21 Aug Parenting 101
From the Desk of Carol Soelberg:
The contemporary dialogue on parenting never ceases to amaze me. Hilary Clinton’s famed phrase, “It takes a Village to raise a child” has opened a Pandora’s box of confusion regarding the responsibility and privilege of parenting. Common sense seems to have gone out the window and “anything goes” in the parenting arena: children can choose their gender, obtain abortions without parental consent, receive sexually-related information and services at young ages, and many insist that children don’t need a mother and father at all – stating that “any four hands will do.”
At United Families International we believe otherwise! Biological parents, or committed adoptive married mothers and fathers provide—hands down—the greatest opportunity for children to thrive. Our parenting expert Marlene Hinton shares the documented principles that support this research. We feel it is critical, as we address the confusing array of claims to the contrary, that parents everywhere are clear in their understanding of the importance of their influence and responsibility in producing the next generation of responsible citizens.
My husband and I just sent the last of our thirteen children out into the world to make his way serving as a responsible young adult. Forty-some years of parenting have been challenging and we have certainly made our share of mistakes, but our intent, commitment, and dedication to the process has produced an amazing posterity of responsible citizens. The time honored principles discussed below make obvious to me that in all truth– “It takes good parents to raise a village!”
President, United Families International
By: Marlene Hinton
As a youngster in a bustling family of twelve (plus others who lived with us at various intervals), it never occurred to me that every child in the world didn’t wake to a mother singing as she fixed an outrageously nutritious breakfast and a father who constantly needed our “help” to get things done. Only as a mother have I truly come to appreciate how my worldview was shaped by a happy family, framed by faith and adorned with love.
Recently, a mother was asked if she had many children in the quest for a particular gender. The mother responded, “I had babies for the child, not the gender.” Her comment reflected Dr. Laurence Thomas’ assertion that parents – at least, most parents – bring a child into the world “in order to be loved” (Thomas, 2006, p. 20). This phenomenon is particular to people, only the human species. Thomas, philosophy professor at Syracuse University, explains that “the lives of one’s children are thought to provide an incomparable richness to life that cannot be had otherwise” (p. 2).
Thus, nature has provided a mutually beneficial arrangement. The attachment that forms between parent and child evokes in the parent instincts to nurture, affection towards the child, and an increase of tolerance for otherwise less welcome tasks (Neufeld, 2005, p. 62). “From the infant’s point of view,” claims Dr. Robin Balbernie, child psychotherapist, “the most vital part of the surrounding world is the emotional connection with his caregiver” (Balbernie, 2001, p. 237). Optimally, the mother fills that role and brings constancy, security, and love unequaled in other relationships.
This family “ecosystem,” Dr. Urie Bronfenbrenner of Cornell University explains, is key to experiencing “more stable environments throughout the life course” and gain competence in academic achievement, social skills, and quality of life (Bronfenbrenner, 1994, p. 38).
On the other hand, Bronfenbrenner cautions, there is a “consistent negative relation between [behavioral assessment] scores on parental rejection and neglect…on ratings of both responsibility and leadership” (Bronfenbrenner 1961, p. 238). Irresponsible parents are more likely to rear irresponsible children, because, says Dr. Frank Smith of Harvard, “You learn from the company you keep…You become like them” (Smith, 1998, p. 3). Families are the company children keep.
“We rarely think about the continual learning that we and others do all the time,” claims Smith. “And [the child’s learning] is learning that is permanent. We rarely forget the interests, attitudes, beliefs, and skills that we acquire simply by interacting with the significant people in our lives” (ibid., p. 9) Only when the child feels significant to the parent, skills are transmitted and interests shared, does she believe that she is loved and belongs.
Conversely, the opposite learning occurs in homes without such stability and affection. The human instinct to belong is transferred to another source, usually peers or persons willing to use the child in exchange for the invitation to be included. As children cannot process competing attachments, they move away from the natural orbit of the family toward a place where they feel some degree of access or even limited control (Neufeld, 2005).
Parents can break cycles of misery and trauma in their own lives and spare their posterity a legacy of broken hearts and homes by sacrificing their own selfishness and failing behaviors to attend to their children in mature ways based on love and involvement. Attitudes are reciprocal, whether peaceful and loving, or contentious and self-centered.
A good place to start is spending lots of time with your children. “Quality” time does not compensate for lack of quantity. Family interaction in a variety of pleasant and worthwhile ways builds relationships. It is not replaced with scheduled activities such as sports, camps, lessons, or other outside endeavors that separate parents and children. Family togetherness anchors children in safety and self-assurance.
Improvement may be as close as examining which of our own behaviors and experiences we wish to see perpetuated in the families of those we love. Unhelpful lifestyles must be left behind, corrosive associations abandoned, our own flaws ferreted out and discarded. Insert family efforts of service, work, integrity, and principles in place of vacant entertainment and absenteeism. Here are a few basics ideas:
- Read together as a family
- Enjoy music as a family – singing, dancing, creating
- Find a service project to do as a family, such as picking up trash
- Decide on three or four basic family rules that all will accept to improve family life
- Attend church each week as a family
- Select a daily, weekly, or monthly goal to work towards
- Eat together as many meals a day as possible
- Set aside one evening a week to spend at home as a family. This is a great time to share family stories, family culture, family history, family service, family treats, and carve out a plan for family improvement
Help for parents and families is available through churches, some media, friends who model healthy homes, positive activities and worthwhile endeavors, and professionals. Central to building a happy family is pursuing learning – skills, knowledge, and experiences that build confidence and closeness, devoting time and efforts to our family’s success, and developing habits of work and self-reliance. Professor of Family Life at Brigham Young University, Dr. Jeff Hill, has a simple mantra: “Be the kind of person you want your child to become. Be around enough for it to rub off”.
Marlene Hinton is a wife, mother, grandmother, and defines herself principally through faith, family, and freedom. A teacher for many decades, education, particularly in those three areas, is a focus. She holds degrees in history, Spanish, bilingual education, and a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.
Balbernie, R. (2001). Circuits and circumstances: the neurobiological consequences of early relationship experiences and how they shape later behaviour. Journal of Child Psychotherapy. 23:3; 237-255
Bronfenbrenner, U. (1961). Some familial antecedents of responsibility and leadership in adolescents. In L.
Petrullo & B.M. Bass. Leadership and interpersonal behavior, pp. 239-271. New York, NY: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, Inc.
Bronfenbrenner, U. (1994). Ecological models of human development. In International encyclopedia of education, Vol. 3, 2nd Ed. Oxford: Elsevier. Pp. 37-43.
Neufeld, G., & Mate, G. (2005). Hold on to your kids: Why parents need to matter more than peers. New York: Random House.
Smith, F. (1998). The book of learning and forgetting. New York: Teachers College Press.
Thomas, L. (2006). The family and the political self.
sexual practices…population growth…moral codes…and traditional male and female roles.”