Parenting: Positive Parenting with John Gray (cont.)
Four: It's okay to want more. Many children, particularly girls, are raised with the notion that it's not okay to ask or want for more. If your parents can't provide more, the child is made to feel guilty for wanting more. These notions are hopefully in the past. Children need encouragement and support for expressing their wants and needs, but also need a clear message that you don't get what you want but it's okay to want more. A child shouldn't be ridiculed for asking or wanting more. It's a very adult task to know what is appropriate when it comes to asking for more. Most adults haven't learned still how to negotiate for more.
Five: It's okay to say no. Mom and dad are the bosses. Children need and deserve the right to express resistance to their parents. They shouldn't be mindlessly obedient. Parental supervision was so severe that children were never allowed to resist authority, which gave them no sense of self. When they became adults, it became easy for them to fall into the hands of a maniacal authority figure who demanded obedience. In this book, I tell parents how to change the past idea that children should just be obedient, and create a practical way for children to become individuals, rather than mindlessly obedient or subservient to authority.
These five positive messages take a lot of training and exploration to be able to and in order to successfully deliver them to children. When we realize as parents that we're responsible for our children's behavior, then we're motivated to find the right approach to create cooperation. When you drive the car, and let go of the car, it crashes... and that's not the car's fault. This is the difference between parents and children. Parents are driving, children are not. If you think the child is responsible, then you allow the child to run the household. This will not only wound a child's self esteem because it's too much responsibility, but the child will go out of control very quickly, and be very difficult to manage. Parents have to stay seated firmly in the driver's seat.
Moderator: Do these skills change in any way when dealing with adolescents? Is it too late by then to change anything?
Dr. Gray: These five positive messages and practical skills are applicable through adolescent and teenage years. They're also applicable in adult relationships, but in a different way. There's a shift, and I explore that shift through three different approaches. In the first nine years, children haven't developed reason and logic, so one kind of approach is necessary. In the next three years, reason and logic begin to develop. And in puberty through 18, there's another approach for that. As the mind develops, you have to adjust your approach and style. Children need guidance and rules before puberty. After puberty, children gain more and more independence based upon reasoning and logic. When parents learn to apply these guiding principles, with reason and logic rather than emotional threats, then children and teenagers will respond. Is it too late in teenage years? No. I help parents apply these in all stages of development for their children.
These techniques work right away in practically all situations. Their working doesn't mean you'll have perfect children, but cooperative children. Based upon deficient parenting styles in the past, a child's capacity to make mistakes is much higher. If you start young, then you have the possibility of children not making the big mistakes teenagers do now. Your children will still be teenagers and make mistakes, but will be within reasonable limits that any parent can expect. Perfect children do not exist just as perfect parents do not exist. These techniques help us create more love and cooperation, so we can learn from the mistakes. Mistakes are inevitable; that's the growing up process.
Moderator: What are the tell-tale signs that my child needs professional help with their behavior?
Dr. Gray: When you feel you are unable to create cooperation with your children, and you've taken many parenting classes (whether it be my approach or other approaches), and you've brought up your issues in the realm of parenting, and what they suggest still doesn't work, then it's time to go into counseling. Or, then it's time to seek medical assistance. Too many parents, I'm sorry to say, rush straight to psychiatrists to get a prescription of medication to subdue their child, when many times, what needs to occur first is for parents to adjust their parenting style, and the diet they give their children. Before medication, I would suggest first seek parenting classes, then have a doctor or nutritional expert understand and review your child's diet. Then, seek out help for medication if necessary -- medication or counseling.
Moderator: What are the different challenges of parenting boys and girls?
Dr. Gray: In my chapter on "It's okay to be different," I also explore the gender differences between boys and girls, and clearly, they exist quite commonly. Remember, there are always exceptions to every rule. If a mother doesn't understand that boys tend to be different from girls, she'll tend to treat a little boy the way she wanted to be treated as a child, and that will often have a counter-productive effect on the little boy. And vice versa; a father who doesn't understand the nature of little girls will treat the little girl the way he wanted to be treated, and that will create separation between father and daughter. When a father was young and bumped his knee and -- when his daughter falls down and bumps her knee, and starts to cry, she needs understanding and needs to talk about her boo-boo to someone who can say after listening, "let's get back up and play." Make feelings first, solutions second, when it comes to little girls. With boys, a mother unknowingly makes the mistake of offering too much help. Little boys grow in self-esteem through feeling they can do it themselves. If the mother is always offering advice to help the boy do it better or improve, the boy will not want to talk to his mother after awhile. This helps to explain why most mothers will say "my little boy just won't listen." When that's the case, reflect on what you've communicated to that little boy, and adjust your communication. Often, women tend to give unsolicited advice. Certainly as a mother, your role is to lead and teach your child, but with little boys, you have to make sure you don't do it too much. Be sensitive to his feelings and annoyance, and don't push. Most mothers have had the experience of lecturing their children, knowing their children are resisting. All this does is build more resistance in communication between parent and child. Learn how to communicate effectively, and you'll have much more communication in a mutually supportive relationship. These are two examples of how gender awareness helps mothers and fathers be better parents.
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