The following is an interview with Dennis Prager, a nationally syndicated radio talk show host, columnist, author, conductor, and public speaker. His insights on the importance of living our lives by the Ten Commandments makes this well worth the read…
Posts Tagged ‘parenting’
What would you have done? What would I have done? After all, either you’re honest, or your not. There is no in between. It is sobering when you look at it as a black and white issue especially in a society where “50 shades of grey” is the disappointing norm. Seemingly small stories like this one absolutely pale in comparison to the horrific displays of criminal dishonesty that we have all witnessed from NFL stars and politicians vying for the nation’s top office. “Winning at all cost” is cried from the rooftops of almost all venues. It doesn’t matter if you cheat, lie, steal, or even cause pain or death to others as long as you win and, of course, have a great team of lawyers who can get you off just in case you get caught.
Do you ever think about how your parents raised you? What do you appreciate about them? What would you absolutely do differently?
How much has your life course been influenced due to your parents’ parenting style?
And how are you going to parent your children?
Because surprisingly enough, becoming a parent doesn’t automatically make you an expert at raising children. No offense to all you parents out there who are doing your best in this extremely difficult feat! But good intentions aside, one of the most common things parents lack overall is an education in parenting and child guidance.
So let’s talk about effective parenting, and more importantly, why it is effective parenting.
Jim Fay, author of “Love and Logic”, has defined three different parenting styles: consultant parenting, helicopter parenting, and drill sergeant parenting.
While each style has its’ strengths and weaknesses, one of these approaches is much more effective than the others.
Fay’s term “consultant” is also interchangeable with another popular parenting term in the realm of social science known as “authoritative.” According to Fay, as well as countless experts, being a consultant parent is the most effective approach to child rearing.
In the consultant, or authoritative version of parenting, parents allow children to make choices within reasonable limits. This approach allows children to seek counsel and guidance from their parents, while still maintaining accountability for their own actions.
This not only produces happier children, but more capable children. Consultant parenting creates an atmosphere that encourages natural consequences, personal achievement, and a healthy self-esteem.
Parents who tend to use a drill sergeant or helicopter approach are not facilitating a path that allows their children to develop autonomy, independence, and responsibility. In fact, both of these methods produce a low sense of self worth in children and diminish overall success in all aspects of development.
So maybe before you continue with habits that you use “because your parents used them”, realize the impact that you have on your children’s growth and development.
Parenting is kind of a big deal. So get informed.
Here are three, highly recommended parenting philosophies to check out:
Love and Logic by: Jim Fay
Unconditional Parenting by: Alfie Kohn
Emotion Coaching by: John Gottmann
Been paying attention to the news this week? Ever wonder why people want to become police officers? I assume that they have a desire to protect their communities from harm and bad guys. Perhaps they have a desire to serve their communities. Do they do it for the money? Maybe. Statistics from 2011 show that the average policeman in America makes between $56-70K per year. Not bad with benefits, etc. That’s actually higher than I thought it would be. But is it worth what they have to put up with?
This week in Baltimore it has been shocking to see how the police have been vilified and their power to stabilize an out of control situation, neutered. Reaction over the Freddie Gray death has been horrifying. This senseless destruction by thugs and low-life criminals is not new. I remember the Watts riots in LA during the ’60’s, the Kent State riots in the ’70’s, the New Mexico penitentiary riots of the ’80’s, and the Rodney King-sparked riots in the ’90’s. Those were scary times but back in those days, most law enforcement and government officials fought immediately to stop the violence and prevent looters and further destruction. The recent deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri; Eric Garner in New York and Freddie Gray in Baltimore have revealed the upside down and crazy world we’re turning into, where right is wrong, and wrong is right. The mayor of Baltimore, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, actually ordered the police to “stand down” and refrain from stopping these thugs from looting and burning down the very city in which they live to give them “a space to destroy” as part of their freedom of speech. Are you kidding me?? In typical politician style, she later denied saying it…Oops! That pesky truth was shown all over national television. Cops were actually paralyzed and ordered to retreat to let these people burn the place down. And as predicted, these same cops were later condemned for not being around to save businesses and other property from destruction. “Where is law enforcement? Save us!” It’s insane. Are their bad cops? Of course – just like there are corrupt politicians and bad examples in every walk of life.
