July 21, 2019

Parenting Evolution — the Changing Ideas

“No matter how calmly you try to referee, parenting will eventually produce bizarre behavior, and I’m not talking about the kids.” Bill Cosby

For twenty years of my 34 year career in community mental health, I taught numerous Parenting classes. Parents came, once a week for the seven week class, to share, listen and find new ways to help with behavior issues and better understand their child.  

Another therapist, Dennis Bumgarner, and I created the class and usually co- led it. We did this until he moved to Indianapolis.

The class curriculum and approach changed over the years, as good classes should and as the presenter grows the class. It evolved from: 7 Rules of Parenting to 5 Guidelines of Parenting to General Ideas of Parenting. The impetus of the changes was the addition of children to my life.

Rules of Parenting was the essence of the first classes. Rules were outlined as: if your child does A — you respond with B. It was pretty cut and dry. I didn’t have children when we started the class. Then I married Katie and gained Beth, a daughter in my life. Becoming a parent changed my perspective on the class.

What followed was Guidelines of Parenting; If your child does A, and what you are doing is not helping, you could consider response B. It was gentler in terms of right and wrong response from parents, as the lines of what to do and when to do was less clearly defined. My daughter taught me that. The next perspective change came after my son Ben was born.

Ideas of Parenting came next. It presented a more practical, consistent method. When we offered ideas for parenting, it was not cut and dry. These ideas were given as: if your child does A and what you are doing is not helping, consider response B with the best consistency a parent could muster; if that was not helpful, think about or try response C or D. The class became more realistic to the nuances of parenting. It was more flexible.

With humbleness as I write future blogs, there will be ideas presented on parenting.  Parenting is, I believe, the most important activity that I have undertaken. I always hope parents recognize that for themselves. I believe this is what children deserve.

Unfortunately for some children, that is not always the case. As parents struggle with their kids, I counsel them to realize, “this is as good as it gets.” My intent with this statement is: parenting is hard and often fatiguing work, at times instantly noticed by kids with feet stomping or doors slamming. Yet, parenting is also the essence of life, with work and fatigue, which parents will likely remember in satisfying ways. The point is: why not enjoy it as fully as possible now, even the tough stuff?

All three structures of the class seemed helpful.  As the material was presented, another aspect grew: it became apparent that ultimately what is most important becomes the parent as a role model.

How do you handle day to day situations?  You want a loving child, be a loving parent. You want a non smoker, don’t smoke. You want kids to use good language; you use good language. Continue lifelong learning to set an example of education for your child. 

So as the blogs appear during the next weeks, consider them Ideas of Parenting not rules. I hope you will find them useful.

 Bill