A Guidebook to Relational Parenting
Post Modernism, rapid technological developments, our struggling economy, the disintegration of the family, and a fractured political system have taken their toll on the health of our society. Just like any infection, the weakest and most vulnerable parts of the body show the effects first. In every community across America the young are suffering the horrible effects of our societal illness. Many of our most vulnerable have been fragmented off and abandoned.
We live in a drastically different world than the one our parents and we adults grew up in. There are a lot more pressures and distractions on today’s youth. Today’s kids live in a society dominated with:
- Individualism: What’s in it for me?
- Hedonism: If it feels good, do it!
- Minimalism: I’m going to do just enough to get by.
- Relativism: There are no “truths”.
- Materialism: Whoever dies with the most toys wins
Isolated and Alone: Ask any kid, penetrate their veil of fear and you will discover that they feel isolated and lonely. They feel like they are on their own against the world. They don’t know who to trust. They feel like society has left them on their own to figure out how to grow into an adult. Kids are born into isolation. They no longer are welcomed into the community. They are not cared for, embraced, and nurtured as valued members of our society simply due to their status as a young member of our community. They are not the recipients of unconditional love. They have to prove their worth in order to be accepted and they learn that this only happens through their performance and their image. If you can “perform” (scholastically, athletically, and socially) and you have a good “image” (good looks, good clothes, money), then you are cool and you will be accepted. If not, you will be fragmented and isolated as an outcast.
Abandoned: A recent survey concluded that today’s parents spend 40% less time with their kids than parents did 30 years ago. The pressures of our society have consumed the parents time and our kids have been abandoned. Latchkey kids (a child who returns from school to an empty home because his or her parent or parents are away at work, or a child who is often left at home with little or no parental supervision) are now the rule not the exception. Studies have clearly shown that kids left home alone for more than three hours a day reported higher levels of behavioral problems, higher rates of depression and lower levels of self-esteem. Many parents have decided that child rearing is too messy to deal with, so they have outsourced the parenting to teachers and coaches. Parents love their kids so much, that they would rather pay a personal trainer, mentor, teacher or coach to deal with their kids, than have to spend 30 minutes talking with them face to face.
Life’s Pace: Parents and adults are so busy just trying to survive in our modern “rat race” that they don’t see what a terrible toll that it’s taking on the lives of our kids. True, our hard economic times have put a lot of pressure on parents to provide for their families, but at what cost? Many parents operating at this “break neck” pace are either too fearful, too exhausted, or too dependent on it to be able to step back and see the real effect that it is having on their kids.
Denial: Many adults and parents, when confronted with the reality that we have isolated and abandoned our kids, are simply not willing to commit to doing what it takes to correct the problem. It’s too messy, it’s too hard, and it requires too much effort on their part. They choose to look the other way. They say, “Let someone else deal with it, it’s not my job”.
What is the solution? The solution is for us adults to communicate clearly to our kids that we love them unconditionally, that we will be there and stand by them no matter what happens, and if they want, we can help them achieve a transformed existence.
SETTING A GOOD EXAMPLE
Many parents take the easy way out, choosing to be the child’s friend instead of his discipliner. Parents don’t do a good job at talking to kids beyond age five about what their values are. Our society seems to encourage a lack of responsibility in our kids. For example, if a child is reprimanded by a teacher or other person in authority, the parents often push back at the school. Instead of teaching the child to take responsibility for something he’s done wrong, the message becomes ‘he shouldn’t have gotten caught.
So how can a parent become the role model her child needs in order to develop a moral compass? Virtue First suggests the following:
- Apologize. Admit when you slip up, and take responsibility.
- Establish family virtues, and empower your child to live up to them. Make it clear, in your words and actions, that this is important stuff.
- Teach your children to give to charity, and let them see you giving to the needy. Have them set aside a portion of their allowance and research where they want their money to go, to open their eyes to the needs of others.
- Don’t take moral or ethical shortcuts. If you go to an amusement park and your kid is 12, don’t say she’s 11 to get a discount, Is that savings worth undercutting your integrity?
- Don’t tell white lies, such as having a family member say you’re not home when the phone rings.
- Play “what if?” Give your child hypothetical scenarios, and ask her how she would respond in different circumstances.