Perhaps the most gratifying reaction was the single mother, Toya Graham, who recognized her son in this destructive mob. She marched into the middle of these young thugs and grabbed her son, slapping him up the side of the head and asking him what the heck he was doing. Her son knew he was in big trouble with mom and knew better than to try to run away from her. She quite possibly saved his life. Graham was lauded by many and called “Mother of the Year” while people on the left condemned her for adding to the violence. Don’t make me laugh. This is a mother concerned about her child enough to discipline him before he moved on to more criminal acts and likely became another “Freddie Gray”. Parental discipline… a novel concept, huh? But why is it that cops are immediately targeted as the bad guy in every situation now? Just this week ij Review, an independent political and cultural website, recounted a frustrated Wisconsin policeman who posted this on Facebook.
“I stopped caring today because parents refuse to teach their kids right from wrong and blame us when they are caught breaking the law. I stopped caring today because parents tell their little kids to be good or “the policeman will come and take you away” embedding a fear of us from year one. Moms hate us in their schools because it reminds them of the evil lurking in the world. They would rather we stay unseen, but close by if needed, but readily available to “fix their kid.”
Cops… why do you do it? Pretty sure I wouldn’t have the stomach. We are supposed to feel sorry for the poor and underprivileged criminals because life is so unfair. Sorry, I don’t buy it. Why? Go back and read almost any blog post under the United Families archives and you’ll see why. I contend that a large majority of people who live in inner cities run by those touting social justice and progressive policies over the past 50 years have failed miserably. Do a quick Google search on Chicago, LA, Washington DC, Philidelphia, Detroit, etc. All run by failed policies. I’d love to be proven wrong on this. Social justice and the “give me free stuff” mentality is crippling and destroying individuals as well as families. Guess what kids? Values and principles are what will save you. Rugged individualism and depending on yourself. Let’s try that for a change! Pouring more and more dollars into failed government programs will never take the place of a stable and loving home life with a father and a mother to care and nurture their children. That, my fellow citizens, is priceless.I empathize with you, Officer “Frustrated Wisconsin cop”. I don’t blame you for not caring, but I applaud you for getting over it and having the courage to don your uniform once again, walking out the door to face the same thing day after day; hoping, like Toya Graham, that you’ll be able to walk back through that door and kiss your family once again. Ever hear the term, “You get what you pray for”? A world without law enforcement might be just what we get. Imagine what that would look like America. Anarchy anyone?
Letting go of the Rope of Good Intention and letting love in can be a challenge, but it can be done, and it will be freeing for both the parent and the child! The following are four ways to begin letting go of the rope, and letting love in your family and your relationships with your children.
Simply Ask your child what his/her needs are. Spend some time with her and find out what she really desires. Sometimes we forget to do the most simple things like asking what our child needs. Use the words “What do you need?” and the answers may surprise you.
2. Watch for signs of stress and provide a space where the stress can be managed and released.
Stress shows up in as many different ways as there are children. If you are aware, you will recognize misbehaviors, depression, tantrums, shutting down, hyperactivity, excess sleeping or not sleeping, etc, as signs of stress. Instead of focusing on correcting the behavior at first, find out why they are acting that way. There could be some deep feelings of not belonging, hopelessness, misunderstanding, not having personal value, feeling boxed in, or other feelings of low self-worth that are creating the negative behavior. Let go of your Rope of Good Intention and help them feel more secure in your love and their belonging by focusing less on your desires for them and more on providing a place where they feel safe and loved. If children feel from their parents that they always have to go, go, go, perform a certain way, or be something they are not in order to be loved, it creates stress within, and the child will not feel good enough. Watch for signs of stress and provide a place that the child feels welcomed and loved. This could be done by simply spending more time with them, reading together, playing games, going to the park, for a bike ride, or taking them out for dinner and letting them talk it out with you. Have the intention that the time you spend with your child will open up love and acceptance for both of you as well as releasing stress.
3. Recognize and honor your child’s genius.
Every person on this planet is a genius. We see top level people in music, acting, athletics, business, technology, academics, etc, and recognize them as a genius. Wanting this level of success for our children may not be a bad thing unless we tighten that Rope of Good Intention and make our children go down the “path to success” that we choose for them. Any great coach or mentor knows that it’s best to ask questions and give guidance so their client can tap into their own genius. It doesn’t work to force and pull genius out of a person. This is the same for children. First, recognize that your child has all they need to be a confident, competent adult who will do good in their world. Then love them for the genius that they are. Listen closely to their interests, get into their world, understand what excites them, drives them, and see the greatness in them. Give them opportunities to read, learn, and experience more of what they love. With your intention to support them for who they are, not wanting to “fix” them, you are recognizing their genius. Extend a guiding hand, ask questions, be interested in them.
