Supplement your natural parenting skills with lessons from academic research.
When I first became a parent, I realized how ill prepared I was for this terribly important job. So I
started reading all the parenting books available in the early 1980s, and found conflcting opinions.
It was then that I decided that it was most important to not only gather from what my friend Zelda
calls "just common sense", but, more importantly, skills had been well researched.
Many years later, when that newborn had grown to be 17, I began researching the causes of adolescent problem behaviors for my thesis. What emerged in the study were clear and significant parenting skills and methods that enhanced children's abilities to weather through adolescence.
I also discovered there were parental behaviors which interfered with the ability of the child to grow into an effective and functioning and 'comfortable in their own skin' and fairly effective adult.
What I learned I have combined in three skill sets:
The first important set of skills are in warmth: warmth is really the parents ability to empathize, to put themselveswith sympathy and understanding into the shoes of their youngster at all ages and to communicate that understanding in verbally and physically with kindness and understanding. Warmth is also the ability to withstand and manage the emotional outbursts and upsets of their child in a reasoned and (relatively) calm manner.
The second important set of skills are in what I term "positive communication". This refers to the ability of the parent to keep the conversation from doing damage to self confidence and self esteem, without entitling their child. That means the parent is able to...
...without causing rifts in the parent/child relationship. Parents who are clear and positive with their children, create the kind of relationship where the child looks to the parent as a guide "am I doing ok? Did I step out of line".When parents are overly negative, children get discouraged, resentful and create the kind of distance from their parents that sometimes gets them in difficulties that have far reaching negative consequences in their lives.
The third set of skills is "supervision", which involves "setting boundaries".
We want to create boundaries in a way that creates opportunities for exploration and testing without placing the child at risk. Certainly the child that takes a city but at age five may cruise through such experiences safely, but it is not a generally good idea (I know because that's exactly what I did at the age of 5. The good side, I love taking buses, the dangers, I was lucky enough to escape).
Providing room to experiment and learn creates possibilities for the child to glimpse their gifts as well as their weak areas. Both are valuable items of self information that give the growing child more efficacy.
When the child encounters their weak area, and the parent provides empathy ("that is hard for you-"-which is a skill in warmth--_ and positive language ("let's see if we can find a way for you to learn how to do that") and then following through (supervision) with utilizing positive rewards (intermittent positive reinforcement being the #1 way to change behaviors) and natural or logical consequences.
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