Paul Valasek: Be parents, not just friends, to your children
Recently I read two articles that I found very interesting. The first was written by psychotherapist Victoria Prooday, founder and director of a Toronto clinic specializing in the treatment of children with multidisciplinary challenges.
The other article was written by family psychologist John Rosemond.
Since I have a degree in psychology with an emphasis in child development — and a “head-scratching” view of present-day child-rearing philosophies — I've decided to share these authors' thoughts as well as some of my own.
Ms. Prooday says she believes that the brain is moldable and can be made stronger or weaker depending on environmental learning techniques. She believes that:
1. Today's kids seem to get everything they want when they want it.
2. Digital gadgets limit social-skills development.
3. Endless fun has replaced learning to deal with normal, mundane activities that are a part of life, education and employment.
4. Technological stimulation interferes with the development of skills needed for information processing.
Mr. Rosemond writes that it is a great disservice to overemphasize the importance of ensuring high self-esteem in present-day youth. He cites behavioral problems with his third-grade son that occurred in the 1970s while using this inflated self-esteem model.
Rosemond and his wife decided to use “throwback” child-rearing methods used by their parents, their son's grandparents, which corrected and improved their son's behavior.
Both authors emphasize setting limits, assigning chores, increasing family interaction time, teaching personal responsibility and encouraging the use of “please” and “thank you.” They feel that giving children what they need is more important than giving them what they want.
They realize that parenting is hard. Doing what is easier may seem to be the answer. Doing what is better for the child creates many positive, long-term benefits.
The “if it feels good, do it” philosophy is often damaging.
Born in 1951, I was raised in a strict manner where the adults ruled and God was part of the picture. What I've noticed is a big shift toward raising children in a very lenient manner in which the kids seem to rule and God has faded from the picture.
I do not believe the “good old days” were all good, nor do I believe “new is better.” I do believe that The Rolling Stones' lyrics —“You can't always get what you want. But if you try sometimes, you just might find ... you get what you need” — have a lot of merit.
I believe that all humans have a strong tendency to be self-centered, and our youth need to be taught that they can't be constantly put first and that they are not great at everything they do. They need to be told the truth about reality, which includes an honest, accurate assessment of their strengths and weaknesses.
Of course there are many good kids and good parents. I can't, however, advocate most of the parenting techniques and youth behavior I see happening. I am advocating raising children in a healthy manner, where higher-standard rules and God come back into the picture.
My goal was to communicate my thoughts in a loving, caring and effective manner. I hope I've achieved it.
Paul Valasek, a member of The Valley News Dispatch Editorial Board, is founder of the 501(c)(3) community nonprofit BIG (Brackenridge Improvement Group) and a member of the Highlands Community Action Partnership.