- Talk about choices you’ve made – both good and bad. Let your child understand we all make mistakes, but we can always come back to our morals.
- Carve out time to be together every day. The statistics about families that eat dinner together prove spending time together is essential to a child’s moral well-being. Unplug the TV, the computer, and the cell phone, the head phones…..and connect. We’re all too busy, and we’re as plugged in as our kids are. We need to spend “quantity” time as a family talking about the things that really matter.
- Be flexible and willing to adjust your parenting style. If you frequently feel “let down” by your child’s behavior, it may be because you have unrealistic expectations. As your child changes, you will gradually have to change your parenting style. Chances are, what works with your child now won’t work as well in a year or two.
- Nurture your child’s self-esteem. Your words and actions as a parent affect your child’s developing self-esteem more than anything else. Praising your child’s accomplishments, however small, will make him or her feel proud; letting your child do things independently will make him or her feel capable and strong. By contrast, belittling comments or comparing your child unfavorably with another will make him or her feel worthless.
- Catch your child being good. Have you ever stopped to think about how many times you react negatively to your child in a given day? The more effective parenting approach is to make a point of finding something to praise every day. Be generous with rewards – your love, hugs, and compliments can work wonders and are often reward enough. Soon you will find you are “growing” more of the behavior you would like to see.
- Set limits and be consistent with your discipline. Discipline is necessary in every household. The goal of discipline is to help children choose acceptable behaviors and learn self-control. Establishing house rules will help children understand your expectations and develop self-control. You may want to have a system in place: one warning, followed by consequences such as a “time out” or loss of privileges.
- Show that your love is unconditional. As an effective parent, you are responsible for correcting and guiding your child. But how you express your corrective guidance makes all the difference in how your child receives it. When you have to confront your child, avoid blaming, criticizing, or fault-finding, which undermine self-esteem and can lead to resentment. Instead, strive to nurture and encourage, even when you are disciplining your child. Make sure he or she knows that although you want and expect better next time, your love is there no matter what.
- Make communication a priority. You can’t expect children to do everything simply because you, as a parent, “say so.” Children want and deserve explanations as much as adults do. Parents who reason with their children allow them to understand and learn in a nonjudgmental way. Make your expectations clear. If there is a problem, describe it to your child, express your feelings about it, and invite your child to work on a solution with you. Be sure to include consequences. Make suggestions and offer choices. Be open to your child’s suggestions as well. Children who participate in decisions are more motivated to carry them out.
- Be aware of your own needs and limitations as an effective parent. Face it – you are an imperfect parent. You have strengths and weaknesses as a family leader. Recognize your abilities and vow to work on your weaknesses. Try to have realistic expectations for yourself, your spouse, and your children. You don’t have to have all the answers – be forgiving of yourself. And try to make parenting a manageable job. Focus on the areas that need the most attention rather than trying to address everything all at once. Admit it when you’re burned out. Take time out from parenting to do things that will make you happy as a person (or as a couple). Focusing on your needs does not make you selfish. It simply means you care about your own well-being, which is another important value to model for your children.
The bottom line is this – children learn what they see. Parents need to walk the walk and live their objectives. Live in a way you’re proud of and always remember – your child is watching.
TEN SOUND PRINCIPLES OF PARENTING
1. What you do matters. What you do makes a difference. Your kids are watching you. Don’t just react on the spur of the moment. Ask yourself, ‘What do I want to accomplish, and is this likely to produce that result?'”
2. You cannot be too loving. It is simply not possible to spoil a child with love. What we often think of as the product of spoiling a child is never the result of showing a child too much love. It is usually the consequence of giving a child things in place of love — things like leniency, lowered expectations, or material possessions.
3. Be involved in your child’s life. “Being an involved parent takes time and is hard work, and it often means rethinking and rearranging your priorities. It frequently means sacrificing what you want to do for what your child needs to do. Be there mentally as well as physically.” Being involved does not mean doing a child’s homework — or reading it over or correcting it. Homework is a tool for teachers to know whether the child is learning or not. If you do the homework, you’re not letting the teacher know what the child is learning.