4. Twice a year, take an inventory of your child’s needs.
Make this a time you look forward to. Go to your favorite place away from home where you will not be interrupted.. Find a place where you can relax and tune in to your inner knowledge. Take a notebook and pen. Write down your child’s name at the top of the page (if you have more than one child, do this for each of them). Ask yourself what do they need? Ask yourself what you want for them. As parents, we are instinctively guided to what our children need, and we have the duty to help them get there. (Next week we will explore how to do this without the Rope of Good Intention). Write all these thoughts and ideas down. As you are writing, you will come up with solutions and ideas to help them along their path for the next 6 months. This is a great time to connect with your higher power and intuition. Organize your thoughts and make a plan for yourself as to how you will guide and help your child for the next 6 months. Then go home and do it!
Step into your powerful, loving role as a parent, and love your children for who they are right now. They will grow into adults who know how to move through challenges successfully, confident in who they are because of the effort you made through the years to love, guide, and direct them-without the pull of the rope. Begin with one step from this list, and you will notice a difference!
Do children need to be enrolled in pre-school/pre-K programs in order to be competitive and successful in school?In Parenting, Schools on May 29, 2014 at 10:24 pm
While enrollment of children in pre-schools and kindergarten is for the most part optional, “early learning” advocates and the daycare lobbyists continue in their efforts to make preschool mandatory. These folks insist that pre-K programs promote “school readiness” and if you want your child to have the greatest opportunity for success in school– you must start them early! But are they right? While research is on-going, to date there is not much evidence to support an “early-childhood education” position.
There is one program that is often cited as a success story – the Carolina Abecedarian Project – where “at-risk” children were enrolled at age 6 months in a costly all-day, five-day-a-week, 12 months a year – four and a half year program. The benefit to the participants is still the subject of research and the cost of such a program renders it entirely unfeasible.
Darcy Olsen, researcher at Goldwater Institute, has noted that the huge expansion of early childhood education since 1965 did not yield improved outcome for elementary school students. Back in 1965, just five percent of three-year-olds and 14 percent of four-year olds were enrolled in pre-K programs. Today, those figures are 39 percent and 66 percent respectively. Yet according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) fourth-grade scores in reading, science and math have stagnated since the early 1970s and in fact, scores have fallen (even as the nation tripled spending in education). Interestingly, American fourth-graders outperform their peers in countries that do have universal pre-K programs (Italy, France, and Germany).
The existing research on the benefits of early childhood education show that there is only a short-term positive effect for “at-risk” students and there is “fade out” by grade three. Yet there are adverse effects for “mainstream” children.
There is no evidence to warrant the expense or the potential fallout of removing children prematurely from home to be part of a pre-school/ pre-K program.
As Darcy Olsen cautions:
“At heart is the question of in whose hands the responsibility for young children should rest. On that question, plans to entrench the state further into early education cannot be squared with a free society that cherishes the primacy of the family over the state.”
Below is a list of studies related to pre-school and pre-K programs:
Pre-kindergarten students are expelled from their programs at rates more than three times as high as those for students attending kindergarten through twelfth-grade classes. Drawing into focus the question: “How early should children be started in school?”Yale University Office of Public Affairs, “Pre-K Students Expelled at More Than Three Times the Rate of K-12 Students,” Yale Medical News (May 2005): 1-2.
On average, the earlier children enter preschool, the slower their pace of social development, while cognitive skills are stronger when children are first enrolled between the ages of two and three. Moderate exposure to preschool helps youngsters develop their cognitive abilities in pre-reading and math. But extended absence from their parents (more than six hours a day) also appears to heighten behavioral problems, such as a lack of cooperation, sharing and engagement in classroom tasks, most notably among kids from more affluent families. Loeb, Susanna, Margaret Bridges, Daphna Bassok, Bruce Fuller and Russell W. Rumbergerd. “How much is too much? The influence of preschool centers on children’s social and cognitive development.” Economics of Education Review 26, 1 (February 2007): 52-66. http://ideas.repec.org/p/nbr/nberwo/11812.html
During kindergarten, whatever advantages daycare or preschool children may enjoy in math and reading become statistically insignificant in tests with and without background controls. During the first grade, the daycare/ preschool children have significantly lower math scores. In both grades, these children scored significantly lower in the “approaches to learning” measure, which measured teacher perception of student attentiveness and persistence, a reversal of what was found in the cross-sectional test. Lisa N. Hickman, “Who Should Care for Our Children? The Effects of Home versus Center Care on Child Cognition and Social Adjustment,” Journal of Family Issues 27 (May 2006): 652-684.
