On a popular television show, panelists invited members of the studio audience to talk on subjects of personal interests. On this particular episode, the young mother stated “I’m tired of family, friends, and even strangers, giving me advice on how to raise my children.”
The panel began to make comments, offer suggestions and ask questions about her parenting style. One panelist asked, “Do your children do what you ask?” The response was, “I’m the mom.” Actually, I was not sure if that was much of an answer and I was left with a question of my own, “Why would people, especially strangers, offer advice about parenting, if the children were well behaved?” One would conclude, obviously there were negative behaviors noticed.
This made me wonder about other situations when parents perceive they are doing a good job and refuse help. It has been my observation, that maybe some parents have a totally different view about what “effective parenting” really entails. As I sat in on a parent teacher conference, the teacher explained that the child was experiencing difficulty staying on task and following instructions, to the point where the behavior was distracting the teacher and other students. The child’s behavior was also inhibiting her ability and others around her to learn. The parent replied, “She does the same kinds of things at home.” My comment was, “Maybe later, we can discuss some methods of behavior modification that might help at home and at school.” The mother’s comment was, “I don’t want to change her.”
On another occasion, a student was on the verge of being suspended from kindergarten, because of acting out in the classroom, yelling at the teacher, turning over desks and being unkind to peers. After the teacher and administrators spoke with the parent, a conference was scheduled. I was invited to attend to offer support and provide resources, needless to say, the meeting never occurred.
A different situation involved teachers in a particular classroom, who were experiencing difficulty managing behavior of several students. On that particular day, I was asked to assist with one student, with recurrent concerns. Various methods were tried, even to the point of placing the child in a more familiar environment, to no avail. When the parent walked in the classroom, to pick up the child, the first comment made to the teaching staff was, “I already know what happened. It’s all your fault for allowing the behavior.” Then the parent later admitted that similar behavior occurs at home.
Behavior that might be cute at age two can be very embarrassing at age twelve. Once a child has been allowed to exhibit inappropriate behavior with no effort to correct it, the child is essentially given permission to continue in that manner. When a child can dictate and manipulate circumstances to have his/her way, this behavior soon becomes the norm, rather than the exception.
For whatever reason, some parents simply do not want to hear anything negative about their children. One possible explanation might be that parents sometimes view their children as an extension of themselves. Children’s behavior also could be seen as a direct reflection on the parents’ values, morals and standards of life. Certain behavior may serve as a mirror for parents and be perceived as a personal indictment on their parenting style. “Outsiders”offering dissimilar ideas than parents, could appear as negative feedback. However, if viewed differently, the same information may perhaps, be considered pertinent insight. The reality is, “No child is perfect.”
The fact that children have difficulty following instructions and making good choices, might also be based on the parents’ perception of what acceptable behavior encompasses. What may be deemed appropriate conduct to some parents at home, may be viewed as totally unacceptable and even unsafe for those who participate in the child’s care on a daily basis. So, what do concerned family members, friends, neighbors, teachers, mental health professionals, and even strangers do, besides express concern at the risk of being told, “I don’t need any advice”?
Accepting sound advice can be the beginning of an extraordinary transformation. When parents exhibit the courage to reach out for help, it will demonstrate the desire to embark on a journey, where there is love and concern by others, who are prepared to partner with them to bring about exemplary results. It will serve as a catalyst that ignites genuine interest in the welfare of parents and children, which could inspire the social, physical, emotional and spiritual development of the entire family. Most of all, it will mean the parents have an open heart and mind to embrace and execute positive changes, that can last a lifetime.
There are definitely many well behaved children. Rather than being offered parenting advice, these parents are given compliments on what a great job they are doing, and are encouraged to keep up the good work. As evidence of their diligence, these parents reap the pleasure of enjoying reports of consistent, appropriate, behavior concerning their children at home, school, church and in the community.