4. Adapt your parenting to fit your child. Keep pace with your child’s development. Your child is growing up. Consider how age is affecting the child’s behavior. The same intellectual growth spurt that is making your 13-year-old curious and inquisitive in the classroom also is making her argumentative at the dinner table. For example: An eighth grader is easily distracted, irritable. His grades in school are suffering. He’s argumentative. Should parents push him more, or should they be understanding so his self-esteem doesn’t suffer? With a 13-year-old, the problem could be a number of things. He may be depressed. He could be getting too little sleep. Is he staying up too late? It could be he simply needs some help in structuring time to allow time for studying. He may have a learning problem. Pushing him to do better is not the answer. The problem needs to be figured out first.
5. Establish and set rules. If you don’t manage your child’s behavior when he is young, he will have a hard time learning how to manage himself when he is older and you aren’t around. Any time of the day or night, you should always be able to answer these three questions:
- Where is my child?
- Who is with my child?
- What is my child doing?
The rules your child has learned from you are going to shape the rules he applies to himself. But remember, you can’t micromanage your child. Once they’re in middle school, you need let the child do their own homework, make their own choices, and not intervene so much.
6. Foster your child’s independence. Setting limits helps your child develop a sense of self-control. Encouraging independence helps her develop a sense of self-direction. To be successful in life, she’s going to need both. It is normal for children to push for autonomy. Many parents mistakenly equate their child’s independence with rebelliousness or disobedience. Children push for independence because it is part of human nature to want to feel in control rather than to feel controlled by someone else.
7. Be consistent. If your rules vary from day to day in an unpredictable fashion or if you enforce them only intermittently, your child’s misbehavior is your fault, not his. Your most important disciplinary tool is consistency. Identify your non-negotiables. The more your authority is based on wisdom and not on power, the less your child will challenge it. Many parents have problems being consistent. When parents aren’t consistent, children get confused. You have to force yourself to be more consistent.
8. Avoid harsh discipline if at all possible. There are many other ways to discipline a child, including ‘time out,’ which often works better and does not involve aggression.
9. Explain your rules and decisions. Generally, parents over-explain to young children and under-explain to adolescents. What is obvious to you may not be evident to a 12-year-old. He doesn’t have the priorities, judgment or experience that you have.
10. Treat your child with respect. The best way to get respectful treatment from your child is to treat him respectfully. You should give your child the same courtesies you would give to anyone else. Speak to him politely. Respect his opinion. Pay attention when he is speaking to you. Treat him kindly. Children treat others the way their parents treat them. Your relationship with your child is the foundation for her relationships with others.
QUESTIONS FROM PARENTS
What are the three virtues essential to creating deep and lasting bonds with your child?
The three virtues essential to creating deep and lasting bonds with your child are benevolence, wisdom and courage. Benevolence is the virtue that helps you to love your child with compassion and understanding, and it is most crucial when you are angry with your child. Wisdom is the virtue that enables you to foresee the consequence of your own action and it is most important when you are confused and are standing at a crossroad in parenting. Courage is the virtue that helps you to do what is right and not what feels easy, and it is most needed when you are afraid to go out of your comfort zone.
What is Benevolence and why is it important for us to learn about it?
Benevolence is the virtue to love and care for a person with compassion and kindness. Just like anger, it is the powerful force behind our reaction to another person. But unlike anger, it will not lead us to hurt someone who has hurt us. The importance of Benevolence is not so much in making life better for others, but in making life better for ourselves. With benevolence, we learn to genuinely let go of our anger by feeling for the other person. So instead of producing negative energy with our anger day after day, we will have the opportunity to produce and attract more positive energy to make our own lives better.
If I don’t support spanking or slapping a child, what are some viable alternatives to corporal punishment?
Physical punishments should only be considered when you need to protect a very young child from life threatening situations like playing with a knife or fire. When a child is old enough (about three years old) to reason and understand the consequence of his action, hitting a child instead of talking to him is depriving him the opportunity to learn how to reason and understand the real consequence of his action. Parents should take time to discuss about a child’s bad behavior,’ listen to his point of view, explain why it was wrong from your point of view and discipline him accordingly. It is more important for a child to truly learn right from wrong than to be afraid of you.
How do you set reasonable boundaries for a young child?
