HERE TO HELP YOU PARENT YOUR CHILDREN
Copyright Dr. Carol Renaud Gaffney
The summer moved on with an alarming pace and
the lazy hazy days of summer are gradually being
replaced with shorter days, cooler nights and
the hint of autumn in the air. As we zipped past
Labor Day and the official end of summer activities,
the early days of school have begun in earnest.
The beginning of school brings excitement, anticipation
and sometimes dread, depending on what the experiences
in the past have been. There are new friends,
new teachers, new books, new schedules and new
While all this newness is exciting, change (even
fun change) adds stress to youngsters, parents
and families. If you or your family are already
stretched to the limit with time or finances or
relationships or health, the start of the school
year could put you right over the edge.
In the months to come, this column is for you
– to ask questions about parenting and your
children, and to make comments about your experiences
whenever you would like.
You might have a question, such as "is it
reasonable for my 6-year-old to spend the night
with a friend," or "my teenage son and
I no longer talk—does that mean he's on
Because schooling and learning are such a large
part of life, you might want to know what to do
when your child starts having difficulty with
a teacher, or when you think your child's teacher
is being unfair.
You might wonder when to step in when you think
your child is not doing well in school. You might
want suggestions on how to add structure when
nothing has been in place in the past. Also, teachers
may have questions about how to manage burnout,
difficult children and worried parents.
I will support your intuition as the parent, understanding
that no one knows your children like you do, and
that you, in the end, have to take responsibility
for your decisions. And let's face it, parents
have gotten along over the years without a lot
of experts telling them what to do.
However, we are in a more sophisticated and informationally
complex society. Because of the rapid changes,
we may not be as prepared to respond with confidence.
Also, because there are more single parent families
and because the extended family with grandma,
grandpa, aunts, uncles, sisters and brothers has
changed so much, the typical sources of wisdom
are not as easily available.
When you have a question, bring it here—I
won't tell you what to do, but I can coach you
to think through the problems you are facing,
give you some information and support-you in the
decisions you make. You will become a better parent
as you have more experience in making decisions
and understanding the outcomes, just as your children
will be stronger as they have more opportunities
to make decisions about problems that are theirs
There are three principles' of parenting that
I use as a basis for my answers to your questions:
1. You can take your children only as far as you
have been. Yes, that's right, you are the model
and if you want them to learn about responsibility
or character from you, you must be a model of
responsibility and character for them.
2. Growing to adulthood is a gradual process of
their learning and our letting-go. There are problems
to own and solve at every age. We can help our
children develop skills through practicing on
the problems that are theirs. Becoming an adult
requires time and experience—there is more
to being an adult than having a 21st birthday.
3. Behavior is the interaction of biology, temperament,
social experience and spiritual desire. When these
are valued and supported for ourselves and for
our children, decision making is easier and personal
Just in case you wonder whether I am permissive
or authoritarian, I tend to take a more balanced
approach in parenting. Individuality is respected,
age appropriate responsibility and accountability