Any positive effect from early-learning programs disappears by 3rd grade and you are left with aggression and other behavioral problems. Children in U.S. (lower grades) out do children in European Ed system which offers universal pre-K programs. Formal early education at best yields only short-term effects with at-risk students, effects of which “fade out” by grade three, and at worst yields adverse effects with mainstream children. Darcy Olsen and Jennifer Martin, “Assessing Proposals for Preschool and Kindergarten: Essential Information for Parents, Taxpayers, and Policymakers,” Policy Report No. 201, February 8, 2005, Goldwater Institute, Phoenix, Arizona.
Daycare/ preschool children exhibit poorer social skills throughout kindergarten. Such children have worse self-control, have worse interpersonal skills, and externalize problems more than their peers under parental care. The only social measure (internalizing problem behaviors) where these children outperformed their parental-care peers in the first model is now insignificant. Lisa N. Hickman, “Who Should Care for Our Children? The Effects of Home versus Center Care on Child Cognition and Social Adjustment,” Journal of Family Issues 27 (May 2006): 652-684.
An HHS study 5,000 of three and four years olds enrolled in the “Head Start” program showed that in language skills, literacy, math skills and school performance there was no improvement. Head Start Impact Study, Final Report,U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation. January 2010. http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/opre/hs/impact_study/reports/impact_study/hs_impact_study_final.pdf
Parenting is an important part of how society functions. Parents rear the rising generation that will become the political leaders, the work force, and the consumers of tomorrow.
Parents raise children to become successful adults. Laurence Steinberg (2005) states, “Good parenting is parenting that fosters psychological adjustment–elements like honesty, empathy, self-reliance, kindness, cooperation, self-control, and cheerfulness” (p. 4). Parenting isn’t always easy though, in fact it can be rather difficult. Francine Deusch (2001) says, “Parenting is created through the accumulation of decisions and acts that make up parents’ everyday lives.” Mothers and fathers constantly act and make decisions that affect how their children interpret and see the society they live in. Actions of parents affect the future actions of children.
If parents fail in their parenting responsibilities, their children, as adults, have a higher risk of becoming a detriment to society. Patrick F. Fagan (1995) says, “Even in high-crime inner-city neighborhoods, well over 90 percent of children from safe, stable homes do not become delinquents. By contrast only 10 percent of children from unsafe, unstable homes in these neighborhoods avoid crime.” Stable families create stable adults. Mothers and children with strong affectionate attachment create the best buffer against a life of crime; while fathers’ authority and involvement are also great buffers for their children (Fagan 1995). Both a mother and a father are vital in raising productive, lawful individuals.
Fathers are not only important in raising lawful adults, but they are important in creating successful ones. Children without fathers in the home often do not receive the financial support they need resulting with children, on average, not doing as well in school as they have a less educational achievement, an increase in the risk of them committing crimes and becoming involved in delinquent behavior, as well as early sexual activity (Dollahite, 2000, p. 67). If parents, particularly fathers, provide financial support and guidance to their children, those children won’t become, on average, drop-outs or delinquents which would be beneficial for the society the child-as-adult end up living in.
Mothers are important for raising successful children. Mary F. De Luccie (1995) says, Mothers are influential in helping their spouses maintain their parenting role as a father. As mentioned, fathers help children be good members of society; mothers are a part of encouraging that development. Grazyna Kochanska (1997) says, “Attachment researchers pointed out the associations between maternal responsiveness and child compliance, suggesting that the child’s secure attachment is a mediator of that link.” When mothers are more nurturing, children become more compliant or willing and yielding to parental guidance. Nurturing “refers to a number of parenting behaviors including attachment, warmth, support, recognizing the individuality of each child, and attending to children’s needs” (Dollahit, 2000, p. 70). Mothers help to shape the child and raise the child to become a competent adult.