You need to use wisdom in setting reasonable boundaries for young children. Boundaries can be looked at like a circle; the bigger it is, the more freedom you are giving to your child. The only time that the circle of boundary should be enlarged is when you see that your child has learned to handle the freedom he has been given. Just like privilege, freedom will need to be earned, and that is an important lesson to teach your child from a young age. You need wisdom to adjust the circle of boundary because either too big or too small a circle will be harmful to your child.
Why do so many parents have difficulty communicating with their children?
Many parents have difficulty communicating with their children because many of them did not train their children how to communicate with them. Communication is a skill, and it is something that needs to be learned. Most parents talk to their children as either a parent-ruler or a parent-teacher all the time. Under such circumstances, these parents are being look at as authorities all the time, and that would discourage their children from opening up to them. The only time that children can truly communicate at ease with their parents is when parents can act like a parent-friend, who is willing to listen to their children’s opinion or problems without judgment and criticism.
What can a parent do to contain and manage his or her anger when dealing with a child?
Benevolence is the opposite of anger. With anger, you just want to hurt the person who has hurt you, even when that person is the child you love so much. Benevolence, on the other hand, helps you to care for the other person, even if the person has hurt you, because you have the empathy to feel the pain or fear of the other person. A parent who has cultivated the virtue of benevolence will be able to manage his anger by seeing the situation from the child’s point of view. Once you are able to see through the surface of a bad child’ and feel for his emotion, you will be able to cool off and maintain a clear mind to respond to the situation.
Why do parents need wisdom?
Parents need wisdom to make the right choice in getting the right result. Without wisdom, parents will only be able to say and do things as a reaction to what our children say and do. With wisdom, we will be able to think and foresee what is to come and decide on the best path to take in order to get the best result. Parents also need wisdom to learn from their own mistakes so that they will know how to improve and become better parents.
What does it mean to be a courageous’ parent?
Courage is the most misinterpreted word in America. Many parents, especially when they are parent-rulers, believe that to be courageous is dare to do what you like to do even if it is risky or even harmful to the child, like hitting or threatening the child. But courage, when used with wisdom, means also to be able to do what you don’t like to do, like admitting your own mistake, letting go of your child when it feels good to hold on to him., or holding firm to discipline even when it is so much easier to give in. Courage must go hand in hand with wisdom and benevolence, or else it will lead to the wrong or even dangerous results.
What are the three most common mistakes most parents tend to make?
The three most common mistakes most parents tend to make are being too controlling, too permissive, or too stubborn. Controlling parents tend to rule like a tyrant and that cause children to be submissive. Permissive parents tend to let children have freedom even before they are ready and that will cause children to have no guidance. Stubborn parents tend to think they are always right just because they are older and more experience then their children and that might not always be true.
How can a parent be in control without being controlling?
It is more important for a parent to be in control of the situation than to be in control of the child. Many parents make the mistake of controlling every move of the child, thinking that as long as a child is ‘obedient,’ nothing will go wrong. Unfortunately, many children fight to gain control of their lives behind their parents through substance abuse, sex, eating disorder and other self-destructive measures because they know that their parents will not be able to control what they want to do to their own body. Wisdom helps you to be in control of the situation so that your child will follow your rule without feeling that you are controlling his life.
What is a parent-ruler? Parent-teacher? Parent-friend?
A parent-ruler is a parent whose role is to rule and protect the child so that he will be free from danger. This role calls for absolute obedience from the child who is not yet capable of seeing the danger due to his immaturity. Parent-teacher is a parent who assumes the role of teaching the child everything that he needs to be taught so that the child will one day be well prepared to face the world on his own. Parent-friend is the parent who is accepting a child with an open mind and an open heart so that they can be friends forever.
How do parents know when to play what role when raising a child?
Parents need only ask themselves what they want to achieve in a certain situation. If they want to protect a child from danger, they will need to be the parent-ruler. If they want to teach a child to make decisions on their own so that he can learn and grow, they will need to be the parent-teacher. If they want to connect with their child and to touch his heart, then they will need to be the parent-friend. Parents will have to hold on to the three ‘hats’ all the time while raising their child. In general, the younger the child, the more time you need to put on your parent-ruler hat, and the older the child, the more time you need to put on your parent-friend hat.
How do parents remain aware and in the present?
A parent can remain aware and in the present by being conscious of what is truly going on in their lives. This does not only apply to what is happening on the surface, but also what is going on inside your child’s mind. Self contemplation and prayer can help you to rest your own mind so that you can have the clarity to see what is truly going on. A clear mind is essential for choosing the right path in parenting.
