A parental short-list
I always have my antennae up for advice on teaching, counseling and parenting as I think we are merely trained in school to develop a framework in which to hold information. On that basis, I hope to gather data over my lifetime and place it somewhere within that structure. If the structure is a robust and muscular one, you keep adding, modifying and subtracting from it on a continuing basis.
Last Sunday, while watching the morning shows, I tuned to Dr. Charles Stanley. It has taken me a decade to find a couple of religious programs on TV that seem genuine, irrespective of whether I agree with the doctrine and dogma behind them. I have no religious affiliation other than to try and follow the precepts of the Christian message, which I have already suggested is the best I have stumbled upon so far (imho) (even though they are rarely practiced because those principles are hard! They take self discipline and awareness that few of us possess, including me). Bishop Sheen is one, there is a Rabbi whose name escapes me – he is on the Jewish channel on DTV, and there is Dr. Stanley who is an 80 year old Baptist minister of the largest church in Atlanta. Dr. Stanley is gentle, intelligent, and interesting. What I like about these Sunday morning programs is that, among my political stand-bys (Steve Kornacki, Fareed Zakaria, Candy Crowley, George Stephanopolous and David Gregory), Dr. Stanley reminds me about human interaction at an emotional, mental, and spiritual level.
Anyway, last week he spoke about the principles behind creating a strong family. Since my main focus in life is early human development/child development, I listen when I hear people discussing the family as a social unit, an organization, the first organization most of us encounter, from the moment we are conceived. Its health is vital to our health and our ultimate adult personalities and behavior. One reason I study early childhood, is not because I love children (although I love most children and cannot tolerate brats or smart-alecs) but because I consider myself a student of human nature and behavior. All of it has its roots in our first few years.
So, here is what Dr. Stanley says is important for building a strong human being through a well structured and properly functioning family:
- Listen to your children, which shows them that you respect them as individuals
- Discipline children without rejection, never in anger, and never with corporal punishment, especially with your hands
- Don’t play favorites
- Parent/adults, show respect for one another, you are modeling your principles when you interact
- Discuss topics and read together
- Demonstrate strong convictions yourself, so they trust the most important man and woman in their lives, and transfer that trust to picking a future partner themselves
- Be a refuge for one another, listening instead of judging, and communicate by voice not text so they can hear your feelings
- Stay physically and emotionally close to your children, even if yours is a ‘broken’ home, so they never feel abandonment
- If one parent leaves, spend additional time with your children
- Remind them to trust in a higher principle, to look beyond the immediate world to the universe itself
- Give them a verse or principle for the day, every morning, and then sit together and discuss it that night, perhaps at dinner
- Provide a routine and consistency that gives them a sense of security and constancy
Naturally, much of this was couched in religious terms. But, I think these are just as good, without any particular spiritual tradition attached to them.
What Dr. Stanley is advocating, in essence, is what every behavior therapist would say or foster, perhaps in slightly different terms: strength, kindness, guidance, attention. Every caregiver, from mothers and fathers to teachers and nurses, must learn these concepts, somewhere along their path, if they want to contribute to the health of society by launching balanced, calm, productive, joyous children who ultimately become positive adults.
Image: Wikimedia Commons: MedicineNet.com