“Based upon your personal experiences with your own children, what is the best advice you could give new parents about raising children?” This question was asked of 50 parents who had successfully raised their own children. Their children, all over 21, were considered successful in the sense that they were all productive adults who were apparently adjusting well to society.
Parents with experience are those who are most likely to know what really works in the home environment. The results of the survey revealed that there seems to be a common “parent sense” about effective parenting. Although the parents surveyed were mainly from traditional, two-parent families, parents in other circumstances can apply these guidelines to their own situations.
For example, single parents or parents and families in which both spouses work may not have a lot of time to spend with their children, but the quality of the time spent – playing and talking with their children and doing things together as a family – is equally important. Parents who were surveyed emphasized the importance of a good marital relationship and the need to spend some time away from their children with their spouses. Single parents can foster a healthy personal adjustment by arranging time to be alone or to participate in activities with other adults.
The most frequent responses of the parents were classified under 10 basic principles about which there seems to be general agreement. Although not new, these principles of childrearing can offer a genuinely helpful guide to parents, teachers, daycare workers, and others who care for children.
The most important task is to love and really care about children. This not only gives children a sense of security, belonging, and support, but it also smooths out the rough edges of childhood. Parental love should be special in two respects: first, it should be constant and unconditional – which means it is always present, even when the child is acting in an unlovable manner. Secondly, parents should be open in expressing and showing love so that children are never uncertain about its presence. This means parents should hug and praise their children at every available opportunity.
Discipline means setting and adhering to standards of behavior. After love, the parents stressed the importance of giving clear direction and enforcing limits on a child’s behavior. Discipline is an essential preparation for adjusting to the outside world; it makes a child better behaved and happier. It is best to use a positive approach by saying, “Do this,” more often than “Don’t do that.” Be certain that you punish when you say you will. Be firm by “saying what you mean and meaning what you say.” And punish as soon after the misdeed as possible; don’t put an extra burden on dad by saying, “Just wait into your father comes home.”
Apart from firmness and immediacy, the parents described the following qualities of constructive discipline:
SPEND TIME TOGETHER
“Spend lots of time with your children” was a frequent recommendation. The parents felt that this time should be spent in:
(Adapted from “Raising Children by Old-Fashioned Parent Sense” by Dr. Charles E Schaefer, a child psychologist. The article appeared in Children Today, Nov-Dec 1978, published by the Children’s Bureau, ACYF, DHEW. Reprinting permission unnecessary.)
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