FOUNDATIONAL PARENTING ELEMENTS
- WE CAN GROW VIRTUE THROUGH: Education, deliberate virtuous acts, perseverance in struggles, and by following examples set by others.
- VIRTUE OF THE WEEK: By focusing our attention on one “Virtue of the Week”, we can convey the message of Virtue through simple words, stories, and activities using examples from everyday life. These activities challenge the perception of teenagers and force them to choose between self-centeredness and other-centeredness.
- VIRTUOUS LEADERSHIP: Parents need to be leaders of their families. A real leader personifies the certitude of the creed. He\She kindles the vision of a breathtaking future so as to justify the sacrifices of a transitory present.
- BODY VS. SPIRIT CORE CONCEPT: Quality time should be spent familiarizing teenagers with the “Body vs. Spirit” concept. Teenagers should learn that their “Body” is made up of several physical components that can be made strong by eating properly, getting enough rest, exercising, etc. Likewise, their “Spirit” is just as, if not more important than their physical body. Their spirit is made up of their intellect, conscience, and will. Their spirits can be strengthened just like their bodies by practicing virtue.
- THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF VIRTUE: The Encyclopedia of Virtue is a collection of stories, articles, quotations, and coaching wisdoms that have been assembled over many years. Each family should be provided with a copy of “The Encyclopedia of Virtue” to use as a reference guide and for creating “Virtue Talks” with teenagers.
- UNCONDITIONAL LOVE: Parents need to help teenagers come to terms with verbalizing their love for each other. Use the words every day. Parents must make sure that their love for their teenager is openly verbalized and clearly unconditional. Parents shouldn’t care whether their son or daughter has a 4.00 GPA, or care how many touchdowns they score, or how many baskets they make, their love should be unconditional. Their love is not performance based, it’s unconditional. For many teenagers this is a view of love that they are not familiar with, and they love it.
- FORMED IN THE FIRE OF AFFLICTION: Parents should emphasize with teenagers that life has a way of transforming our trials into stepping stones for future blessings. This happens all the time in life. No pain – No gain, No trial – No treasure, No gall – No glory, No cross – No crown. If you get knocked down, get up. Hard work and self sacrifice are the road to success. These concepts will serve teenagers well in the future as husbands/wives, fathers/mothers, and providers for their families.
- COME TO SERVE AND YOU WILL NEVER BE DISAPPOINTED: Parents should make a big deal out of community service and teenagers serving one another. There is no greater love than to lay down ones life for another. This not only applies to community service, but also to selfless sacrifices for friends, helping a friend our sibling with a math assignment, or helping Mom around the house.
PARENTING ACTION ITEMS
- VIRTUE TALKS: At least once per week, parents should give their children a short 5-10 minute talk, story, or parable on the “Virtue” of the week. Virtue Talks are a key element in “Parenting Virtue”. Virtue Talks send the children the right message that virtue is first in our family. Parents can increase the Virtue Talks relevancy by connecting the virtue of the week with something that is going on in school, in the family, with current news affairs, or an upcoming holiday.
- “ONE ON ONES”: Parents need to start the practice of having short 5 minute “One on One” talks with their children. ”One on One Talks” give parents the opportunity to provide personal virtue guidance for each child, and provide an opportunity for the children to reach out to a parent with any current personal struggles.
- DAILY TEXT FROM PARENT TO SON OR DAUGHTER: parents should send each child a quick inspirational (virtue of the week based) text message every day. This is a great use of technology and a way to stay in touch with children. Children get dozens of text messages that are garbage, how about a “good” one?
- FACEBOOK: Parents need to be wary of Face Book and their children. Parents should be set up as a friend on their son or daughter’s account and constantly monitor what goes on with their child’s Face Book personality. Abuse equals termination of their Face Book account.
- SAFE SPACES FOR KIDS: Support local efforts to provide safe spaces for young people to meet and spend time together.
- MAKE YOUR EXPECTATIONS CLEAR: Expect young people to behave responsibly. Let them know what you expect from them—before there is trouble. Compliment them when you see them doing good things.
