the world around us

The sound of good parenting

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Even if i don’t have children myself, I loved this article from K. Barish. What are your experiences as parents? How do you prefer to raise them ?
Defense of Parents
By Kenneth Barish, Ph.D. on April 1, 2013 – 6:29am
Perhaps it has always been this way, but recently it seems that parents are under attack. The criticisms come from all sides. We are over-involved or overly permissive. We fail to teach traditions and values. We over-diagnose, over-medicate, and over-accommodate our kids, often to excuse our own poor parenting.

Especially, the critics believe, our children are indulged. Like curling athletes, we try to smooth their path through life, eliminating any friction. We are afraid of their tantrums, afraid to let them fail (and then learn from their mistakes) and afraid to say, “No.”

As a result, we are told, our children are “spoiled rotten” – rude, disrespectful, and unwilling to help with even the most basic chores. Some critics suggest that the problem is deeper – that children now believe in their own (undeserved) specialness and importance, and they are unprepared for the inevitable challenges and disappointments they will face as adults.

There is, undoubtedly, some truth in all of these claims. It is certainly not difficult, in our everyday lives, to find appalling examples of parental indulgence, and evidence of increased mental health problems in adolescents and young adults is real and alarming. (1)

My clinical experience, however, suggests a different diagnosis. Yes, we may be too indulgent. More fundamentally, we are too stressed – more burdened and more alone. Both children and parents now have fewer places to turn when they are in need of practical and emotional support.

In three decades of working with children and families, I have, of course, met some indulgent parents. Far more often, I meet thoughtful parents, struggling to find the right balance, in their own lives and in the lives of their children. Most parents want more for their children than individual achievement. They also want them to be “good kids” – children who act with kindness and generosity toward their families, their friends, and their communities.

Too often, however, families get stuck. Concerned and caring parents become, against their best intentions, angry and critical. And children, in turn, become argumentative and stubborn, or secretive and withdrawn. These vicious cycles of criticism and defiance then undermine children’s initiative, confidence, and sense of responsibility.

There are answers to these problems. The answer is not less parenting or Tiger parenting, but highly involved, positive, supportive parenting, informed by advances in clinical and developmental research.

In parenting debates, it is easy to lose sight of what is most important. We do not stop often enough, I believe, to consider how our children look up to us and how we remain for them, throughout their lives, sources of affirmation and emotional support. On this point, developmental research is clear: From kindergarten until they are young adults, children who are doing well in their lives have the benefit of emotional and practical support from their parents, mentors, and friends.

Here are the essential elements of a balanced, supportive approach to raising successful and caring children. It is not either/or. We can encourage our children’s self-expression and also teach them self-restraint.

• We support our children with our warm and enthusiastic encouragement of their interests and talents. Great teachers intuitively understand this, and they should be our role models as parents.

• We offer support to children when we listen patiently and sympathetically to their concerns and their grievances, and when we are willing to repair the conflicts that occur, inevitably, in our relationships. Children learn invaluable lessons from moments of repair. They learn that, although it is not always easy, moments of anger and misunderstanding are moments and can be repaired.

• We provide emotional support for our children when we accept and value their feelings – and then talk with them about the needs and feelings of others.

• We support children when we play and work with them often. Essential social skills are learned in the course of playful interactions. They are not learned in front of a screen, or from lectures and admonishments. When parents play and work with their children, children come to understand and accept, deeply and for the right reasons, the limitations imposed by adult authority. Even 5 minutes a day of interactive play between parents and children is helpful in strengthening parent-child relationships and promoting cooperative behavior in young children.

In many ways, interactive play is to children’s social development what talking with children is to their vocabulary development and what exercise is to their physical development.

• Then, we help them solve problems. When we engage children in the solution of a problem, they become less stuck in making demands or continuing the argument. They begin to think, if just for that minute, less about how to get their way and, instead, about how to solve a problem – about how their needs and the needs of others can be reconciled, an important life lesson, for sure.

• And we should let them know that we are proud of them, for their effort and for the good things they do for others. A child’s confident expectation that her parents are proud of her is an essential good feeling, and an anchor that sustains her in moments of discouragement, temptation, and self-doubt.

In these ways, we strengthen our children’s inner resources and we become an inner presence – a voice of encouragement and moral guidance. Our children will then be more successful in all aspects of their lives. They will have better peer relationships. At home, we will see less argument, less defiance, and less withdrawal. They will also work harder and achieve more in school. And we will have prepared them, as best we can, for coping with the challenges and responsibilities they will face as adults.

