find entertaining. As they get older, you are willing to be silly and to offer activities, and also to wait until they are ready to engage with you. You make watching their endless sports events fun for yourself and for parents around you.

16) Inspires creativity

You find great satisfaction in expressing yourself creatively. Even if your efforts won’t win awards, you paint, dance, draw, play an instrument, try beading, or scrap-booking. You gather leaves and make collages to decorate the table. You enjoy making your home comfortable and aesthetically pleasing. You approach your work creatively, and your kids see you enjoying work because of it. When funds are low, you look for imaginative ways to meet your need. Your children expand their experience and their skills by engaging in creative activities with you and on their own.

17) Financially responsible

You live within your means. You do not go into debt unless it is absolutely necessary. If you do, you use credit wisely, and you have a plan to pay it off as soon as possible. You don’t shop as a way of relieving feelings. You educate yourself about financial matters. You find creative ways to keep to your budget, and you save regularly. You help your children develop good saving, spending, and giving habits. You plan for a rainy day.

18) Emotional Savvy

You are really good at being with your emotions, when they are aroused. You don’t hide from pain or discomfort, or self-medicate with food, cigarettes or other substances. (You do, however recognize that chocolate is one of the necessary food groups.) You take time to let feelings run their course, when they need attention. You are emotionally responsible. You are able to see when your reactions are about past events, and you make every effort not to project them onto present situations. If you find that you have reacted inappropriately, you explain to others that your mood is not about them, thereby showing your caring and empathic nature. You apologize when you have hurt someone. You know that, if you allow your feelings time to process themselves, and if you reflect on your old ways of looking at things, painful emotions will abate. You process your feelings, rather than trying to push them away.

You are comfortable with your child’s feelings and see their outbursts as opportunities to empathize, educate, and be close. You are comfortable with your child’s expressions of feelings and respond respectfully. You understand that children do not have all the social skills yet, and it is okay with you that they still have things to learn when it comes to tolerating and expressing emotion.

19) Partner

You work hard to have a warm, loving, respectful relationship with your co-parent, because that is the tone you want in your life. You know that working on your relationship models social skills for your children, as well as providing them with a loving parental team. You continue developing relational skills, because, as you get older, you see that new issues come up that give you opportunities to continue maturing and expanding. You know that growing does not stop at 20, and that people learn and grow in relationship, not in isolation.

20) Influencer

You know that no one can control anyone other than themselves. You know that trying to control your children only leads to disconnection and bad feeling. You know that controlling kids means controlling their behavior only, and that no one can dictate another’s feelings or outlook. You remind yourself that, as long as you stay connected with your children, you have more influence with them than anyone, even their peers. You deal with your own feelings about their behavior and what they go through, as well as any helplessness or worry that you feel in consequence. You recognize that it is a wise person who tolerates her/his feelings. You help your children learn to center in themselves and tolerate their feelings, and to learn to give up on trying to control other people, events, and their surroundings.

21) Self-Care

You know that you cannot parent effectively if you do not take care of yourself. You model self-respect and self-confidence by paying attention to your own needs and limits. Rather than fly off the handle, you take times-out. You give yourself mini-vacations. You make sure you see friends and engage in activities that replenish you, because all of these activities improve your parenting and make parenthood enjoyable. You value your own boundaries and calmly set limits in order to ensure that others respect them also. You know the value of having the support of other parents, and even of laughing with them and letting off steam by telling benign stories of teen and toddler pranks, behind your kids’ backs, of course.

22) Patience

You stay relaxed inside yourself, while life is messy around you. The little annoyances do not throw you. You are able to step back and take a larger view of events. You agree with Randy Pausch, the computer science professor dying of pancreatic cancer who gave a “Last Lecture” which has inspired thousands of people, who said that, if people disappoint you, just wait. If you give them enough time, they will bring forth their best selves. If you appreciate them and thank them for the good job you know they will do, they tend to rise to your expectations. As Nelson Mandela said, “It never hurts to think too highly of a person. Often they behave better because of it.” You can wait while they learn social skills. You maintain your cool when things don’t go according to plan.

23) Positive Outlook

And, most of all, you know that being a perfect parent would not be good for your children anyway. One of your jobs is to teach them to accept and value themselves as they are. You want them to feel positive about themselves, even though they mess up sometimes and are not great at everything. You want them to love life, even though life is difficult. You want them to feel confident in and about the world, even though the world is both awe-inspiring and terrible at times. You know that there are millions of ways to be a good parent, and so you celebrate your strengths and gather your children to you, to share your blessings and to help each other through the tough times. You remind yourself that trials build character. You breathe and laugh and center in yourself, for that is where the joy is – in your connection with yourself, with those you love, and with the natural world.

Okay, now that you have identified your top five VIP’s, your PPSs, here are some exercises to help you apply them as you navigate the rocky waters of family life.