- GIVE GENEROUSLY OF YOUR TIME: Take time to play or talk with young people who live near you or work with you.
- SUPPORT YOUTH ACTIVITIES: Support efforts to create or expand opportunities for children and youth to participate in teams, clubs, and organizations.
- ESTABLISH MENTORING RELATIONSHIPS WITH KIDS: Build informal, ongoing, caring mentor relationships with adolescents.
- CHECK YOUR ATTITUDE: Examine your attitudes about children and youth. See young people as resources rather than as problems.
- BE THANKFUL: Thank people who work with children and youth (coaches, teachers, youth ministers, social service providers, clergy, and others).
- DO SOME FUND RAISING: Organize a fund raiser and donate the money to a local team or youth group. Your heart lies where your treasure is stored.
- BE AN ADVOCATE: Look out for the children and youth around you. Help keep them safe. Report dangerous and inappropriate behaviors to parents, school officials, or law enforcement officers. Also, compliment parents when you see their children doing good things.
- VOLUNTEER: Get involved in volunteer efforts with children and youth. You can find these through local schools, youth-serving organizations, congregations, parks and recreation programs, and other community- based organizations.
WHAT IS VIRTUE?
Virtue is universal good. Virtue is an admirable quality. Virtue is whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is worthy of praise. Virtues can govern our actions, order our passions, and guide our conduct. The practice of virtue leads to self-mastery, and the joy of leading a morally good life. Virtue can be grown through education, deliberate acts, perseverance in struggle, and following the examples of other virtuous people.
To refrain from sexuality that is contrary to ones morals.
Intense emotionalism towards an interest or pursuit.
Advice, opinion, or instruction to a friend needing help.
Using ones talents as a means of earning ones livelihood.
To be genuine, honest, not falsified or duplicated.
Favorably disposed and inclined to be kind and helpful to others.
Kindly, amiable, mild mannered and respectable.
Honesty, fairness, or integrity in ones beliefs, to hold in high respect.
The ability to perceive the comic or absurd quality of life. Good temperament.
Training of ones self, usually for improvement.
Willingness to comply with or submit to authority.
Conformity to the rules of right and virtuous conduct.
Control or restraint of oneself or ones actions or feelings.
To surrender personal freedom and subject yourself to the will of another.
The quality of being free from vanity. Not boastful. Humble.
Fair and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions or practice differ from your own.
The actual state of affairs, honest, accurate, verity, platitude.
The readiness and ability to initiate action.
Good or benevolent nature, considerate, helpful, humane, gentle, loving.
Acquaintance with facts, truths, or principles from study.
The ability to go before others and show them the way. Guide. Direct.
The state of being faithful to commitments, obligations, causes, and people.
Esteem or deference to a right of another, to honor, be courteous to.
Answerable or accountable for one’s own actions.
Proper esteem or regard for the dignity of one’s character.
Devoted love, support, and defense of one’s country.
To undergo a penalty, pain, or loss in defending a principle, ideal, goal, or movement.
True to one word, promise, allegiance, or affection. To be loyal and constant.
To yield to the possession or power of another person, influence, or course.
Being tough, not giving up, coming back time and time again.
To grasp the significance, importance, or meaning of.
Keeping a dignified composed manner even under stress.
Being wise and judicious in planning practical and future affairs.
What is right, righteous, guided by truth, reason, and fairness.
Mental and emotional strength in facing difficulty and adversity.
Moderation or self-restraint in action.
Belief, confidence or trust in a person or thing, not based on proof.
To look forward, to believe, desire, and trust that events will work out as desired.
Affectionate concern for the well-being of others.
The ability to face difficulty, danger, or pain without fear.
Vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, emotions, or attitudes of others.
Readiness or liberality in giving to those in need.
Having a modest estimate of ones own importance. Not proud.
Adherence to moral principles. Congruence in thought, spoken word, and deed.
Benevolent feeling toward those in need, generous actions.
The ability to suppress restlessness when delayed. Waiting without complaint.
Feeling or expressing gratitude or appreciation.
Surrender or destruction of something prized for the sake of something of higher value.
The ability to discern what is true of right, judicious and learned.
An act of helpful activity or aid.
Great delight or happiness caused by something good.
The act of restraining ones self, avoiding extremes. Temperance.
BODY AND SPIRIT