Parenting’s influence on the parents
Parenting not only prepares children to become successful members of society, but helps parents be successful members and discover themselves. In a United Families International article “The Tragedy of ‘Bare Branches,’” they describe common characteristics of “bare branches,” men in China without wives or children:
- Belong to predominantly the lowest socioeconomic class
- More likely to be underemployed or unemployed
- Transient with few ties to the community
- Transient males that commit proportionately more violence than non-transient males
- Live and socialize with other bare branches, creating distinctive bachelor subcultures
- Commit more violence-often under the influence of alcohol and certain drugs
- Predisposed to risk taking (Valerie Hudson, 2004 “Bare Branches”)
Men who are attached to wives and children would have a greater likelihood of contributing to society, rather than causing society to suffer. W. Bradford Wilcox and Elizabeth Marquardt (2011) states, “57 percent of married mothers and 45 percent of married fathers strongly agree that their life has an ‘important purpose,’ compared to 40 percent of childless wives and 35 percent of childless husbands.” Parenting gives greater purpose and meaning to couples. Researcher Ellen Galinsky is quoted as saying:
Taking care of a small, dependent, growing person is transforming, because . . . it exposes our vulnerabilities as well as our nobility. We lose our sense of self, only to find it and have it change again and again. . . . We figure out how we want to interpret the wider world, and we learn to interact with all those who affect our children. . . . Often our fantasies are laid bare, our dreams are in a constant tug of war with realities. And perhaps we grow. In the end, we have learned more about ourselves, about the cycles of life, and humanity itself (Dollahit, 2000, p. 73).
Married parents may find themselves with past dreams unrealized, but with a changing understanding of themselves and the world around them.
Without children, society struggles. As D. Feder (2012) says, “What is often overlooked is that the children of today are the workers, producers, consumers, innovators, care-givers and taxpayers of tomorrow – those whose payments keep pension plans solvent, who care for patients in the nursing homes, keep the streets safe, safeguard the nation, operate factories and farms and keep lights on all over the world.” If parents don’t live up to their social responsibilities in raising their children than what kind of individuals are caring for the patients in nursing homes and keeping the streets safe?
If couples choose not to even have children than who will fulfill those future jobs? “We live in what can only be called an anti-child culture. Children are seen as a burden, rather than a joy and a blessing. We are told that children are an obstacle to life’s primary goals – pleasure and self-fulfillment” (Feder, 2012). If children aren’t born and cared for by both a mother and father, how will the nation suffer? Feder (2012) says, “Unless the catastrophic trend of declining fertility is halted and reversed, the mighty industrial engine we’ve built over the past two centuries will grind to a halt and slowly rust.” There would be less innovation with less people. There would be fewer political leaders with less individuals. The economy would suffer.
Mothers and fathers are vital to a healthy society. Children without either a mother or a father struggle to become psychological adjusted adults that contribute to the further development of society. Couples without children might be directing their attention to the current society in hopes of making a lasting effect, but children are a sure and effective way of serving the future society and making a difference. Children become the adults that guide and support the society of tomorrow. Let’s not forget them.
Alexandria Christensen is a student at Brigham Young University–Idaho majoring in Marriage and Family Studies with a minor in English. She is originally from Modesto, CA, but she and her husband are now living in Idaho.
Kendra Mayo is a student at Brigham Young University-Idaho majoring in Child Development. She is originally from Orlando, FL.
De Luccie, M. F. (1995). Mothers as gatekeepers: A model of maternal mediators of father involvement. Journal of Genetic Psychology, 156(1), 115.
Deutsch, F. M. (2001). Equally shared parenting. Current directions in psychological science, 10(1). Pp. 25-28. doi:http://www.jstor.org/stable/20182685
Dollahite, D. C. (2000). Strengthening our families: An in-depth look at the proclamation on the family. Salt Lake City, UT: Publishers Printing.
Fagan, P. F. (1995, Mar 17). The real root causes of violent crime: The breakdown of marriage, family, and community. The Heritage Foundation. doi:http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/1995/03/bg1026nbsp-the-real-root-causes-of-violent-crime
Feder, D. (2012). The Cultural Roots of Demographic Winter. Retrieved from WPF Dialogue of Civilizations website: http://wpfdc.org/society/1031-the-cultural-roots-of-demographic-winter
Kochanska, G. (1997). Mutually responsive orientation between mothers and their young children: Implications for early socializataion. Child Development, 68(1), 94. doi: http://web.ebscohost.com.byui.idm.oclc.org/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=38d60606-583f-43c8-8284-1ecb5d073528%40sessionmgr4&vid=2&hid=21
The tragedy of “bare branches.” United Families International. (2010, Jan 26). doi:http://unitedfamilies.org/default.asp?contentID=374
Steinberg, L. (2004). The ten basic principles of good parenting. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster Paperbacks.