Try this #1: Spend some time thinking about your strengths. Notice how you use them and how they help you with your family. Keep them in mind and have confidence in them! See how you can use your strengths to enhance your patience, your empathy, and your optimism. Muse about them and come up with ways for them to help you be more effective, more relaxed, and to enjoy your parenthood more fully.

Try this #2: Remember a challenging occurrence in your home. (That wasn’t hard, was it?) Now, pick one of your PPS’s that you think might help in that situation. How could you use that strength to facilitate a different outcome? (When my preteen daughter started talking back at the drop of a hat, I found some time to myself and used my strength of empathy to imagine what our interchanges must be like from her perspective, given her experiences in life. A light bulb went on as I suddenly saw how easily deep feelings of loss seemed to be triggered for her. After that, I worked to remember how important our closeness was to her and to see her apparent outrage, not as insolence, but as a sign that she felt too shut out by the way I may have said something. I became more able to remain calm and loving in tone (not a skill under stress that I’d experienced with my parents!) which often led to her softening and continuing to interact with me.

Try this #3: You could also pick one PPS with which you would like to become more proficient, and grow it into a strength. To do so, focus on the strengths you already have. Research into positive psychology has shown definitively that the more you expand your use of your positive strengths, the more the ones you could use some work on improve – much more so than if you just wrestle to try to counter your “failings.”

The more you bring your awareness to focus on your strengths, the more they will grow. Notice how you feel as you play with these exercises. Notice what great ideas you come up with, use them with your children and see how they respond.

Gaining Parenting Skills

Parenting is a learning experience. There is no rule that once you become a parent you suddenly know everything. In fact, there is no guarantee you will have a clue what you are doing. Parenting is something you have to work at. You have to gather up advice, knowledge and parenting skills so you can use them in your parenting.

Parenting skills come from many places. You have to recognize that how your get parenting skills is not as important as getting them.

Trial and Error

The majority of parenting skills most parents have come from trial and error. A parent tries something, it does not work so they don’t try it again or the other way around – they try something, it works so they keep doing it. Learning from mistakes is a part of life and a big part of parenting.

Usually trial and error ends up more funny than anything else. Common sense usually stops it form turning into something horrible or dangerous. Trail and error is a fine way to gain parenting skills and something every parent does.

Other Parents

Other parents are another big source of parenting skills. Most people parent according to how their parents parented them. We learn from what we know. We watch other parents and we learn form them. This is the natural way to learn parenting skills and how you will likely gain most of your parenting skills.

You may even talk to other parents and interact with their children before you even become a parent. You will get cautions and good advice that will help you get ready for parenting though other parents who have experience.

Classes and Research

It is becoming common for parents to attend parenting classes or read books as a way to gain parenting skills. Learning from professionals and experts is a great way to gain skills. They are tried and true methods that are backed with a trusted authority. You can rely on this advice and use it to build up your parenting skills.

Parenting skills are something you learn one way or another. You may even pick them up without ever even knowing it. Many parenting skills are a part of you naturally. They are things that you are born knowing or know form life experience. Others are something that you will instantly pick up once you become a parent. For example, you need no one to teach you the most important parenting skill – love.

Humanistic Parenting

Parents often come to my office feeling frustrated, exhausted, and overwhelmed. Many of them explain to me that they feel they are at the end of their rope and at a loss for what to do. Having read numerous books and articles on parenting, experimented with all sorts of techniques, talked to friends, school counselors, and teachers, they long for something that works; something that they hope might possibly help them in dealing with their child.

While some parents wish and request that I “fix” their child, many say they would be grateful to settle for anything that may help their child and alleviate their feeling frustrated.

Through years of consulting with parents, working with kids in therapy, and leading parent-skills training groups, I experimented with different approaches to helping parents. In wanting to simplify a large body of information, I arbitrarily categorized the world of parenting into two philosophies: behavioral and humanistic. I strongly advocate and practice the latter, while I grudgingly (and with disappointment) accept that the former continues to be widely adopted. Before elaborating upon my preference for humanistic parenting, I’d like to briefly describe the behavioral model.

The behavioral approach to parenting is based on the premise that children’s behaviors can be shaped through modifying the consequences in their environment. Common terms in the behaviorist’s vocabulary are: reinforcement, reward, punishment, tokens, shaping, and time-out. In certain circumstances and situations, implementing behavioral strategies can effectively and quickly change a child’s behavior over the short-term. I believe this is one of the reasons behavioral techniques maintain their widespread appeal with parents and professionals. Moreover, research has repeatedly demonstrated that one of the best ways to immediately reduce or eliminate an undesirable behavior (e.g., hitting, temper tantrums) is to punish a child as soon as possible following the emitted action. Behavior management programs seem to work best when the parent or teacher holds a position of power over, and maintains a reasonably high degree of control over the child.

