Parenting: Best Practices = Best Results
By Jonathan D. Sherman, LMFT

“Why won’t my kids just do what I tell them? Why do I have to cajole, beg, plead, scream and pamper their feelings just to get an ounce of respect? Why don’t they just obey?” Well, there are lots of answers to that question, but whatever the reason, the fact is if they aren’t obeying, they aren’t. We either fight against that fact and engage in futile power struggle after power struggle or accept that if it simply is not working, we must shift gears, learn what works and do that.

Guiding principle: Learn the best practices to get the best results.

Too often I hear, “Well, my kid didn’t come with an instruction manual.” Mine did not either. However, just because we did not get a specific owner’s manual it does not mean we should just wing it and hope for the best. Fortunately, we have the benefit of the many kids, parents, educators, researchers and professional therapists who have gone before us and done the bulk of the trial and error. Many have written about what they have learned. We are able to cull from these writings the cream of the crop, the best of the best. As in any field of endeavor there are some methods and techniques that clearly work better than others. Just ask Stephen Covey about best management practices, Julia Child about best culinary practices or Mother Teresa about best practices for serving others. Best practices do yield best results. But to get the good stuff we have to pay for it. On the one hand we have the Yugo and on the other we have the BMW. Fortunately, for parents, it does not have to cost thousands and thousands of dollars to get the good parenting stuff. However, the cost is still high. We must be willing to invest our time and energy into learning these best practices. We must be willing to subject our pride and ego of doing it our way to doing what works. We must be willing to focus on doing right over being right.

Practical techniques: Find the best knowledge, learn the right skills and practice, practice, practice.

Where do we find these best practices? There are three main places.

1. From the researchers: A large part of my professional life is spent in staying abreast of the latest research and best practices in the field. Our field is always asking, “what works?” And when we find what works we ask, “How can we make it work even better?” In business this is called R&D. While there are many great parenting programs and resources available, two of my personal favorites that I consider some of the best in parenting technology are: Parenting with Love and Logic: Teaching Children Responsibility, by Jim Fay and Foster Cline, MD and Raising An Emotionally Intelligent Child: The Heart of Parenting, by John M. Gottman, Ph.D. (For further recommendations visit www.bardos.net/parenting). Of course, books are only useful if opened, read and applied. Knowledge without action is just a book sitting on a shelf—it looks good but does nothing.

2. From the guinea pigs: What can we learn from the millions of kids who have had every kind of parenting experimented upon them? Tons, heaps and gobs. In my capacity as Youth Substance Abuse Coordinator for Valley Mental Health in Summit I get the opportunity to talk to many at-risk and troubled teens. Each time I work with a new group of kids I ask them all the same question. I tell them I have four children who in a few years will be teenagers themselves. What advice would they give me so I don’t repeat the same mistakes they complain about with their parents? While certainly some of the advice is unrealistic, such as, “Let them do whatever they want,” the bulk of it is both simple and profound, such as “Really listen to them,” “Be there,” and “Set limits, but be reasonable.” Most of them are actually okay with discipline when they understand it, when it’s logical and reasonable and respectful of them as people. I ask these kids their opinion because I want to be as ready as possible when my turn comes around. This surprises them. They have experienced most adult authority figures as controlling people who think they have all the answers. Naturally, they rebel against that. That, however, is another article for another day.

What implications does this have to a community such as Eagle Mountain where the majority of children are under age twelve? Since we are very much creatures of habit we must decide early what parenting habits we want to develop and continue throughout the lives of our children. We need to decide now when our parenting habits are still flexible and not when our kids are teens and we as adults have become too set in our ways that we break ourselves and our kids against our own rigidity.

So, are we basing our parenting approaches off what we learned from our parents, our own opinions or what we read in the latest magazine? These can all be well and good. They can also be horrible. It depends on so many factors and variables. The real question is, “Is it working?” Also, if it is working now is it likely to work when the children get older? Since my children are not teens yet I do not have that personal knowledge from my own experience. My experience as a therapist, however, tells me not to just “cross that bridge when I come to it.” My experience tells me to learn everything I can, prepare “every needful thing” and when the time comes be flexible enough to adapt as needed.

3. Out in the field: There are many great workshops, seminars, and classes available in our community. Many schools offer basic and low-cost “Parenting with Love and Logic” classes which I strongly encourage. As part of The Relationship Wellness Series, which are free monthly workshops designed to strengthen families and enrich our community, over the next two months I will be offering two free parenting workshops. “Parenting with Love and Logic” will be held on August 20th. “Parenting Teen: Like Nailing Jell-O to the Wall!” will be held on September 23rd. Both of these workshops are on Saturdays from 7:00 to 8:30 p.m. in the American Fork Library Community Room. These are fun, upbeat and skills-based workshops.
Furthermore, many have asked me when I will be offering my own local parenting classes or support groups. I have given this considerable thought and will be starting a Parenting Skills Intensive on Wednesday evenings either at the end of September or the beginning of October. This intensive will be a fun, upbeat, encouraging and progress-oriented experience. This intensive will teach practical techniques and emphasize skill building within the larger context of building and maintaining effective relationships. This intensive will require more work than just attending a class in a passive learning atmosphere. This intensive is geared towards those who want to learn best practices to create best results. It is for those who are ready to invest in making real change. I do not promise “a happy family in 10 easy steps.” I do promise a challenging and worthwhile experience. I promise to hold you accountable to your own parenting goals. So I invite you to join me in this unique parenting experience. Come with a willingness to try new ideas and challenge pre-conceived notions. Come prepared with the encouragement that by doing different we can experience different. We get out of life what we put into it. This is about investing in our most precious commodity: our relationships with each other. Space will be limited. To reserve your space and for more information contact me at 801.787.8014 or visit www.bardos.net/parenting for full details.

Watch future columns for more strategies for creating greatness in your relationships. The “Great Relationships” eZine has been launched. This eZine contains further articles, ideas and strategies for creating great relationships as well as announcements for free community workshops in The Relationship Wellness Series. To subscribe to this eZine simply email GreatRelationships@bardos.net with “subscribe” in the subject line.

Jonathan Sherman is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist and Relationship Consultant specializing in creating "greatness in relationships." He is experienced in assisting people learn to improve their marriages, their parenting and themselves through skill development, life coaching, overcoming depression and anxiety, stress and anger management, and addiction recovery. He teaches extensively on a wide range of relationship topics. He is the founder of Bardos Relationship Consulting. He is married to a skillled husband trainer who has truly earned her keep. They live in eternal bliss (okay, fairly peaceably) with their four children in American Fork, UT. You may reach him at 801.787.8014, jonathan@bardos.net or at www.bardos.net.
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This article provided courtesy of Bardos Relationship Consulting• 801.787.8014 • bardos.net