Wilcox, W. B. and Marquardt, E. When baby makes three: How parenthood makes life meaningful and how marriage makes parenthood bearable. The state of our unions: Marriage in America 2011. Charlottesville, VA: The National Marriage Project. pp. 1-59. doi:http://nationalmarriageproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/Union_2011.pdf
Blair McMillan of Guelph, Canada, has grown a mullet in a bid to return to the year 1986 – the year he was born. He and his girlfriend, Morgan, have also put away their tablets, smart phones, computers, DVD players, X-box, coffee machine – anything technology oriented that didn’t exist before 1986 is gone from their home and their lives. They even use a rotary phone.
Why this intense exercise in “retro?” McMillan states that he had “a vague sense that gadgets were cheating my children of childhood.” Their two children, ages 5 and 2, were so engrossed in technology that they preferred playing with gadgets over being outside or spending time with their parents. That’s when Blair McMillan pulled the plug on technology– literally -and embarked on a year-long project “to get closer and reunite my family.”
Along with dressing the 1986 part, McMillan does banking in person, doesn’t use a GPS, and anyone visiting their home is asked to deposit their “gadgets” in a box upon entry. Blair and Morgan feel like they are giving their children a great gift – a more simple life and a life focused more on what really matters. One might look at their “sacrifice” and conclude they are outstanding parents who are willing to go to great lengths to help their children be successful and happy.
It’s an interesting story, but I struggled as I wrote those first paragraphs. I kept wanting to refer to the couple as the “McMillans.” But that would be inaccurate; the parents of these two well-cared-for boys are not married to one another. They’re cohabiting – living together. Here’s the thought that keeps running through my head: “Why are you working so hard to do right by your children and yet ignoring one of the most crucial things that you could do for them? Why aren’t you married?!”
“Hey, what’s the big deal,” you might say. “Clearly they are dedicated to their children and to each other.”
Here are just a few reasons why it’s a big deal:
When childbirth occurs to cohabiting parents, even if the union remains “stable” for the next five years, the effects on early childhood health are just as deleterious as parental separation or divorce and just as deleterious as if the couple had dissolved their illicit union.
“…cohabitors have rates of separation nearly five times as high as married couples.”
Rates for serious abuse of children are lowest in the intact family, six times higher in stepfamilies, 14 times higher in the always-single-mother family, 20 times higher in cohabiting biological parent families, and 33 times higher when the mother is cohabiting with a boyfriend.
Children who live in cohabiting households are less inclined to care about school and homework performance, and their academic performance is poorer than that of children living with their married biological parents.
Regardless of economic and parental resources, the outcomes of adolescent in cohabiting families (two-biological parent and stepfamily) are worse, on average, than those experienced by adolescents in two-biological-parent married families.
There is a wage premium that accrues to men who marry vs. those who never marry and just cohabit. The wage premium was more than 21 percent for married men, but just 6.5 percent for cohabiting men – relative to never-married and non-cohabiting men. In this complicated analysis, the researcher controlled for selection effects and differential wage growth.
After five to seven years, 39 percent of all cohabiting couples have broken their relationship, 40 percent have married (although the marriage might not have lasted), and only 21 percent are still cohabiting.
Blair McMillan obviously cares about his “partner” and his children, but rather than working so hard to return to 1986, why not give them something that is going to really have a long-term impact on their lives:
Get married and stay married.
*For more information on cohabitation, go here.
- Kammi K. Schmeer, “The Child Health Disadvantage of Parental Cohabitation,” Journal of Marriage and Family 73 [February 2011]: 181–93.
- Georgina Binstock and Arland Thornton, “Separations, Reconciliations, and Living Apart in Cohabiting and Marital Unions,” Journal of Marriage and Family 65 (2003): 432-443.
- Patrick Fagan and Kirk A. Johnson, “Marriage: The Safest place for Women and Children,” The Heritage Foundation, Backgrounder Report no. 1535, 10 April, 2002. p. 3, http://www.heritage.org/Research/Family/BG1535.cfm.
