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The Nurse Perspective -Parenting 201- in the 21st Century


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The Nurse Perspective: Parenting 201 – Mid 21st Century

Call me old-fashioned, out-of-date, or out-of-touch, but some things about being a parent are basic and forever.  I can and I will share some of these basics here.

A once famous comedian took a lot of criticisms (mine included) for expressing his opinion on the Black family and youth and how they are debasing themselves.  But even though many of us were disgusted with his choice of words and how he decided to send his message, brotherman spoke to what parenting has become in the 21st century, not just in the black family but pervasive in all of society.

As a former child and family therapist for over thirty years, I had the "privilege" of observing families up close in their homes and in my office. In these family counseling sessions, I witnessed many inconsistencies in parenting styles and methods.  It was no wonder to note that the children were confused by inconsistencies and sometimes just plain lack of parenting.  Children who had no consistent parenting, role model, or specific guidelines, to help them grow emotionally, had little choice but to parent themselves or each other, which only added to their confusion. 

When my own children complained about something they thought I failed to do right, for example, something another parent allowed their child to do,  I informed  them that these were the rules of MY household, and because the only guide I had for being a parent was what I learned from my mother.  And because her children turned out great, i.e., their mother being one of them, then I, following her lead, would probably produce similar results, i.e., them.  Nowadays, there are  plentiful books on parenting for those who have no clue how to parent a child, or who did not have the advantage of great parenting, or even to validate the old-fashioned ways of their parents.

I believe, in my opinion, one of the biggest mistakes parents make is to be “best friends” with their child.  It is darned cute to hear your four-year old daughter say, “my mommy is my best friend.  For at that age, she should be her best friend. This is how parents can model the best friend role, teaching the child HOW to be a friend and how to make good choices in life. The job for parents is not to encourage dependence on mom or md in the best friend role, but to help her or him transition to other friends, choosing appropriate friends, teaching, and guiding them.  This is also true of fathers who are thrilled to have a little “mini me”.  The father models manhood for the son and the daughter, thereby teaching them the appropriate, mature ways to be exemplified in men, how they should interact in the larger world, and by helping daughters to recognize and choose good qualities in the men she meets in life.

Parents should not feel threatened by children who threaten to call Child Protective Services.  Some have been told  this is what they should do if they are being punished by the parent.  These laws are there to protect children who do not have the blessing of living in a home where parents tend to their needs in a loving atmosphere and are being protected and nurtured.  Of course, we all know of or read of adverse situations where this is not true and then CPS must come in and either help the parent to find services to help them with appropriate parenting or to make other choices for the protection of the child. We can discuss ACES at another time, but I will just allude to the fact there are traumatic situations that make a difference in a child’s life forever and how they relate to life.

Parents should not be afraid of hurting the child’s feelings, because at times your good parental choices and recommendations will cause the child to feel hurt.  Believe me it is momentary when you tell Missy or Mister, that they cannot spend the night at So’n’so’s house, they will get over it, the world is NOT collapsing around them; however, sometimes to offer an explanation for the decision may deter meltdowns. Children should be made to understand that parental decisions is for their protection.  But beyond all of this, I know that parents want to appear to be “in the know”, youthful and liked by their children and their friends.  There is absolutely nothing wrong, in fact it is necessary, to know your child’s friends AND their parents, so don’t waver in your resolution to keep your child safe. Be consistent and firm.

Basic parenting skills have not changed and each generation may try various untested methods of child-rearing, some of their own making, yet some contain reminders of their past experiences with their own parents.  There is nothing wrong with updating the “curriculum” unless it produces chaotic results.  But I hasten to add, that we, meaning the system, have yet to fully evaluate all methods and have yet to arrive at conclusive evidence of their effect.  There are many reasons for failed parenting and I’ve only entertained a few with an obvious miss – the drug-affected family – which is an entirely different and lengthy subject in itself and too complex to devote more than a few words to recognize it.  Suffice it to say, the drug-affected family has changed the child’s world view of life as it relates to himself.

Did you know: Your parenting style is shaped by your parental caregivers and the good, the bad, the indifferent, has so affected you as a person and that it passes on into your parenting style?  What you do, how you do or don’t parent affects your child for a lifetime, and so on to future generations.  For example: a father picks up a thick leather strap (in anger), and whomps the daylights out of a child who has slightly misbehaved or disobeyed.  His subconscious philosophy is now exhibited in his behavior – my father did this to me, and I must do it to my child to change his behavior.  Then the son grows up with the same ingrained philosophy and returns the favor to his children or much worse, becomes a perpetrator of domestic violence.  I call this personal philosophy – generational domestic violence.

I grew up in a home where spanking or whipping without cause was rare, and when it did occur, was administered with a temperate and loving hand.  Consequently, this was an inherited, unspoken, unconscious philosophy in my own home.  My children experienced the same philosophical maternal behavior.  Discipline and or punishment were handed out in creative ways and dealt with the on the spot.  With cause in my household was for unmitigated lying or dishonesty or for physically injuring another.  Most times even these could be handled by discussing the behavior with the child, helping him or her to design appropriate punishment.  I remember my mother offering me a choice of punishment on the rare occasions when I disobeyed.  She offered a spanking or a sermonette.  Mom’s sermons would devastate me.  I felt I had let Jesus down, so I would opt for a spanking any time. That was rare, so I endured many a sermon on appropriate behavior for a little Christian girl.  Just imagine how lowly one could feel with those themes.  My worst punishment was to have to sit quietly in a corner of the room away from the noisome, energetic play of my siblings.  AND I had to crochet a doily.  How I hate crocheting to this day!

I found the following excerpt from an interview Meghan Markle had with Michelle Obama for British Vogue:

She (Michelle Obama) also spoke to (Meghan Markle) about the futility of trying to overly protect her children from the turmoil of life, calling motherhood a “master class in letting go.”

“Motherhood has also taught me that my job is not to bulldoze a path for them to eliminate all possible adversity “, she told Meghan. “But instead, I need to be a safe and consistent place for them to land when they inevitably fail; and to show them again and again, how to get up on their own.”

This is the essence of what a great parent looks like in real life.  We desire to attain that level of parenting, and some of us do, some fail, some miserably, but the way can be cleared for us to find examples of good solid parenting.

I know a couple who are raising 4 children.  I have watched, and I mean really watched, the non-dramatic, firm yet loving approach they use in raising their children.  The children are typical children, they like to play, they misbehave sometimes, but when called on the carpet for their misdeeds, they are contrite and responsive to parental directions.  If I could only hold them up as an example for everyone, but they have no idea that I have been observing them from a distance for at least a decade.  But it is easy for any parent needing some guidance to find a role model, one who exhibits kindness, fairness, and respecting each child, for children are due respect also, and being respected. 

I have digressed somewhat, but the bottom line is, parenting is a job that needs constant attention to the details of how to and when to, and offers a lifetime sense of accomplishment, especially when you have “growed” them up to become parents themselves.  The God-given commission from heaven, is to grow our children to successful adulthood, and when you have fulfilled that commission, you will have done what God asked of you and your reward will be – ‘Well done, good and faithful parent’.

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