When I trained as an intern, I counseled parents on ways to set up these behavioral systems in their home to enable them to reduce or control their child’s “unwanted” behaviors. Our programs seemed reasonable, simple, and commonsensical. Parents and I, however, soon started noticing some reoccurring common patterns and problems. The first two to three weeks was a “honeymoon” period. At this stage of the program, the charts and rewards were often fun for the parents and kids. The ideas were new and fresh. With most honeymoons, though, the novelty and behavior changes did not endure. The reduced effectiveness, or total breakdown, became predictable. Parents told me stories of their kids becoming bitter and resentful, and tearing down the star charts off the refrigerator door. The once-effective rewards (e.g., T.V., video games, money, candy), were no longer sufficient. Parents and I also observed another common problem with this approach: when the parent was not present (i.e., the person in charge was not around), the children usually reverted to their previous actions. For instance, Billy would act “good” when mom and dad were watching, but he would return to hitting his sister when mom and dad weren’t around.

I felt uncomfortable advocating and supporting a system that was based on parents having control and power over their children. This contradicted my belief that children are intelligent human beings who deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. Another troublesome outcome associated with the behavioral techniques was that kids seemed to react with negative feelings, such as feeling angry or feeling scared, toward their parents. This prompted my search for another way to enhance the emotional climate in the home.

What, then, is an alternative? What is humanistic parenting?

Humanistic parenting is an attitude, a philosophy, and a way of relating to your child. It is an approach where the inner goodness of the child is valued.

A core principle of humanistic parenting is respecting children and treating them with dignity. A useful exercise to help in following this fundamental principle is to ask yourself the questions, “would I like to be treated that way?”, and “how would I feel if I was in their shoes?”. If the answers are “no” and “I would feel disrespected”, then your actions as a parents most likely do not follow the humanistic parenting philosophy.

When treating their children with respect and connecting with their children’s feelings, parents are empowered. They often experience considerably less feeling guilty and frustrated.

In the humanistic approach, children are allowed to have and to feel their feelings. I am not proposing that kids be allowed to go around hitting whomever they please! I am, however, suggesting that children (just as adults do) are entitled to express their feelings in a constructive nonviolent manner. In allowing their feelings an outlet, children often feel better about themselves, and feel accepted by their parents.

Humanistic parenting practitioners also respect the feelings of parents. Through being aware of, expressing, and communicating their feelings, they can act as sincere and genuine models to their children.

Skills and terms in the humanistic parenting vocabulary include: active listening, acknowledging and validating feelings, openly communicating your own feelings, problem solving, describing, and giving information.

Some professionals and parents believe that the skills and techniques from humanistic philosophy are not sufficient for dealing with “difficult” and “tough” children with serious problems. My experiences, generally, have not supported this assertion. Contrary to these concerns, I have repeatedly witnessed the success of humanistic parenting strategies with a wide range of children.

It is sometimes beneficial to incorporate skills and strategies adopted or borrowed from the behavioral model within the humanistic framework. The key seems to be how these techniques are used and the underlying attitude that parents have when relating to their children. For instance, it may be helpful for a parent to use a version of the time-out strategy when their child is feeling very angry. Within the humanistic framework time-out could provide the child an opportunity to cool down and maybe even to reflect on his feelings. It would be used in a respectful, non-punitive manner, and often with the previously agreed upon consent of the child.

Although it may take longer to see the results of the humanistic approach with “difficult” children, in the end, those children incorporate values and acceptable behaviors that tend to endure. Rather than questioning themselves whether their actions will elicit a sticker or reprimand from their parents (or teachers), children learn healthy ways to act and to express themselves in everyday situations.

When humanistic parenting is consistently adopted by parents, I believe that long-term changes are possible in all families and with all children. The positive feedback from parents bolsters my conviction that this is an effective and respectful way to relate to children.

For more information and for techniques that were developed from follow a humanistic parenting philosophy, I often recommend the following books: How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk, by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish; Parent Effectiveness Training, by Thomas Gordon; and Kids are Worth It!, by Barbara Coloroso. Videos, by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish, and Barbara Coloroso, are also available.

Participating in parenting groups and consulting with a professional who is familiar and experienced with the humanistic approach may also be helpful ways to practice and fine-tune these skills.

A Real Threat in Child Custody Disputes!

There is a very real threat that is associated with a child custody battle that has turned ugly. Fortunately, this is not always associated with a custody dispute, but when it is, things can turn bad very quickly. I am referring to parental alienation and it is actually considered to be a psychological syndrome, often referred to as PAS. It occurs when a vengeful parent directly induces negative thoughts in a child about the other parent. Psychologically, this is considered to be brainwashing, which is in fact a form of emotional abuse. It can occur several different ways, but it almost always has the same outcome. The child begins to vilify the other parent and blames them for the many problems that arise from a divorce and child custody dispute.