- Susan L. Brown, “Child Well-being in Cohabiting Families,” in Alan Booth and Ann C. Crouter, eds., Just Living Together: Implications of Cohabitation on Families, Children, and Social Policy (New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2002), 173-187. Elizabeth Thomson et al., “Family Structure and Child Well-Being: Economic Resources vs. Parental Behaviors,” Social Forces 73 (1994): 221-242.
- Susan L. Brown, “Family Structure and Child Well-Being: The Significance of Parental Cohabitation,” Journal of Marriage and Family 66 (2004): 351-367.
- Arif Mamun, “Cohabitation Premium in Men’s Earnings: Testing the Joint Human Capital Hypothesis” Journal of Family and Economic Perspectives (2011) Forthcoming.
- Lynne N. Casper and Suzanne M. Bianchi, Continuity and Change in the American Family (Thousand Oaks,: Sage Publications, 2002).
Several years ago, I heard a wise man proclaim to an audience of parents, “Parents, you cannot afford to be tired.” His statement surprised me. I asked myself, “What’s he talking about!? As a parent, I am almost always tired.” His statement is true though. Parents never do or should “clock out.” Once they bring a child into their home, they are that child’s parent, 24/7. They are responsible for that child and his/her welfare until the day they die.
As a girl, I always believed that my Mom and Dad would be my parents until I was 18, and then I wouldn’t need them anymore. Ironically, I needed them not as much, but more, once I turned 18. Life became more and more challenging and I would often turn to my parents to vent fear or frustration and to seek out their assurance and advice. I cultivated a deep and trusting relationship with my parents as a young girl because my parents did everything in their power to cultivate a close and trusting relationship with me.
As a young girl, my Mom willingly let me make the worst kind of messes in her kitchen because I wanted to learn to cook. She recognized that it was important for me to learn how to cook, so she would give me tips on cooking and even help me clean up the kitchen once my “experiments” were over. My mother also taught me the importance of keeping things clean and taught me how to clean. She even coined the phrase, “A clean home is cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter.” (To this day, I believe she is 100% correct about that.)
My mother also had what she called “The Star Chart” for my brother and me. If we cleaned our room, or did a special favor (like brushing mom’s hair), or practicing piano for the day, we got a star on our chart. Twenty stars equaled a new game or toy or $10. You wouldn’t believe how many times my brother and I chose a game over the $10. Monopoly was our favorite. That’s how we spent almost all of our free time – playing games.
My Dad taught me the importance of family time. Even though he worked long hours, he would always make time for our family. We would go up to the mountains, go fishing, go on a picnic, go to our local theater to see a play, or we would simply take a walk or take a bike ride. When I was 12, when the cattiness of girls really starts coming out, my Mom was there to listen to me cry. My Dad would take me on Daddy/Daughter dates. As the years grew, my relationship with them only strengthened. They were loving, devoted examples to me as a child, and now they are loving and devoted examples to me as an adult.
Now I’m the Parent
With my own children I have realized the importance of quality time that often comes only with large amounts of quantity time. When my children were little, they often accompanied me everywhere I went (even the bathroom), the way little ducklings follow the Mother duck. I would listen to hours of their sweet little prattling as I built puzzles or forts with them. I would listen to their slow, steady rhythmic breathing as they fell asleep during story time, and caress their precious fingers and trace the outline of their faces as I kissed them good night just one more time.
Now that my children are older, our relationship has changed. They stopped wanting to follow me into the bathroom years ago, they don’t want me to read children’s books to them anymore, but they crave the affection and attention that my husband and I give them in different ways. They like to talk to us, and I’m glad they do. That’s the only way we know whether they are happy or sad, and the only way we know what’s going on in their lives. We attend their extracurricular activities, and spend one on one time with them. My hope is that once they hit 18, they’ll realize they still need us.
Be at the “crossroads” in the lives of your children. Be there when they are making important decisions in their lives or even not so important decisions. I love being home when my children walk in the door from school. The look on their faces tells me everything I need to know about their day. I love dinner time, when we catch up on the events of the day. Sometimes not all of us are together at dinner, but we are always together at breakfast, and those are cherished memories that I’m glad we’re still making.
Here is a great quote on “Motherhood.” But as you read it, think “Fathers,” because it certainly applies to them as well!