(1) See Hara Estroff Marano, A Nation of Wimps: The High Cost of Invasive Parenting (Crown Archetype, 2008).

Copyright Ken Barish, Ph.D.

Kenneth Barish, Ph.D. is the author of Pride and Joy: A Guide to Understanding Your Child’s Emotions

Lost and found

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Right now I’ve placed my professional self in the office chair of my companion, waiting for a new private patient. My stomach is bravely working with biff stroganoff that I bought in a cafeteria right before I came here. I sat down with my iPad and started to read some blogs, which inspired me to start typing myself. I read a lovely little excerpt from a woman’s life, with this question baked in the general text:
If you have never lost yourself, how can you ever find yourself?
It immediately got me, since it so elegantly turns around the meaning of something most people would classify as wrong. I like this small protest against the established, this tendency to surprise and give our brain something new to mull over.

To meet a new human lost in their own nightmare is always something special. It’s knowing we will have to take a journey, sometimes into unpleasant territory. It’s knowing I’ll be there, mostly being a cheerleader and as the one who really tries to see behind masks of fright, sadness or guilt. It’s a discovery, and also feeling someone’s pain with them. It’s feeling my eyes water because once again, someone did what they said they couldn’t: Go into a store when you’re sure you will faint and maybe die, telling you’re best friend what’s really going on

My daily chinese lesson

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I’m trying to learn one Chinese word/sentence every day, and had to share today’s challenge:

The greatest human relations principle is to treat other people like you want to be treated待人如待己(dài rén rú dài jǐ)

Friendship requires many qualities— generosity, genuine care to the others, and the ability to listen when the other person needs to talk, to name a few. When you show respect for your friends and gratitude for their friendship, you’ll be treated as a friend. When someone isn’t treating you fair, instead of holding grudge, have compassion for he who treats you unjust as this person maybe going through tough times in his life. A kind word or a gentle, understanding smile may help the person feel better and change his attitude.

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The sound of humanity

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I’m here, at my hotel room in one of the richest countries in the world, were we try to care about as many people as possible, even the ones who do wrong. Many were stunned by the dignified reactions after 22th of July, where one man killed hundreds of innocent teens for twisted ideological reasons. Most people in our country, got together in every city to pay their respect for the relatives who lost children, and for the political system we live in. We wanted to show that we didn’t react the same way as he did, blaming others that eventually just feeds hate and war.

In norway it’s the norm that you give money to charity, and right now there’s a record in memberships in volunteer organizations. We want to help, and often we do.

But still, there is so much poverty, suffering and unfairness in this word, and sometimes I feel the weight of it on my shoulder. I feel a bit bad for staying in a hotel with a warm bed and safe room, when many in Russia right now are freezing to death. I can go out and buy all the food I need, when so many people right now desperately try to find something to eat, so that their children can live yet another day.

Right now I’m reading nothing to envy by Barbara Demick, that describes the unbelievable, a harsh reality that can be hard to digest. Sweeping misery under the rug, helps us feeling well and comfortable. Many react on unfairness with negative feelings. It feels terrible that there’s so much that should be done, while we go about our life thinking mostly about ourselves or others close to us. It’s scary to think about how much we don’t do, it opens a whole drawer full of other revelations: We’re ignoring suffering around us, feeling there is nothing we can do, feeling helpless and that hope is nowhere near. Some protect themselves by blaming others: political systems, lazy people or bad leaders. Some try to block it out, like looking down when we pass hungry people on the street, and some try to actually do something, so that the feeling (I’m a good person) actually fits with our behavior (doing good). What alternative do you choose? Maybe you don’t have a choice: ‘charity begins with a full stomach’ (from nothing to envy, p. 167)

Helping doesn’t mean that we can’t do things for ourselves also. Actually it’s the other way around, people taking care of their needs, have more energy available for the next of kin, they love to make somebody smile: by donating clothes twice a year, by touching somebody’s shoulder when they look unhappy, or helping a old lady who lose her bag. It’s finding the person who lost their cat, it’s stopping when somebody need a lift, it’s looking people in the eye and offering assistance when you feel somebody need it. With people caring, with media caring it forces political systems to also take caring seriously, those political parties give a good impression, and we want that more today than earlier when we had enough with our own problems.

There is so much we can do, every day, to inspire others, and I promise: Nothing will make you feel better. Be how you think you are, as often as possible.

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