Parenting: Setting Priorities With Your Children (cont.)

alicia18_msn: She isn't crazy at all, very smart, but way too mean to her dad and myself. Should we be spanking her when she says these things or ignoring them?

Dr. Jeffers: I think it's best if you are having difficult problems, to seek professional help. Also to get some help. Discipline is a wonderful thing. We're frightened in today's world to discipline children because the pendulum has swung so far to the extreme to protect children, that's it's difficult in today's world to do appropriate discipline. My own opinion is that everyone has to do what's right for them. When my children were young -- they are now 42 and 38 -- but I spanked them in a controlled way. For those who are younger than six, this certainly can work to stop children from hurting themselves, or behaving badly. The reason spanking is looked down upon, is that some times parents lose control and they can hurt a child. But if you are controlled, appropriate spanking, to me, is very effective when words don't work. But again, society today makes it very difficult.

jesterz_webmd: I'm scared to have children because I'm too logical a person, and I get frustrated when people don't respond to me logically (like children usually do). Is there a way I can prevent this or help this?

Dr. Jeffers: I think that it's very important to read this book (laughs) because I talk about exactly what life becomes, and again, some love it, but some are shocked at how it upsets one's life. There's nothing logical, or predictable, or even about having children, so if you have a certain personality and you know that this is going to be very difficult, of course, a wise decision would be to not have children, but you wouldn't be alone. Today 25% of the population is deciding not to have children. In a way, this is a very encouraging sign that people who want to be child-free, and I call them the "cheerfully child-free," are not being criticized as much as they used to be, even though it's still, the criticism does exist. It is not selfish to choose to be child-free. There are many many ways to put love into this world and giving love to a child is only one of these ways. God said to be fruitful and multiply. I was wondering if he meant fruits and vegetables, not necessarily children in a world that is overpopulated and becoming more so. I say this jokingly.

curly31_webmd: My children are involved in so much and I try to give them all the opportunities that I can, but I am sacrificing myself in the process. Is there a happy medium for everyone involved?

Dr. Jeffers: The first bit of advice that I can give is don't sacrifice yourself. This is very very important. I take offense where people in today's world expect that women in particular give up their fulfillment in life to raise children. It' s not necessary. We must fulfill ourselves and be a model to our children and become happier people. That balance has to be created and everyone does it in a different way. You don't want to say to your daughters, "Dream on little girl, but remember you ultimately have to give up your dreams when you have children." We don't want to say it to our daughters, so why say it to ourselves? Children grow up beautifully with parents who fulfill themselves outside of the home. I think that it's a myth to say that we have to give all of our attention to our children. Children must be a part of a bigger life. They can't be, in a healthy way, our whole lives. When we make a child our whole life, it's not healthy for them or for us. The book is titled I'm Okay, You're a Brat. It's available at amazon.com or Barnes and Noble,  whatever you use.

Moderator: Your book talks about the mad myths of parenthood. Can you give us a few of those myths?

Dr. Jeffers: One is that having children is the ultimate fulfillment in a woman's life. So many women are depressed for a very long time after a child is born, and there is a conspiracy of silence that keeps women from telling their truth. It's interesting the venom that people spew today at parents who do tell the truth, such as they're failed parents, or they're cruel, or whatever. And women have to support each other more, I believe. When I interviewed some women initially, they talked about how wonderful it was to be a parent. When I revealed that I found staying at home with a child to be very difficult, as I did for my first child 42 years ago, then the people I was interviewing broke down and started to tell their truths to me. Some broke down in tears talking about how miserable they were. Having children is the ultimate fulfillment for some, but certainly not for everyone, and we should not feel guilty if we don't love it. Stand tall, and find fulfillment outside the home, as I did, and then come home to your child as a happy person. Women are made to feel very guilty when they don't stay home in the beginning, which leads me to what I consider a myth, that the so called "bonding" and "attachment" are essential to the well-being of the child. I certainly don't think, in normal circumstances, that these things are really suitable for normal families today. People love their children whether they work or stay at home. They can create wonderful relationships with their children whether they work or stay home. There is no research available today that supports these theories of bonding and attachment. 

People have to understand that parenting styles change. When my mother raised me, childcare experts of the day said, "Don't pick them up. Let them cry themselves to sleep." "Multiple caretakers are essential, so they don't get too attached to the mother." "Breast feeding is not necessary." And on and on and on. This is how my mother raised me. And today, everything has gone to the other extreme. Now, you must pick them up, hold them, cuddle them, sleep with them, breast feed them, and on and on. Who knows what the next fad will be. When Dr. Spock died, he said he felt that he was mistaken, and that in truth, nobody knows how to predict how a child will turn out. There are no rules that work about a creating healthy children.


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