How To Behave So Your Children Will, Too, Part II
How We Learn Parenting Behavior
We learned most of our Parenting behavior from our parents. Have you ever said something to your children and then realized you heard these same words when you were a child. "Be careful or you'll break your neck." "Be quiet and eat." We parent the way we were parented. We discipline as we were disciplined. Most ideas that we learned from our parents are helpful. Some are not. We pick and choose from these methods. Things we like, we use. Things we do not like, we do not use.
We also learn by trial and error. Much of what we do with our children is based on our best guess at the time. Some things work; some fail. This happens to us all. Every first-born child is a test for most parents. You begin using trial and error the moment you get home from the hospital. I remember feeling confused and helpless. The baby is crying. What does it mean? Hungry? Lonely? Wet? Too warm? Too cold? Trial and error also applies to discipline. If sending your child to bed early works once, you will probably use it again.
The beliefs that you already have about parenting and discipline are fine. Learning from your parents and friends and learning by trial and error is normal. Add judgment and common sense and you have the substance for a solid foundation. This book will build on that foundation.
Love Does Not Always Light the Way
Too many parents have the false belief that if they love their children as much as possible, misbehavior will someday improve. Love, warmth and affection are essential. They are fundamentals. You also need knowledge. Imagine you needed an operation. As you were about to be put under the anesthetic, your physician whispers in your ear. "I want you to know that I am not a surgeon. I'm not a doctor at all. Please don't worry. My parents are both doctors. I have a lot of friends who are doctors. I've asked a lot of questions about surgery. Just relax! I have a lot of common sense and I love my patients very much." Would you let this person use a scalpel on you? Parents need training just as professionals need training. Children need trained parents as much as they need loving parents. Training pulls together all the good ideas you already have. Training provides structure and direction. Training provides a framework. Training gives you confidence. You learn that what you are doing is right. More confidence means more self-control, less anger, less guilt and less frustration. More confidence means more respect from your children. Without confidence, many parents are afraid to correct or punish their children. Some worry that their children will not like them. Some are afraid they might harm their children emotionally. So they let their children misbehave.
It Wasn't Like That When I Was Growing Up
Why doesn't discipline work the way it did 20 or 30 years ago? Why don't the old-fashioned methods work? Why is being a parent so demanding and confusing? Parenting is more difficult because childhood is more difficult. Children are under pressure. Pressure to make adult decisions with the experience and emotions of a child. Pressure from peers. Pressure from school. Pressure from the media. Pressure that seeps down from the pressures on the parents. Pressure on our children translates into problems for us. There are several changes in our culture that have a tremendous impact on discipline and our roles as parents. Our economy has created financial tension in families. Parents come home stressed. Their fuse is short. The rising divorce rate affects all of our children. Today, there are schools where four out of five children have experienced divorce. Single parenting is stressful.
Twenty years ago, everyone in the same town or neighborhood had the same values and beliefs. No matter where you went to play, the rules were the same. Everyone's parents had the same expectations. This is no longer true. Every family has their own standards. Our children experience many versions of right and wrong. This is confusing to children.
How do these changes in our society affect the way you discipline your children? Why won't the old ways work today? The old ways were simple solutions for a society with simple problems. Today's problems are more complicated. They require refined solutions. Our children live in the future, not the past. We have to cope with the adversity of our times. If you want to be a successful parent, you have to know how to discipline today's children. Parents need training. Not because parents are incapable, but because parenting is no longer simple.
Three Successful Promises
There are three promises that every parent needs to make to become more successful. Promise to have courage to be open and accept new ideas. If what you are doing is working, stick with it. If not, then have the courage to try something new.
Promise to have patience -- plenty of patience. If your child is 12 years old, he has had 12 years to develop his behavior patterns. Give your child time to change. This is where most parents fail. We have gone from one-hour dry cleaning to one-hour photos to one-hour eye glasses to 30 minute tune-ups. Microwave dinners, car phones and express lanes have conditioned us to expect instant gratification. Technology has taught us impatience. We believe that because we are trying a new idea, changes should take place overnight. A few days is not long enough to test a new idea. Some methods take weeks to show improvement. Be patient.
Promise to practice. Every parent must practice. Even me. My children do not care one bit that I am a school psychologist who teaches parenting classes. When I'm home, I'm Dad. I get tested just like you. I have to practice, too. If you are willing to read about new ideas but do not practice them, give this book to someone else and buy a magic wand.
Children learn good behavior. Children learn misbehavior. Behavior does not occur by magic. It is not inherited. A well-behaved child is not the result of luck. Be encouraged -- if children learn behavior, then children can learn to change behavior. Parenting behavior is also learned. Good parenting skills do not appear suddenly and instinctively. You can learn to be a more successful parent.
This is a book about parent behavior. It teaches you to examine your own behavior and determine when you are part of the problem. It prepares you to support yourself when your children tell you they hate you. It shows you how to stay calm when your button is being pushed. This book enables you to build healthy self-esteem in your children. It explains how to teach your children to think for themselves and withstand peer pressure. This book teaches you how to enjoy being a parent.
If you are in pursuit of well-behaved, well-adjusted children, you need to understand how your behavior is connected with your child's behavior. That's what I hope to teach you in this book. I hope to teach you how to behave so your children will, too!