PAS can occur when the PAS-inducing parent passes their thoughts and actions onto the child to the point that the child begins to view the other parent as the enemy. It is sometimes hard to distinguish whether the child is just mimicking the words of the PAS-inducing parent or if he or she truly believes what they are saying. If the child is only picking up on words that they don’t truly understand, and are just repeating what mom or dad has said, then there is a chance that PAS is not the case. But if the child says or does things on their own, like refuses to talk to the other parent or gets upset/angry at them for no reason then PAS may be a real possibility.

There are actually three stages of PAS. During the first stage or mild form, things are not so obvious. Contact between the child and the other parent has not necessarily changed but subtle changes in the child’s actions are noticed. For instance, the child may be become distressed during a transition from the PAS-inducing parent to the other parent. In this stage the PAS-inducing parent does several indirect things that they may or may not know is having an influence on the child. For instance, they don’t show much concern about whether or not the child has contact with the other parent, they place little value on the child’s indirect contact (ie phone calls) between direct contact (ie visitations), and/or they aren’t aware of the distress a child may feel when they don’t get indirect or direct contact with the other parent. Basically put the PAS-inducing parent places little importance on the child’s contact with the other parent, and eventually the child begins to pick up on these feelings as well.

In the second stage, or moderate form, of PAS the child is being directly programmed against the other parent. A good indication of this stage is when the child is visibly upset and anxious during the time of transition from the PAS-inducing parent to the other parent. These feelings tend to pass rather quickly once the child is away from the PAS-inducing parent and is able to relax. Another example is when the child views the other parent’s relatives as being relatively unimportant to them. In this the stage the PAS-inducing parent is more actively placing a strain on the child’s relationship with the other parent. This can include refusing to communicate with the other parent, allowing the child (no matter what age) to decide whether or not they want to make contact with the other parent, and/or making deliberate negative statements about the other parent in the presence of the child. The strain caused by the PAS-inducing parent causes the child to form separate worlds with each parent.

In the the third stage, or severe form, of PAS the damage to the relationship between the child and the other parent has already been done. In fact, the PAS-inducing parent no longer has to actively disrupt the relationship, as the child has already formed a highly negative image of the other parent and he or she often acts on their own. Unfortunately, because of the very nature of the problem the PAS-inducing parent often reinforces the feelings that the child has about the other parent and will go to great lengths to see that the child has no relationship with the other parent. Unfortunately, they will often claim that they are only conveying the wishes of the child, which in its own right strengthens the relationship between the PAS-inducing parent and the child. In this stage, the child’s feelings towards the other parent are no longer in question. They display a great hatred towards the other parent and will go to great lengths to avoid all contact with them. This includes overly dramatic actions that will include threatening to run away, making false allegations of abuse, or even threatening suicide. The child will always take the view of the PAS-inducing parent, even if it is completely irrational and/or untrue. The child also has a hard time differentiating what actually happens with the other parent and what the PAS-inducing parent tells them what happened. The child shows absolutely no guilt or remorse about their hatred towards the other parent, and often extends his or her feelings towards the other parent’s relatives. The child can be perfectly normal until asked about the other parent at which point her or she will vehemently display their hatred towards the other parent. Unfortunately, by this point the bond between the child and PAS-inducing parent is strengthened simply because they share the same views about the other parent.

It is a very stressful, sad situation when a child displays so much hatred towards a parent just because of the views instilled on them by the vengeful PAS-inducing parent. This is a type of hatred that cannot be learned, it has to be taught , much in the same way as racism is.

I have a fear myself that this very scenario is happening between my wife and her daughter. I have watched as their relationship has been strained simply because of the actions of her ex-husband. Even though I have a small role in the situation, I am compelled to help my wife sustain the relationship that she has with her daughter. Mainly because it kills me to see her crying some nights because of the things that her 5-year old daughter says to her, or even worse when she is “too busy” to talk to her. Things that can only be taught to her by her father. I have taken up my own mission to learn everything that I can about this type of situation, and everything else that we have been going through during this custody battle. I have relied heavily on what is probably the best resource on child custody issues anywhere on the internet [http://www.bestsite4reviews.com/childcstdy]. It’s a library that covers every type of topic on child custody imaginable. Not having any children myself, it has helped to understand what my wife is going through and made it easier for me to help her, and to explain what I am seeing and hearing to her lawyer so that he can put a stop to it before things get to the point of no return.

The Importance Of Educating Today’s Parents

Although most parents would agree that their children are more important than their job, most usually get more on-the-job training than they do as a parent. As a Mother of seven once said, “The love is instinctual but the skills are not.”

A NATIONAL MOVEMENT

A 1990 study by fifteen of the nation’s largest youth organizations found that the United States has done poorly in solving the problems affecting today’s youth. There was broad agreement that the number-one solution to these problems was . . . better parents. As a result of their findings, the final report calls for a massive increase in parent education.

