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The Parenting Game

The Parenting Game

Good parenting means paying attention to the uniqueness of each child.

by

Parenting is a lot of fun, one of life's truly gratifying activities. When your kid reaches about 18 months of age, the parenting challenge really kicks in.

Once your child is mobile and can say a few words, you've essentially lost control of the situation.Before that, you could cradle her in your arms, and there wasn't anything she could do about it.However, once she can run, the chase is on.

WHERE ARE WE RUNNING TO?

The question is, where do you want to go in parenting?Do you want to catch the little rascal and bring her back to bed?Do you want to get her sitting at the dinner table, brushing her little teethies, putting her pajamas on?

What about raising a fine human being, developing a loving relationship, passing on spiritual values - when does that all happen?

A lot of parents are just trying to get through the day in this way, making sure that their youngster gets out of bed, gets dressed, eats some breakfast and leaves the house for school, comes back and does his homework, eats his dinner, cleans his room, has his bath, and goes to bed.

But what about the other stuff - raising a fine human being, developing a close, loving relationship, passing on spiritual values - when does that all happen?Between breakfast and carpool?

IT'S NOT WHAT, IT'S HOW

In parenting, it's not so much about what you do, as how you do it.

Every parent in the world is trying to get his child toilet-trained and every parent is trying to get his kid to eat, wash, and perform independent tasks.

But some parents will be demolishing their youngsters as they go about this process of education and others will be building strong, healthy human beings.Some will be forging life-long bonds and some will be destroying relationships.What makes the difference?

IT TAKES MORE THAN LOVE

Most parents truly love their children.However, even though you love your children, you can probably think of a time when you've hurt them.Loving children does not guarantee that we'll always do the best thing for them.However, the combination of love, skills and great genes, is a winner.

GREAT GENES?

Yes.If your child has great genes and you use good parenting strategies, life should go pretty smoothly for both of you.What are great genes?

These are the genetic programs that create personality characteristics, traits and temperaments in your youngsters.

Your job is to optimize the child's development, bringing him to his potential.

Your child actually comes pre-programmed with personality.He is not a tabula rasa (a clean slate) upon which you write his character.Rather, much of character is a given and it is your job to optimize the child's development, bringing him to his potential.

Each child must be handled differently, according to his nature, or as our Sages teach us, "Educate a child according to his way." (Proverbs 22:6). That is, train him using techniques suitable for his unique make-up.

WHAT IF HIS GENES AREN'T SO GREAT?

The kid with great genes is born sunny-side up.She's easy going, flexible, happy around people, curious, brave, relaxed and even enjoys regular body rhythms.She's pretty hard to mess up so even "mid-range" parenting techniques will pass.

However, lots of kids are born cranky and moody, irritable, hyper, rigid, negativistic, fearful, intense and even suffer irregular body rhythms which interfere with their eating and sleeping routines.

Lots of kids are born cranky and moody, irritable, hyper, rigid, negativistic, fearful and intense.

Sometimes they have neurologically based difficulties in personality arising out of complex disorders such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or Tourrette's syndrome, or they may have biochemical disorders such as unipolar or bipolar depressions or anxiety based disorders.

Whether or not there is a formal name or diagnosis, the child may have inherited Uncle Joe's agitation, Grandpa Mo's impatience, Mom's bad temper and Dad's impulsiveness.And now you get to raise him.You're going to need lots of patience, lots of support and a sack full of excellent parenting strategies.

WHAT ABOUT THE AVERAGE KID?

If you have several kids, chances are you'll have one that's "easy," one that's "difficult" and one or more in-between.

There are many factor's that determine the ultimate outcome for the average kid: his genetic make-up, his free will, his environment including his birth order, his school placement, his neighborhood and community, his friends and relatives and -- last, but not least -- you and your spouse.

Although your role in all this may be 50 percent or less (this hasn't yet been scientifically determined, but research does increasingly show the major role of in-born factors), you'll want to do the very best you can with your parental power to influence.

If he turns out to be someone you're really proud of - you can claim your 50 percent! If, heaven forbid, his developmental difficulties last into middle age, you can always chock that up to the other 50 percent!

BRINGING OUT THE BEST IN BABY

In order to do the best job with each child, parents need plenty of options in parenting.Flexibility is required!No one parenting strategy can work with every kid in the family -- so you have to have more than one strategy available!

No one parenting strategy can work with every kid in the family.

The home you grew up in gave you at least one set of parenting options.Your spouse brings a second set.Even these two approaches won't always be enough.The more you read, the more ideas (options) you can acquire.

The more parenting groups you attend and the more you talk to other parents, the more ideas you'll glean.Even then, no parent can ever do exactly the right thing on every occasion -- nor is it necessary.What is necessary, is to consistently convey positive intent and a protective structure.We'll examine in detail how this can be done.

To raise children is a difficult, weighty task.We must do our best, but we're not in control of the outcome.Ultimately, no matter what else we do, we must pray for God's help!

Sarah Chana Radcliffe, a member of the College of Psychologists of Ontario, is a family therapist and author of numerous books, including The Delicate Balance and Teen Esteem

Published: January 16, 2000


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Visitor Comments: 1

(1) Randi, July 4, 2006 12:00 AM

Bipolar Parent

You mention a lot about these kids having ADD and how to parent them, however there were no such articles mentioning what to do about a mother raising a 17 month old battling with depression and Bipolar Disorder. Are there help groups for women in this type of circumstance. Please help!

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