Being a parent is not an easy task. Along with the challenges of making sure that your child grows up healthy and well-rounded, there are several outside influences that can impact your interactions with your child. These influences can include the economy, the social environment in which you live and work, and even the effects of social media can have over your parenting decisions.
Parenting is often a “learn as you go” process. Very rarely is there someone to provide guidance as to what the “right” decision is every step of the way and in every situation. While there are parenting classes and books to read, they may focus on general parenting practices and may not be applicable to today’s fast-paced, media focused society. Oftentimes parents are not prepared for what life may throw at them and their children.
Theresa Langston, author of Parenting Without Pressure, A Parent’s Guide, attempts to address the various situations that parents may face in today’s society. She describes parenting without pressure as “a whole family approach”:
- Setting clear boundaries
- Establishing good Communication
- Fostering good decision making
- Teaching accountability
- Implementing fair rules
- Building mutual respect
- Resolving differences
- Enhancing self-esteem
- Practicing problem solving
- Encouraging responsibility
- Maintaining a positive family life”
Langston proposes that parents move from a reactive approach to a proactive approach when external and internal events occur. By strengthening the family unit, parents and their children will be better able to handle everyday stressors as they occur. Purposeful parenting fosters independence of each family member rather than dependent and co-dependent behaviors. Purposeful parenting advocates spending unstructured time together, making time for fun, raising children with values and creating a safe environment where physical and verbal confrontation doesn’t tear down. A safe environment is one where courtesy, kindness and respect prevail
Langston writes,“Families teach children societal rules and behavioral expectations. Additionally from the family, children learn morals, values, and attitudes. They also learn about relationships and what is considered important. By your actions and your words teach about love, honesty, courage, self-discipline, chastity, loyalty, fairness, empathy, tolerance, respect, and right from wrong.” (http://www.parentingwithoutpressure.com/)
This means setting boundaries and staying aware of what kids are doing. Purposeful parenting teaches that both parties should be involved in decision-making. Schedules, chores, and expectations should be pre-determined. A child learns life skills in this way, in the context of a loving, supportive environment with positive reinforcement.
Positive reinforcement includes positive comments and/or rewards when a child exhibits the behaviors a parent is asking for. This can include praising them for completing chores, getting good grades, and making good decisions when their peers may not be.
Oftentimes, if there is an issue where a child presents with several challenges and is removed from the family unit. Positive parenting skills can still be learned and utilized as the family system learns to adjust. There are instances where the parents may have to learn to handle various obstacles that their child may have and this is usually done in a safe and supportive environment such as a therapist’s office.
Pomegranate Health Systems models strength-based approached and uses positive reinforcement in its residential treatment program. Adolescents have the opportunity to earn points for completing tasks on their daily schedules. These points can be transferred into various rewards from trinkets to community outings. This practice is also reinforced during family sessions where there is a therapist present to assist and encourage parents to utilize positive reinforcement and strength-based approaches with their children while still addressing their unique needs.
Needless to say, each parenting style is unique and comes with its own rewards and challenges. These challenges can be overcome with love, support, and little bit of guidance along the way.
[Photo credit: Interracial family in backyard by Goldenkb Dreamstime.com 10545144]