We all want our children to be “well-raised,” which is short hand for growing up to be well adjusted, content, productive and responsible. We want strangers to meet our twenty-something children and later say to one another, “Well they were raised well.”
My mom points out that when they were young parents in the 1960’s the only resource they had was Dr. Spock’s “Baby and Child Care.” Now you can Google and get too many ideas about parenting in a matter of seconds. Despite this flood of available information, I still see many parents who appear to be working way too hard at parenting. I see parents arguing with eight year olds about rules. I see parents giving cookies to tantruming children. I see tired, frustrated, and embarrassed adults.
There are several reasons why parents continue to suffer. The first reason is likely the oldest reason. We mistakenly believe that good parenting is a personality characteristic like hair color and that some people are born with it or the stork delivers it with the baby. This idea is reinforced when you observe parents with genetically compliant offspring raise their children with apparently little thought or challenge. This reinforces the idea that parenting should come easily and when it doesn’t we guess there is something wrong with us or the child OR we conclude that parenting is just hard.
Everyone should get one of those compliant children. Unfortunately that is a limited edition model. The rest of us got the normal mass produced non-compliant children. Some are smarter than we are. Some want to know the reason for everything we ask of them. Some study us like a video game and know exactly what button to push to make the treasure pop out. Some think that “no” is one of the choices we have given them. And all of them have somehow figured out which adult to ask if they can have more cake.
If you have one of these normal mass produced models of children, you are going to need some skills. Somehow we continue to believe that we are just supposed to have these skills, but like every other skill, you actually have to learn and practice them. Fortunately those skills are widely available. One of the problems of with the internet is that while there is a vast amount of information available, it’s difficult to sort out what is treasure and what is trash. That’s where a professional comes in. A therapist with expertise and training in parenting, families, and children can help you identify the unique talents and challenges that your child possesses, and then will help you identify the skills that they need you to have. Then the therapist will help you plan to execute those skills at the right time and the right amount. One day soon you will wake up and realize you now have a strategy!
Everyone we meet gets the three basic parenting skills, but many also need specialized skills. Do you have a child with some attention challenges? Are you sharing parenting between two households? Are you parenting your grand children? Can we interest you in our step-parent kit?
My definition of good parenting is having a set of skills you can use to increase the likelihood of having well raised children with minimal pain and effort and maximum joy and amusement. If your current pain level seems too high or your joy level is too low, let a local therapist help you add some skills.
CCD Counseling is home to the Family Tree Program where many parents learn new skills.