Back to Basics
Spring is in the air and with it, new beginnings. It can be easy to lose our way or get overwhelmed, and sometimes we need to stop, take a breath, and recalibrate before we go on. I thought I’d share an article about getting “back to basics” of parenting. It was written by Nicole Hoffman, who is a psychologist in Long Grove, Illinois, and is a member of the North American Society of Adlerian Psychology (that’s the kind of therapy and parenting philosophy I work with). It’s a great overview of how to recognize when we’re starting to get so befuddled by parenting rules and challenges, that we can’t see the forest for the trees. Parenting in Oakville can be challenging and overwhelming; read what Dr. Hoffman has to say about getting back to basics.
7 Principles for Getting Back to the Basics of Parenting
In my practice as a family therapist, I am often asked for the “right answer” to parenting questions involving children starting kindergarten later so that they are at the top of their class, or it is worthwhile to send children to private school or to move to a better school district so children will be at an advantage for getting into a good college, be successful, etc. These are not questions about good parenting practices but rather questions related to values about being “the best”, which permeates today’s culture. In this culture of having it all, we define ourselves by what we have and tend to compare ourselves to others’ accomplishments and possessions. These beliefs leave many parents feeling guilty that they are not giving their children enough of an advantage or the things that they “need” and miss the boat regarding what children really need from their parents. Below are 7 principles that will help us get back to the basics of raising children with internalized human worth and value. These principles place the focus on social and emotional connectedness to community rather than on achievements and material possessions as conditions for character and worth.
1. What Do You Value? Take some time alone and as a marital couple/parenting unit and ask yourselves the tough questions: “What do we value?” “What meaning do we make of our lives?” “What do we want our children to value as adults?” “What personality characteristics do we want our children to possess as an adult?” and “How do we translate these beliefs/goals into everyday living/parenting?” For every challenging parenting decision you make, take out your list and question whether your decision is consistent with your values and goals for your children. Ask yourself, if I do ____________, what message am I sending my child?
2. Community Begins at Home. Have regular family meeting to discuss and plan important aspects related to family living. Who is responsible for household chores? (Money for chores sends children the message that they are entitled to get something for their contribution to the family, not an internalized sense of cooperation and contribution). Plan regularly scheduled family fun time. Allow for time to resolve difficulties family members may be experiencing. Anchor family decision back to the values defined above and use the values to help children with decision-making.
3. Natural and Logical Consequences. Utilize these so that children learn the relatedness of their behaviours to consequences in their social every-day world. This will allow them to internalize the rules of life rather than react to rules because an authority figure is evaluating their behaviours. Remember that the word discipline means to teach or lead, not bribe and reward. Yelling and spanking model power and control in relationships. Bribing and giving children things as contingencies for positive behaviour teaches children to behave if they are given something. Consistent and firm teaching leads to socially and emotionally healthy people.
4. Actions Speak Louder than Words (or Practice What You Preach). Children do what you do, not what you say. Model in your every-day life the values and characteristics you listed as important for your family and your child to develop. If you model respect, you will get respect. If you model power (through yelling, threatening, and bribing) you will promote power struggles with your children.
5. Don’t Focus on Keeping Up with the Jones’. Like the saying goes, “If everyone else jumped in a lake, would you?” Base your parenting decisions on your values, not as a means to measure yourself or your children against others. This will teach your children that decisions are based upon internalized convictions, not as a way for them to feel better about themselves by having or doing what others do.
6. Effort versus Achievement. Children are encouraged, demonstrate greater perseverance, choose more challenging tasks, and discover internalized accomplishment when parents/teachers focus on effort (“You worked really hard in math, I’m proud of you”) versus achievement (“You received an A, I’m proud of you” or “You received an A, here is 10 dollars”).
7. Model the Importance of Relationships and Emotions. Limit the amount of passive play a child experiences through television and video games, and focus on relationship with family and friends. Allow your children to express emotion, help them label emotion, and learn to cope with emotion.