Monday, September 21, 2009

Parenting - Are SuperNanny and Dr. Phil Steering us Wrong?

I found this article from the New York Times, When a Parent’s ‘I Love You’ Means ‘Do as I Say’ by Alfie Kohn quite thought provoking. As a parent I'm constantly motivated by the desire to keep my kids out of therapy in their adult years as a direct result of my inept attempts to protect, teach and guide. I find myself fighting the urge to "helicopter parent" quite often even though I know better. Somehow that instinct to protect your children from pain and sadness can become so strong, reason gets overshadowed.

The article raises some points that have enticed me to read the book. I've always been a believer in talking with your children so they understand why you have the rules you enforce, why it's important to abide by them and why certain behavior is unacceptable.

Wesley Bedrosian

When Logue was a toddler we impressed in him that crossing any street is dangerous and he should pay attention to signs such as "Don't Walk." We didn't want to just say "No" to him all the time without explaining why. In fact, we did our best to take "No" out of our vocabulary and use words such as "Danger" as more descriptive cues. One day while riding our bikes at the beach (I think Logan was 7) we came to a boardwalk. After several minutes I realized I didn't hear the whir of the bikes behind me. As I turned around I saw Logue stopped at a sign with his Daddy bending down to talk to him. I rode back to find out what had happened thinking Logue's chain came off or he was tired. I looked at J and he pointed to the sign right in front of Logue that read "No Bikes Allowed on the Boardwalk." "He won't disobey the sign," said J. Logue started to cry. He didn't want to break the rules. We couldn't convince him that just this once, breaking the rule wasn't going to hurt anyone. He wouldn't budge. So, we walked our bikes and he was happy following the rules.

However, I have questions after reading the article. Mainly, how does it all work Mr. Kohn? If Bean tells me I'm stupid and I walk away because I'm not willing to participate in a conversation like that with her, am I giving her the message that I don't unconditionally love and accept her? Or am I setting a boundary that teaches her how her behavior affects other people?

I would love all of you to weigh in on your thoughts about Unconditional Parenting vs. well, whatever it is you do. Parent or not, you were parented at one time. Did you feel unconditionally loved and accepted or did it feel that love had to be earned? If you are a parent, have you put yourself in the minds of your children to try to see your love and acceptance from their point of view? Do you reward based on grades, good behavior, high performance in sports? Do you withhold love and acceptance from your child if he/she doesn't meet your expectations?
How do you feel about the exerpt from Kohn's article:

The child psychologist Bruno Bettelheim, who readily acknowledged that the version of negative conditional parenting known as time-out can cause “deep feelings of anxiety,” nevertheless endorsed it for that very reason. “When our words are not enough,” he said, “the threat of the withdrawal of our love and affection is the only sound method to impress on him that he had better conform to our request.” But the data suggest that love withdrawal isn’t particularly effective at getting compliance, much less at promoting moral development. Even if we did succeed in making children obey us, though — say, by using positive reinforcement — is obedience worth the possible long-term psychological harm? Should parental love be used as a tool for controlling children?
Let's talk!