Parent Coach

- wadE

It wasn't so long ago that the notion of a Parent Coach would have sent me into a rant about how ridiculous that idea sounds, but believe it or not, I think it's a damn good idea.

This article in the Strib crystalizes my thoughts on the state of parenting.

Why would I think it's a good idea? Nanny Deb from "Nanny 911" sums it up best, "Everyone seems to have the same universal problems," she said. "It really stems much more from the fact that, years ago, your mother or your sister lived in the same neighborhood and you had a support system and now that's what people are missing the most, that support system..."

That's exactly right. Back in the day, you had your grandma around the corner. Moms were more likely to be stay-at-home moms. There was a support network, and a way for people to share parenting responsibilities and learn techniques from others.

Now I'm certainly not saying that moms (or dads) need to quit their job and stay home with the kids, or move grandma in. It's great if you can stay at home, but many families can't afford to, and there are plenty of single-parents who obviously couldn't do it either. And it isn't always possible to have friends or family close enough to share in the parenting. But because of that, there are a lot people who have no idea what they are doing, and they don't get that vital input on parenting from others.

Another key part which isn't mentioned is that family size is getting smaller and smaller. Only-children, siblings that are close in age, and the younger siblings from larger families don't go through that period of having to watch their younger brothers or sisters. They don't get that practice from an early age on being responsbile for a child, and having to set strict boundaries.

Think about it. If your Mom and Dad go out for dinner and you're left home to watch your younger brothers and sisters, you're going to be all over them to let them know that they better not break anything or color their entire body in permanent marker; because if they do, it's your but on the line, and if you get in trouble with Mom and Dad, then they'll get it from you! It may sound silly, but lessons like that stick with people, helps shape what kind of parent they could be.

So what's the secret. What is it that parents are missing these days that necessitates shows like Nanny 911 or Supernanny? Not-surprisingly it's simple stuff that all of already know, but knowing it, and having the practice of doing it from a young age, or being influenced by the parenting of others is very different.

So you can pay a Parenting Coach $80 for a 45 minute phone consultation, or take some simple tips from the article:

Clear rules are vital; minor infractions are met with a calm, "Oops, broke a rule. Time-out," and a short -- 30 seconds -- time-out. Positive behavior, from listening to rule-following to quiet play, is greeted with enthusiastic and consistent praise, pumped up with the words: "When you ... I feel ... because. ... " For example, "When you share your toys with your brother, I feel wonderful because it shows me how grown up you're becoming."

Of course after all this common sense stuff, I read something like this:

The parents of the 14-year-old boy asked that their names not be used. They remain in the thick of things with their son, who was diagnosed about two years ago as having Oppositional Defiance Disorder. What that means, day-to-day, is that their son is constantly challenging them and his siblings. He's verbally and physically aggressive. He's refused medication and family therapy.

"Oppositional Defiance Disorder"? You've got to be kidding? Check this out.

If your adolescent child has developed a pattern of behavior marked by hostility, defiance, aggression, and resentment, he or she may have oppositional defiant disorder, ODD. Oppositional defiant disorder, ODD, can disrupt home and family life, other relationships, and school performance.

How is that different from just about any teenager? :-D

I'm a firm believer that these "disorders" are created, not innate to a child or due to a chemical inbalance. I'm no psychology expert, in fact I got a C in my only Psych class; but I think it was Freud who theorized that kids go through a period early in life when they start to learn that the world doesn't revolve around them. It's a tough thing for someone at any age to face. "You mean that everyone isn't here to serve me? You mean that I can't always have what I want, when I want it, and how I want it?" The realization that there's more to the world than just themselves.

Normally kids should go through this early in life... maybe ages 3-5. But doesn't it seem these days that it's more like 8-10, or not at all? Now imagine you are a teenager who has always gotten what you've wanted, how you've wanted it, and when you've wanted it. You're as big and strong (or stronger) than you're own parents, you think you are as smart, if not smarter, than your parents; and now they are trying to make you do things you don't want. You've never gotten to that maturity level to think of anyone besides yourself, and you've never had to.

Call it whatever want, but it's not the child who really has the disorder, it's the parents.

So, what's the moral of the story? Don't think you know all the answers. You may know in your head what to do, but that doesn't mean you'll be able to do it. Buy a book, ask for advice, and don't wait until you're kid is 15 before thinking that maybe they shouldn't be coming home after midnight. You are the parent. You don't have to raise your kids like your parents did, but you do have to raise them.

- 03/21/2005

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