President Bush then released a statement of six national goals for education. The number-one goal states that “by the year 2000, all children in America will start school ready to learn.” To attain this goal “parents will have access to the training and support they need.”
President Bush’s comments represent a movement in thinking which places more value on the importance of a parent’s role in preparing children for school and life. It is encouraging to see that there is a growing awareness that families need support and education . . . in order to strengthen parents’ skills and prevent future problems.

SOCIETY HAS CHANGED

In the past, when parents had questions about child-rearing they would usually have an extended family member close by to ask advice. While some parents may have family close by, many admit that their elders’ advice on child-rearing often differs from current parenting information or their preferred style. This is a result of changes in our society over the past few decades:

Children are no longer “needed” to work side by side with their parents, like farmers’ children of the past. This helped children feel they had something important to contribute and taught them basic responsibility and life-management skills. Today, children search for ways to belong in the family and with peers, sometimes in unhealthy ways.

Superior/inferior family relationships are no longer being modeled by mothers and fathers. Women have equal rights and children feel equally unwilling to accept an inferior, submissive role in life. This change is healthy, in that all people do have a right to be treated with respect and dignity. It leaves many parents, however, with few role models or practical skills for achieving this goal.

Early on, children are being taught that they have rights: to their bodies, their feelings, and to be treated by others with dignity as a worthwhile human being.

As a result, power-and-control parenting techniques are no longer effective, because parents “talk down” to “inferior” children. This style, therefore, inherently violates a child’s right to be treated with respect, children recognize this, rebel and lose respect for the controlling parent. As our society became more affluent, many parents became more permissive and over-indulgent. Their children often grew up thinking the world owed them a living and they used their energy trying to get out of responsibilities.

Children are facing issues previous generations never had to face. It is important for parents to listen and communicate in open, respectful ways, so their children will feel safe in discussing their problems and feelings.

Although some of these societal changes have brought about positive results, they have left parents with few clear guidelines for how to raise this new generation of children into responsible adults.

EFFECTIVE, QUALITY PARENT EDUCATION

What it Isn’t . . .

Parent education does not focus on what parents are doing wrong or advocate never disciplining children, as many parents assume. It provides new options to parents and encourages them to respect their own rights, as well as their children’s.

Attending a parenting class is not a reflection of being a “bad” parent . . . it is an indication of a parent’s commitment to his/her children and role as a parent. The classes are not just for parents who are having severe problems with their children’s behavior. Many parents who attend classes want to feel more confident of their parenting and are looking for ways to prevent future problems and help their family get along cooperatively.

What it Is . . .

The most effective parenting classes are small, personal groups which provide opportunities for interaction among parents, practice of concepts and techniques learned, and individualized problem solving. Like most new skills, parents can benefit from ongoing reinforcement of what they have learned. Follow-up parent discussion groups, where parents can meet with others who have taken the class, provide an opportunity to continue applying the concepts to new situations.

MAKING THE COMMITMENT

Although professionals often recommend parenting classes, there are several issues which seem to prevent parents from joining these groups: finding a class, making the time commitment, and cost. All three really boil down to the underlying issue of priorities. If a parent looks at how much time and money he/she spends on business seminars, golf lessons, weekly fast food, or vacations, it makes sense to place a priority on attending a parenting class, which usually costs less than all of these! Parenting classes are an investment in your personal growth, your child’s future, and in future generations. Consider doing your part to make this world a better place for everyone’s children. Read a parenting book that gives trustworthy, accurate advice or check out your community’s resources for local parenting classes.

Helping Parents Rebuild and Strengthen Their Families

For social service agencies part of their mission is to reunite children with their families once the parents’ goals have been met and safety has been established. This article may be used as a guide to help agencies make reunification a safe and successful one. Suggestions are made which may help parents overcome negative parenting habits, repair damaged relationships, and understand the effect this separation has had on their children. These are merely suggestions and should not be taken as professional advice.

REVISIT THE REASON FOR PLACEMENT

Review and discuss with parents the reasons their children were placed in foster care. If substance abuse has been an issue, discuss sobriety and what is needed to maintain that sobriety. If physical abuse has been an issue, help them develop a plan of action for stressful situations using the skills learned from anger management classes. If sexual abuse has been an issue, discuss how parents can protect their children and teach their children how to protect themselves. Help parents create a family safety plan. Information on self-protection for children can be found on the Childhelp website.

PARENTS CAN BE AGENTS OF CHANGE

Acts of abuse and neglect are often repeated from generation to generation. These family issues most likely have never been resolved. With help, these parents can be “agents of change.” A genogram is a way to explore family history with each parent. As parents work on completing the genograms, begin a conversation about their family members (Scarf, 1995). This discussion may bring up memories and events that have been forgotten. What will begin to stand out for these parents are the links between their families’ past and the issues that they are struggling with in the present (Scarf, 1995). This will give them some insight into why they are the way they are and why they respond and interact with their children the way they do. Armed with this information and a desire to change, these parents are in a position to break the cycle of abuse.

