Parenting a Winning Attitude

W.D. "Dub" Rogers, PhD.

Parenting can be rewarding, fun, exhausting and challenging. For most of us it's full of uncertainties. At those times it's common to ask myself, "What should I do?" or "What should I say". Good questions. A better question might be, "What are my goals?". Do I want to focus on solutions for the future or punishment for past behavior. Maybe I need to consult with myself.

Who are the people that inspire me to do and be my best? What is their attitude towards me? If there hasn't been someone like that in my life, what do I think that kind of person would be like? For my part, it is someone who treats me with kindness and respect. A friend who'd had a bad day was asked if she didn't want to stay home from work. Her response was, "No way! They love me there!" Opra Winfrey and author Toni Morrison were discussing someone who made them feel loved. Opra described a grandmother whose eyes lit up when she entered the room. The Bible speaks of a young man who made many poor choices. He was allowed to experience the results of those choices and found that mistakes were wonderful opportunities to learn. When he realized his errors in judgment and went home to his dad, he didn't hear a lecture. Instead he heard the words, "We must celebrate!" Dad's nonverbal communication included a hug, a kiss, a ring, a robe, and a party.

As an adult, I rarely change a foolish behavior the first time I am made aware of a growth opportunity. I need lots of practice that usually includes progress, not perfection. What do I need from my support system? Lots and lots of encouragement and that includes recognition of my steps in my targeted direction. If a new behavior is to become a habit for me, I must be convinced that this is best for me---not just something to please others who are watching me. I need to think it through for myself. I need to feel that I have choices. Isn't it amazing that I expect greater maturity and emotional resources from an immature child than I, myself, possess!

What I realize when I "get real" about parenting attitudes, is that need to reorient to the notion of long range parenting. I need to kiss goodbye my inclination to catastrophize and overreact to a negative behavior that my child displays. Just because my child steals a pack of gum does not mean I now have a Bonnie or Clyde in the family. I can remain emotionally supportive while allowing my darling to assume responsibility for her or his behavior.

My goals are to treat my child with courtesy as I would treat a friend. Do I raise my voice and lecture my friends? I will listen to my vocal tone and volume. I will attempt to explore behavior with "what" and "how" questions to help my child develop judgment and thinking skills. I want to provide training before I expect compliance, so I must put forth the effort to anticipate the skills I will need to teach. For example, my child will spill the milk. A logical consequence would be to clean it up. Guess I'll have to teach my child how to clean up spills. I want to help my child learn to cooperate and develop good problem solving skills, so I need to display empathy and involve my child in finding solutions to our mutual problems. Most of all I want my child to know emotionally that his Heavenly Father is available not only when he respects the limits, but also when he doesn't. I will practice staying emotionally connected to my child when he/she displays unpleasant behaviors.

The hidden blessing of parenting is that if I seek to help my child grow in wisdom and connectedness to God and man, I must continue to pursue that same growth and awareness process for myself. If I avoid my growth responsibilities it is almost certain that my child will pay the price. Jane Nelson, in her book Positive Discipline, has so aptly stated, " I have never seen a power-drunk child without a power-drunk adult close by." My little people are so very much like me, we each need love and limits.