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Recognize and Reject Popular Myths of Social Trends Parenting
New York Times best selling author and family therapist Michael Gurian, coined the term ‘social trends parenting' to refer to the current trend of raising children by following parenting fads and expert advice. Instead of doing that and to avoid raising a generation of cookie cutter kids, he counsels we should let the individual natures of our children show us what they need.
Recognize the Myths: Have You Fallen Prey to External Pressures?
Many of us are worried that if we don't do everything right, don't provide our children with every possible opportunity, that they will fail in this very competitive world. While it's important to provide children what we can, this external focus takes attention off the child as an individual. Consider the following:
- Would an outsider (perhaps from another generation) view your child's life as overscheduled?
- How much time do you spend taking children from one class, rehearsal, workout, sports practice, and social event to another?
- How much time does your child spend engaged with a screen (computer, video games, television, cell phones, text messaging)?
- Does your child seem to be developing a materialistic sense of entitlement?
- Do you fear you're failing as a parent?
The purpose of these questions is not to make you feel bad, but to point out who you are trying to please. Who's approval do you seek? If your child participates in too many activities, chances are you are the one who signed him up. If your child spends too much time with electronics or passive entertainment, change that. It's never to late to renegotiate boundaries.
In our media driven society, the wisdom of child-raising has moved away from parental instincts to social fads and experts. The nature of the individual child can get lost. We have all been conned into the need to do as many activities as possible in order to become ‘well rounded'. According to Gurian, new brain research shows that this pressure causes parents and children chronic stress, including anxiety and similar disorders. We also see increased violence and aggression because, among other things, parents and children face a constant sense of failure to live up to external expectations.Reject the Myths: How to Follow Your Instincts and Be a Better Parent
Imagine raising your kids with the attitude that you could do no wrong. Would you be a little more relaxed? If we consistently focus on the individual child, and ignore the external myths, our children are free to develop to their fullest potential. What would happen if we took away all external stimulation (including electronics) for a week? Once children got bored, then what? What activities would they naturally gravitate toward? (This is a good experiment for adults too!)
Other ways to nurture your child's inner nature include:
- With your child, identify three key activities: one academic (could be schoolwork or extra-curricular), one social (Scouts, church, community activities, student government), and one physical activity (athletics, exercise, or spending time in Nature). Focus on these and if the child initiates interest in something else, go for it if it fits in the schedule.
- Use family meal times to debate and discuss topics such as current events. Ask your child's opinion and ask him or her to back up the opinions. But don't get too serious. Let each member of the family take turns leading the dinner table talk. Maybe one night you all make up knock-knock jokes.
- Don't worry if self-esteem falls. Especially during puberty, this is normal. It's not the end of the world for a child to feel down for a time. When the child learns new skills (social, emotional), his or her self-esteem will rise again. Popular belief now seems to be that our children's self-esteem must be protected at all costs, but the cost can be too great if we are so afraid of hurting the child's feelings that we protect him or her from reality.