THE IMPORTANCE OF ATTACHMENT

Parents must renew their attachment to and bond with their children. One key element for parents to bond with their child is communication (Orlans & Levy, 2006). Family communication, verbal and non-verbal, is especially important for children who have been abused (Orlans & Levy, 2006). Children need someone to listen to what they have to say. For older children, taking the time to sit, talk and listen to them is crucial. When parents take the time to sit and listen to their children they will begin to feel the love their parents have for them. For infants and toddlers, tucking them in at bedtime and reading a bedtime story are important for bonding. Also, parents should schedule time to play and have fun with their children. Parents’ regularly and appropriately hugging their children is a powerful way of showing they care. These acts of love strengthen the parent-child bond and help the child begin to develop a sense of trust and security. Feelings of guilt can be a hindrance to attachment. This is where therapy comes in. If counseling has not been part of the family’s goals, counseling may be needed for the parents and children separately, as well as together.

DISCIPLINE v. PUNISHMENT

Be certain that parents know the difference between discipline and punishment. Share with them the fact that punishment is generally administered to hurt or to cause pain or suffering and opens the door to abuse. Discipline, on the other hand, helps a child learn the difference between right and wrong and how to behave in an acceptable manner. Discipline consists of a set of rules and consequences for not adhering to those rules. Rules and consequences teach children what is expected of them, what they can expect if the rules are not followed and should be applied without inflicting harm or pain.

THE CHILD’S NEEDS

Parents should be aware of the emotional, mental, and physical needs of their children. Children of reunification have had to adapt to being away from their parents and taken to a foreign place. Now, they must adjust to being returned to their parents whom they may believe have abandoned them. The bond of trust has been broken; this bond needs to be restored. These children need to feel that they can depend on their parents to accept, respect, protect, care for, and love them. Once returned home, depending on the length of time they have been separated from their families, children may feel that they no longer belong and may isolate themselves and withdraw from the rest of the family. Or, they may act the complete opposite and become clingy and desperate to fit in. They must be reassured that what has happened is not their fault. It is a good idea for parents to apologize to their children and confess any wrongdoing. Expressing remorse and saying “I’m sorry,” can be very powerful when spoken to a child eye-to-eye. However, in doing this, parents should be reminded that their actions must be consistent with what they say.

CREATING A SAFE AND HEALING ENVIRONMENT

Parents’ top priority must be to protect their children from further harm and to keep them safe. As children are returned home, things will not be the same. These children are not the same. There will be a period of adjustment. Since children of abuse can be sensitive to change, it is imperative for parents to establish routine and structure for the family as soon as their children are returned home. Children need and want structure. Structure in the home helps children feel safe and secure, while lack of structure can cause all kinds of problems. With lack of structure, children become unruly, their anxiety levels escalate and parents’ patience plummets. As the parents’ patience level drops, anger comes on the scene which often brings with it angry words and hurtful actions. Children need to know what to expect and when to expect it. Routine and structure provide this knowledge. There should be a set time to get up in the morning, a set time to go to bed at night, a set time for meals and everything in between (Orlans & Levy, 2006). Also, as part of the family routine, each family member should have designated chores.

A FINAL NOTE

Completing parenting classes is most likely one of the goals for reunifying parents. Since these children are recovering from the trauma of separation and abuse, it may be to the parents’ advantage, and in the best interest of the children, to attend parenting class specifically for parents of traumatized children and participate in individual therapy as well as family therapy.

Parenting Courses For New Parents

Being a new parent comes with several different responsibilities along with many unanswered questions. There are so many things that you as a new parent will need to know and while others will gladly offer you advice, whether you want it or not, there is nothing that can answer questions like taking a parenting course.

Why do I need a parenting course?

Upcoming and new parents will have many questions and fears. By taking a parenting course you can not only be in the company of parents just as yourself but also parents that also share some of the many concerns, questions and fears as you do. Parenting courses not only offer support from other parents but also give you a trained professional that can help you along the way.

Are there different kinds of parenting courses?

There are several different parenting courses available such as a parenting course for new parents, parenting course for parents with toddlers, parenting course for parents with elementary age children and on up until your child reaches high school age. There are also several different parenting courses that you can take for children with special or different needs such as those who have disabilities, children affected by divorce and so many more.

Will the parenting course be expensive?

The expense of a parenting course will depend on several different things. Many churches will offer different parenting courses and many times those are free of charge. You can also call your local counseling office or therapy clinics to see what types of different courses they offer.

Can I take a parenting course online?

With the new wave of technology sprouting up all around us you can now take many parenting courses online. Some courses will even offer you a certificate of completion that you can print out at home or have mailed to you. By taking a course online you will benefit from the fact that you can sit in the comfort of your own home while still getting the information you need. Also for many people they like the idea of being anonymous when asking tough questions.

