Over 50 years ago Ann Landers asked her readers if they could do it over would they still become parents. A shocking 70 percent said “no, they would not.” They felt trapped in no-win situations with their children and with society. Probably not much has changed since then.
Why is it that so many parents feel like failures?
Parenting is probably one of the most difficult and challenging jobs we will ever have, and yet one for which we are least prepared, usually with little or no training. The task can seem impossible. How can we raise children to be responsible, successful and emotionally healthy adults in a society where violence, self-destruction and irresponsibility often seem the norm? Peer pressure, technology, the media and entertainment world always seem to be vying for control of our children. Well, it is possible to be more successful and even have rewarding relationships with our children, but it requires commitment to learning and using more effective parenting techniques. We have a model. We know that with prepared childbirth classes, the birth experience is far less traumatic and can even be one of real joy and closeness. Such classes are now the norm. When parenting classes are also the norm, family life will be more rewarding. It is simply a matter of valuing parent education.
Effective parents discipline without punishment.
We often equate discipline with punishment. There is a big difference. Discipline is guidance and teaching appropriate behavior, whereas punishment is revenge and retribution. Children do not commit crimes that require a punishment response. They make mistakes that require correction. Punishment does not teach appropriate behavior. In fact, it teaches children to lie, blame others and be sneaky. It also teaches them that fear, intimidation, humiliation and bullying are good ways to handle differences with others, especially if you are bigger and can get away with it. Just look at our failed prison system!
As a Redirecting Children’s Behavior instructor, I often speak to large groups of parents. One of my first questions is “How many of you like to punish your children?” I have never seen a single hand go up! Yet when I ask “How many of you think it is sometimes necessary?” a lot of hands go up. Most parents believe this is the case because they themselves grew up being punished and have just never learned a different way to parent. Also, some are reluctant to admit that their own parents were less than perfect. Our parents probably did the best they could with the tools they inherited from their parents. It is quite evident, however, that the traditional methods handed down through the generations are not effective in our complex modern society.
Meeting the Challenge
No wonder parenting is such a challenge! We think we should succeed at this difficult job with little or no training, using outdated, ineffective tools we often feel guilty about using. We also expect to do this in a society where parent education in generally viewed as frivolous or only necessary when we are having serious problems. I have had students say they do not want anyone to know they are taking a parenting class! They are embarrassed that they need help. In order to be more successful parents, it is vital to change these outdated beliefs and be willing to give up punishment. Be proud of learning more effective tools!