“Motherhood is the greatest potential influence either for good or ill in human life. The mother’s image is the first that stamps itself on the unwritten page of the young child’s mind. It is her caress that first awakens a sense of security; her kiss, the first realization of affection; her sympathy and tenderness, the first assurance that there is love in the world.” – David O. McKay
Statistics show that 99 percent of American households have at least one television set in their home, and 66 percent of those homes have three or more television sets. Statistics go on to show that when four to six year-old children were asked whether they preferred to spend time with a family member or watching TV, over half of the children chose watching TV.
TV Now and Then…
Growing up, free time was considered family time and was spent working side-by-side, playing games, and enjoying talking with one another about the events of everyday life. Through these interactions and the quality time that was spent together, we were able to build friendships and close bonds with our family members that are still strong to this day.
In contrast, too many children today are spending more time with the television than with those they live with. Oftentimes, the amount of time spent in front of the television is not always determined by the child. A parent utilizing the TV as a babysitter is all too common. A TV can be a useful tool, but it shouldn’t take the place of an engaged parent. When children are spending all this time in front of the television instead of interacting with their parents, they aren’t learning important life lessons and strong family relationships are certainly being sacrificed.
TV and Conflict
Television not only takes away from building relationships, but it also hinders and causes conflict within existing relationships. For example, multiple people may want to use the television at the same time resulting in arguments over what show to watch and the duration of viewing time. Also, the noise levels created by the television can prevent important conversations from taking place, take away from personal quiet, reflection time, and cause distractions from daily activities such as chores and homework[i].
TV and Lack of Communication
Poor communication within the family can lead to “…excessive family conflict, ineffective problem solving…and weak emotional bonds.”
Sitting down as a family to watch television can “bring you together,” but, individually, each family member’s attention is focused away from the family as a group and is centered instead on the television screen. In general, talking is taboo while watching television. If one were to pose a question or make a statement during a show, those around would instantly hush the individual and insist that he or she wait for a commercial break or the end of the movie to speak.
Communication is a vital component of developing and maintaining relationships between family members. When family members are discouraged from speaking at any time, feelings of rejection can result, and future conversations may never take place because of a fear of others not caring to listen or show interest in what someone has to say.
Studies show that family interactions and relations, daily chores, and other social exchanges or events are the most common activities that suffer as a result of excessive media use[ii].
Building Communication in a Family
Researchers have found a strong connection between communication patterns and relationship satisfaction within a family. Communication within a family can build bonds of trust, unite family members on common goals, and build self-efficacy. Family members are more likely to forgive one another and show respect to each other when there is open communication patterns within a family.
The following are ways a family can work on building communication:
- Communicate often: Make and set aside time to spend with your family. Talk over what each family member did during his or her day. Time spent in front of the TV could be swapped for time together around the dinner table. Don’t waste that time spent traveling in a car or tucking your child into bed; use it to have meaningful conversation.
- Communicate clearly and directly: It’s crucial to speak clearly in order to avoid miscommunication and hurt feelings. This is especially important when working to resolve conflict. Using “…indirect and vague communication will not only fail to resolve problems, but will also contribute to a lack of…emotional bonding between family members.”
- Listen: Communication is a two-way street. When we talk with family members, it is important to listen and seek to understand what the other person is trying to tell us. Listening also shows respect for the other person and makes him or her feel validated and important.
- Remember who you’re talking with: Not all people communicate in the same way. Children talk and understand differently than teens and adults. Adjust the way we talk to fit the skills of the person we are talking with.
Make it a priority to find ways to have meaningful conversation and truly communicate with your loved ones. It has to be a priority or it probably won’t happen.
On average, Americans watch more than 4 hours of TV every day. According to that statistic, if one were to look at the life of a 65-year-old, he would have spent around nine years of his life up to that point in front of the TV! Today we live in a society that is full of distractions, don’t add more by allowing the TV to consume large blocks of your time. Television viewing can create conflict, and takes away quality time that could be spent with loved ones.
Urie Bronfenbrenner, a family scientist, once stated, “The family is the most powerful, the most humane, and by far the most economical system known for building competence and character.” As families, let us strive to work together to build these kind of relationships with each other through positive communication and quality time spend together. We need to turn off the TV and cherish the moments we have with those that are around us.
[i] Rosenblatt, P. C., & Cunningham, M. R. (1976). Television watching and family tensions. Journal of Marriage and Family, 38(1), 105-111.
[ii] Chory, R. M., & Banfield, S. (2009). Media dependence and relational maintenance in interpersonal relationships. Communication Reports, 22(1), 41-53.