The downside of taking a course online is the lack of real interaction with other parents. Many online courses will offer message boards where parents can discuss different topics and chat with each other so for some parents that is enough while others like the idea of having people in your own communities to talk to. You should also be aware that if taking a parenting course has been court ordered they may not allow you to take the course online. Check with your advocate before you sign up.

You are not alone in the desire for more information about being a parent and by taking a parenting course you will not only get answers to questions you have but be able to hear questions and answers you might not have even thought about yet. For many new parents a parenting course is a win-win situation for everyone.

The Four Common Types of Parenting Styles

There are four different types of parenting styles that are commonly identified by an expert by the name of Diana Baumrind in the parenting field. These styles are known as authoritarian parenting, permissive parenting, neglectful parenting, and authoritative parenting. There are important differences between each of these styles, and there is one style that is significantly better than the other three. In order to understand which type is the best parenting style; however, we need to review all of them first.

One of the types of parenting styles is the authoritarian style of parenting. This style is characterized by high expectations of compliance and conformity to parental rules and directions. The problem with authoritarian parenting is that the parental rules and directions often change when the parent feels like changing them, so the child never truly knows what is expected. The situation could be described as unfair and threatening. Many children raised by authoritarian parents live in a constant state of fear. They tend to display less self-confidence and are withdrawn socially. Some children might also rebel by openly defying the parents by leaving home at a younger age, partaking in drugs, alcohol, and sexual behavior at a much younger age, dating or marrying a partner whom they know their parents would disapprove of, and often might be estranged from their parents during adulthood.

The second of the four types of parenting styles is permissive parenting. This style is typically characterized by a warm, loving relationship between parent and child, but is flawed by low expectations of behavior. In other words, the permissive parent is usually afraid to make demands on the child much less hold them to any standard. This type of parent simply wants the child to like them at the end of the day and will do anything the child requests to do. Children raised by overly permissive parents tend to suffer from a lack of focus, immaturity and problems with emotional regulation. The children can not control their impulses and do not accept the responsibility for their own actions. When in trouble, the child will simply blame someone else even if it was their own fault. They tend to live and remain close to where they grew up, still dependent, in early adulthood.

Neglectful parenting is another one of the types of parenting styles. This style is best described as a step beyond permissive parenting. The neglectful parent may provide food and shelter, but is generally emotionally uninvolved in the child’s life. A good example of this would be parents who never ask their child questions about their day, their friends, or their education. A neglected child may have serious issues going on outside the home, but the neglectful parent is never aware of them until something potentially tragic occurs. Many times children will grow up feeling resentment against their parents for being neglectful and often might be estranged from them into adulthood.

The last of the types of parenting styles, and definitely the one that is considered ideal, is authoritative parenting. This type of parent holds high expectations of the child’s behavior while allowing the child to talk about those expectations. Parental rules and directions imposed on the child are fair and expressed clearly. The authoritative parent teaches the child about cause and effect, decision-making and self-sufficiency. Authoritative parents raise children who are successful, articulate, happy with themselves, and generous with others. This results in them being liked and respected by their peers and allows them to be generally well-rounded adults.

Holiday Time Details

A good parenting plan is all about the details. Even when parents are cooperative about shared parenting, a detailed parenting plan is still essential to avoid confusion, misunderstandings and disputes in the future. Here are three questions about holiday time that every parenting plan should answer.

When do major holidays begin and end?

Parenting plans usually make some kind of provision for alternating the major holidays between the parents. But, what exactly does Thanksgiving, Mother’s Day, or Christmas really mean? Are they the whole weekend or just the day? What time does parenting time start for each holiday and what time does it end? Even if, during their separation, the parents have been able to work out these details as each holiday has come up, it’s not uncommon for these issues to cause disputes from time to time. Providing this kind of detail in the parenting plan gives parents something to refer to if conflict or confusion arise.

First, specify in the parenting plan exactly which holidays you are alternating between the parents. Then, for each holiday, detail exactly what day and time the holiday time starts and what day and time it ends. For Thanksgiving, you might say something like, “Thanksgiving will be from after school or daycare on the day before Thanksgiving, until Sunday at 5:00 p.m.” For Mother’s Day or Father’s Day, you might say, “Mother’s Day/Father’s Day will include the weekend from Friday after school or daycare until Sunday at 5:00 p.m.” If you decide that weekends extend until the children are delivered to school or daycare on Monday morning, say so.

Do we adjust the regular parenting schedule after the holiday?

Generally, holidays have priority over regular parenting time, although this should be spelled out in the parenting plan. Sometimes, however, holidays will cause one parent to have the children three weekends in a row. Do you want to just roll with it and know that everything will balance out eventually? Or do you want to add something to your parenting plan that prevents either parent from having the children more than two weekends in a row?

