The Goals of Parenting

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Child Development

The Goals of Parenting

Parenting: Not for Cowards

The Goal in a parent child relationship is to enable children to eventually assume responsibility for themselves and make their own decisions based on expanded alternatives and approaches. The parent neither solves the child's problems nor flatters the child merely to make him/her feel better. The healthy relationship that benefits the child is a mutual learning process between the parent and the child. Its effectiveness depends on the following:

  • The parent's skills in communicating his or her understanding of the child's feelings and their behaviors; understanding the child's developmental level and ability to reason and communicating at that level.
  • The parent's ability to determine and clarify the child's problem; realizing that the child lacks the ability to explain his/her feelings accurately, and talking the child through the issue to fully understand what the problem is.
  • The parent's ability to apply appropriate helping strategies in order to facilitate the child's self exploration (feelings and behavior options), self-understanding why s/he gets upset at someone, problem solving what are the options, and decision making (what option will bring the desired outcome), all of which lead to constructive action on the part of the child.
  • The parent's ability to maintain the power in the relationship without abusing it. For example, never ask the child's permission -- ";I'm going to take the toy away until after nap time OK honey?".
  • The parent's ability to remain consistent so that the child knows exactly what to expect if s/he disobeys -- "If you do this, the consequence will be that.".
  • The parent's willingness to reproved with love so that the child learns that misbehavior is not linked to the parents love for him/her.

Do's And Don'ts In Parenting

  • Always listen for the feelings behind the words; then address them and validate them.
  • Allow your positive feelings (love for the child) to take priority over anger. Remember, anger is just a cover for your own fear and pain. If you acknowledge your own underlying feelings (fear and/or pain) you will not feel the anger so intensely and will be able to problem solve instead of creating chaos.
  • Listen, Listen, Listen! Stop flying into emotional responses. Stop formulating your response before the child has finished speaking.
  • Become aware of your feelings, and express them in "I" messages (I feel ___, when___, because___).
  • Don't participate in an emotional escalation - walk away or take a time out to collect yourself before continuing the conversation.
  • Never resort to name calling. ("Are you a moron or something!?")
  • Don't denigrate or size up their character. ("Your so selfish!")
  • Don't act superior. ("I told you so!" or "If you acted like me instead of like your father you would be better off.")
  • Don't act on assumptions - Try to get all the puzzle pieces before before making a judgment call. ("Don't try to fool me buster, I know exactly what you were doing.")
  • Don't talk more than you listen. ("I'm talking; you listen to ME!")

Emotionally, children are much like adults, except that they cannot manipulate or hide their emotions like we can. They feel fear when their parents fight. They feel insecure when their schedule or their surrounding change. They feel worthless when they are ridiculed. They feel angry when wronged and they act out when they have intense feelings that they don't know how (or aren't allowed) to express. When we act out our feelings in healthy ways, we are teaching our children how to deal with their feelings. When we are out of control we are giving them permission to behave badly.

Children learn how to deal with their feelings largely from their parents. If we yell, hit or throw a tantrum when we are angry or hurt, they will learn to deal with their feelings in the same way. When we hit them because they hit a sibling we are sending a confusing message that only exacerbates the child's frustration, and delays his/her ability to deal with their emotions in a nonviolent way.

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