From Dr. Jane's Notebook
Raising Healthy Children
Across the land, parents scratch their heads wondering how to raise their children.
Since the world has changed a great deal and situations facing our children are
increasingly complex, its hard to develop a philosophy of childrearing which will guide us
in our decision-making. There is no perfect approach to parenting but there are several
basic concepts which can be helpful. Here are a few thoughts on the matter.
- People are born good, not evil. Children learn through experience and by watching
others. Our job as parents and grandparents is to share our knowledge and experience, and
to approach this task like benevolent teachers. Children want to be successful and gain
approval from others, so their actions usually involve good intentions. But like all other
humans, they often make mistakes. When they do, our job is to gently guide them and steer
them back on course, with as little humiliation as possible.
- Each person is unique. Like the rest of us, each child has their own strengths
and weaknesses. Like most of us, we are good at some things, and not so good at others. As
parents, we must look for the naturally-occuring strengths in our children and help them
build from there. As tempting as it may be, it is unrealistic and unfair to hope they will
fulfill our unfulfilled dreams.
- Self-esteem is based on self-acceptance. Self-esteem evolves as we grow to
appreciate our own strengths and differences from others. When children feel loved for who
they are, rather than what they accomplish, how they look, or what they wear, they develop
a sense of self-worth. Children need to know that they are valued, important and
appreciated. When we treat our children with respect, they learn to respect us,
themselves, and others.
- Each person must be able to express themselves without fear of rejection. Even
when we disagree with their interpretations, it is important to allow our children to
speak about what they feel, what they think, and what they need. When we allow them these
very basic freedoms, we open the doors of communication. Likewise, when we share what we
feel, think and need, they are more likely to listen to us.
The mutual exchange of ideas and thoughts between parents and children invites a
relationship based on honesty, trust and open communication. As parents and people, we are
not always right and do not always have the answers. When we allow our children to
disagree, they have less need to hide, rebel or prove us wrong. Instead, it is possible to
learn from each other.
- The golden rule still applies. Our children will treat us the way we treat them.
They will also treat others, the way we treat them. When parents hit their children, hurt
them, embarrass them, criticize them, confiscate their property or treat them unfairly
(all in the name of "good" parenting), rather than taming the beast, they are
actually creating the monster. I frequently work with parents who complain that their
children yell, scream, throw tantrums and shout profanities, only to learn that one or
both parents has a terrible temper and has been known to demonstrate far worse behavior
than their child.
Everything we do and all that we say is an example we set for our children. In the end,
they turn out to be just like us! However, our job as parents is also to set boundaries
for our children and say "no" when appropriate. All of these positive approaches
to parenting do not preclude parental influence and establishment of rules. On the
contrary, when there is mutual respect between parents and children, it is easier to
enforce the rules.
- As parents, we must be willing to be unpopular when we feel strongly about issues.
Today's parents are bombarded by dilemmas as their children venture out in the world and
are exposed to alcohol, drugs, sex, crime and other influences. While most decisions must
be considered individually, we must also have a rationale for drawing lines.
Like any other parent, I hate making unpopular decisions and being called
"old-fashioned", but more than that, I hate worrying about my children's safety.
When it comes to trusting my children, there are no limits; when it comes to trusting the
world, there are many limits. As parents, it is our job to help our children prepare for
safety and be prepared against danger. When danger is real, I am willing to be unpopular.
But as with everything, just when I think "they're gonna hate me", they surprise
me and seem to appreciate that I care.
ęCopyright, 1996, 1998, Jane R. Rosen-Grandon. All rights reserved.
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Last Updated January 10, 1999 by Gary M. Grandon,