Consider what is in the children’s best interests. The simplest option will always be to settle right back into the parenting schedule with no adjustments. If that’s what you decide to do, say so. If you really feel that it’s important to even things out immediately, consider something like this: “When the holiday schedule interacts with the regular schedule such that one parent would have three weekends in a row, we shall adjust the weekend schedule so that, instead, each parent has two weekends in a row. If we cannot agree which two weekends each parent will have, the parent who has the children for the holiday shall also have them for the weekend before the holiday and the other parent shall have the children for the two weekends after the holiday.”

What about other three-day weekends?

There are many three-day weekends that aren’t national holidays. Most parenting plans include the basic three-day weekends like Memorial Day and Labor Day. But what about Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, President’s Birthday and Columbus Day, not to mention the miscellaneous three-day weekends in the school calendar? If your children are off school, it’s an exception to your regular parenting plan. The problem is that no matter how specific you try to be, it’s likely you will miss at least one, and this kind of ambiguity can increase tensions between the parents.

Your first decision is how many three-day weekends you want to specifically include in your parenting plan. Start with the three-day weekends when one or both parents are off work on the Monday. As for the others, it will be helpful to you in the long run if you clearly state whether weekend parenting time will extend to the day off school or not.

Here are two possible statements you might use: “Unless we agree otherwise in writing, no changes will be made to the regular parenting schedule for any three-day weekends other than Memorial Day and Labor Day (and any others you want to include). For those three-day weekends we have specified, if parenting time would ordinarily conclude on Sunday, it will be extended to the same time on Monday (or, if parenting time would ordinarily conclude on Monday, it will be extended to conclude at the same time on Tuesday).” or “For any three-day weekend the children are off school, if parenting time would ordinarily conclude on Sunday, it will be extended to the same time on Monday (or, if parenting time would ordinarily conclude on Monday, it will be extended to conclude at the same time on Tuesday).”

Developing Co Parenting Skills – Working Together to Raise Happy Kids

Co-parenting isn’t easy. It’s actually quite a chore. When neither parent is willing to negotiate or communicate, the child has the job of transitioning from one parenting style to the other. As a parent educator and family therapist, I have seen many anxious and confused children affected by their parents’ inconsistent rules and styles. Sometimes children do this under the same roof and sometimes under two, but the bottom line is that it is the parents’ responsibility to create a balance.

Parenting skills vary much like personalities. The differences can be as subtle as the setting of bedtimes to as serious as choosing consequences for bad behavior. The bottom line is adults have a number of motivations for parenting. For instance, they might try to do better than their parents. Thus, we attempt to find new and effective strategies to raise good kids. These ambitions can be difficult enough. Now add the challenge of joining forces with another adult who was raised by different parents and who may be select different strategies.

So how do parents, married or divorced, stay clear and consistent, raise confident children, and feel influential as parents? They learn how to work together and become better co-parents! Here are several successful co-parenting steps.

  1. Identify your personal style and motivations. Your first job in becoming a successful co-parent is to figure out your general style and motivations. If it were all up to you, how would you parent? How would you motivate your children? How would you use punishment and encouragement? What are the top 10 values you would like to teach your kids? Now ask yourself WHY? Why would your style be that way? What is your motivation? How did your parents parent you? Are you attempting to repeat their upbringing or compensate for it?
  2. Share your parenting style and motivation with your co-parent. I understand that you might feel vulnerable sharing your style and motivation. Your style may be different than your spouse’s style. In order for you and your partner to co-parent successfully, you both need to appreciate and support the ideas you bring to the table. When you listen to where the other parent is coming from, it will allow you to join forces.
  3. Before deciding on a parenting style and direction, consult parenting books and classes. Now that you have looked at each other’s parenting style, take a look together at good parenting books and the current research. Report back to each other and consider how your styles measure up.
  4. Decide on a mutual parenting style. You now have several examples of parenting strategies and philosophies. Its time to blend what you believe with what your co-parent believes and what the experts say. This is the ultimate in negotiation but remember that if you do not negotiate at the adult level, it leaves your child to figure it out. Once you’ve decided, then write down the basics and embrace your new co-parenting style.
  5. Implement your new co-parenting style. Now you parent! Both parents are on the same page. Children are clear on what is expected of them and what the consequences are if they do not follow the family expectations. Thus, it lessens the occasions of arguing between the parents and the opportunities for manipulation by the children.
  6. Hold weekly co-parenting meetings with your spouse. Since you are the CEOs of your family and are business partners in a very real way, you must stay in constant communication. The success or failure of your family rests in your capable hands. Thus, co-parenting meetings are a must! These meetings should include finances, home maintenance, parenting, and relationship issues. Meetings should be held weekly with schedule book, meeting journal and budget book in hand. Continue to review your parenting style. You may find that one child thrives under your new system while another loses balance. Good co-parents always re-evaluate and restructure when necessary.

We are busy parents today. It is difficult to take the time to evaluate our parenting styles but the payoff is big for you as a parenting unit as well as for your child. Co-parenting takes the pressure off our children and the conflict out of our lives.

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