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No parenting school: learn as you parent!

17th August 2011
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Children bring us much joy and much responsibility. Taking the time to plan ahead can take some of the stress and worry out of raising them.

Back when our parents were born, parenting skills were learned from the extended family. If parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles didn't live in the same house, they usually lived within a few miles.

They were always available to impart their considerable wisdom to the younger generation on the subjects of pregnancy, childbirth, and raising children. Now, we have become such a transient society; it is rare that the extended family is even in the same state!

It has been said that parenting is the most difficult job, and the most important responsibility, you will ever have in your life.

Unfortunately, you receive little or no formal training in parenting, yet you are constantly criticized for every mistake you make.  Usually, we either do what our parents did, or we do the exact opposite, depending on our opinion of the parenting we received.

No one provides us with clear guidelines about the right way to parent. There are no classes in school, and childbirth preparation focuses almost entirely on the birth process.

After having a child, hospitals provide some basic instruction on the care and feeding of a newborn, but no one teaches you how to nurture, support, guide and educate your child to become a responsible adult.

Most of us muddle along on our own. Psychologists have studied what works, and what doesn't work. Parenting skills training passes this knowledge onto parents.

Probably the most important and controversial parenting skill is discipline. We parents are conflicted over what type of discipline to apply at what time. Appropriate discipline for a two year-old might not be appropriate or effective for a 10 year-old or a teenager.

The most important piece of the discipline puzzle is determining who is in charge: the parents or the child. This may sound simple, but in this day and age, the answer isn't always clear.

The fear of hurting a child's feelings or crushing his spirit coerces many parents into allowing their children to rule the roost. Children need firm boundaries that come from clear and consistent parental discipline.

Whether the method is redirection, time-outs, loss of privileges, grounding, extra chores, or spanking, it is crucial that we embrace our role to train our children to become moral, respectable adults.

Developmental psychologists have done research on different parenting styles, the effects of discipline, and how children respond to various people and life events, such as divorce, stepparents, abuse, sibling conflict, poor academic success, bullying, or parental substance abuse. This knowledge has allowed psychologists to develop effective treatment interventions for children and families in crisis.

But, it also provides a basis for teaching parents how to manage their children's behavior effectively, and how to intervene with specific child and adolescent problems. Psychologists can help parents understand what children need from adults to foster their emotional and intellectual development.

Psychologists provide parenting skills training either within the framework of family therapy, or as part of individual psychotherapy, to help parents manage specific behavioral problems or situations. 

Parenting skills training can also focus on general parent-child interactions. Often, the goal is to help parents avoid ineffective parenting responses, by learning effective ways of managing their children's behavior. P

arents can also be taught strategies for managing children with special needs, such as children adjusting to divorce, and children diagnosed with specific psychological or behavioral problems.

Parenting skills training is not just for parents who have been accused of being "bad parents" and it is not just for parents of children with serious psychological problems.  Parenting skills training is worthwhile for every parent, because it can help you do the best job possible in raising your children, because it can improve your confidence in your parenting ability, and because this is the most important job you will ever have.

The ability to recognize what we teach our children is one parenting skill from which we can all benefit. From the moment our children are born, they are learning from us. They learn that if they cry, we respond. If they pull our hair, we say, "ouch." If they throw their cup on the floor, we pick it up. As time goes on, we also teach them to walk, talk, get dressed, and say their A-B-C's.

As parents, we also have the responsibility to teach our children morals and values. We cannot depend solely on the schools to fulfill this important duty. At some point during early childhood, parents must make a decision on how to handle a child's formal education. Will the child be home-schooled or will they attend public or private school?

A variety of factors come into play when we consider the education of our children and these are, family financial situations, quality of local public and private schools, level of parental education, personalities of parents and children, home-schooling support and resources and many other issues.

A child's educational success is not always dependent upon where he attends school, but how involved his parents are in his education.

Effectively dealing with financial issues is a parenting skill that will follow us through our children's adulthood. It begins with the heart-stopping thought: "We are having a baby! How on earth will we pay for this?" Many couples choose to delay starting their family until they have saved a comfortable amount of money.

Children bring us much joy and much responsibility. Taking the time to plan ahead can take some of the stress and worry out of raising them.

msimbiso@gmail.com

SOURCE: THE GUARDIAN
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