What’s the one job most of us ever have that we’ll constantly fail at, never feel on top of and which will bleed us dry financially and leave us sleepless for decades? Yes, it’s parenting!
Apparently, the concept of “parenting” is quite a recent invention, emerging in the 1970s during a time when baby boomers were “parented,” according to the advice of Dr. Spock (no, not the one with pointy ears). Spock’s book, “Baby and Child Care,” was written in 1946 and is reputedly the second-best selling book in history, after the Bible.
So even if there wasn’t a word to describe it, parents throughout history have sought advice about how to get their kids to eat, sleep, play, behave and learn their way into productive adulthood so that the whole cycle can begin all over again.
All of us experienced some form of parenting and are influenced by whether we thought our own upbringing was successful or not. We don’t see many parents who ascribe to the ancient Roman practice of passing kids onto local wolves to be parented (not the worst idea, since wolves’ families are highly organized and disciplined), and none at all (fortunately) who select the traditional “spare the rod, and spoil the child” of Victorian times. These days, the theoretical sky’s the limit — you can take your pick and be a Tiger Mom, a Helicopter Mom or even a Free-Range parent. You can parent positively, consciously, simply, playfully and peacefully, if the hundreds of available parenting books are to be believed.
Ultimately, however, all parents struggle with the same issues: Should we be authoritarian or permissive? Do we want our kids to be obedient and compliant or independent thinkers? How can we get them off their devices? And — here’s the big one — is it ever too late to change tactics? Well, we should probably aim for all of the above. And no, it’s not too late to change gears and alter something that’s not working.
Most of the parenting we all do is done by the seats of our pants. Even if you read all the books, chances are that in the moment at which you have to actually parent, you will second-guess yourself, perhaps be overwhelmed, stressed and just need to do something, even if that doesn’t conform to some textbook standard.
The parenting education we like best is approachable, sensible and non gimmicky. You don’t need a Ph.D. in child psychology to be a good parent. We like methods with fundamental principles that are human and forgiving. They emphasize that what kids need most of all in life is love, consistency and communication. Very straightforward! Kids First offers regular parenting classes, using the Positive Solutions For Families model. And Aspen Family Connections offers regular sessions of a tried-and-tested program called Parenting with Love and Logic. They are both research driven and focus on the whole child, as well as the power of healthy and balanced familial relationships.
Love and Logic embraces the notion of shared control in which parents gain control by giving away the control they don’t need. It invites shared thinking and decision making in which parents provide opportunities for their children to participate in that to an appropriate degree. It provides for equal shares of consequences and empathy — an absence of parental anger will cause a child to reflect and learn from his or her mistakes. And finally, it allows us to maintain a child’s self-concept. Improved self-concept leads to improved behavior and achievement. In short, a balance of independence and obedience, underpinned by structure, routine and shared expectations.
And again, there are no gimmicks. All Love and Logic requires is that you build your family life on principles of love, warmth, fairness and self respect, treating your children as you yourselves would wish to be treated.
We invite all parents, new and those with older children, to join a parenting class. Because there you will find not only ideas and reassurance, but also the magic bullet — namely, other parents. You will probably formulate most of your own household’s parenting style based on what you see others do! And meeting other parents will provide you with reassurance, inspiration and company.
Aspen Family Connections offers events and information for parents. Our current (virtual) session of Parenting with Love and Logic runs each Tuesday, 7 to 8 p.m. from Feb. 26 to March 23. It’s filling up, but we hold it regularly. See www.aspenfamilyconnections.org or call 970-205 7025 for details.
Growing Community, by Shirley Ritter, the director of Kids First, and Katherine Sand, the director of Aspen Family Connections, runs every other Wednesday in the Aspen Daily News. It features topics of interest related to early childhood, parenting and education. To reach the authors, email Shirley at firstname.lastname@example.org or Katherine at email@example.com.