Educational Consultants helping parents and professionals since 1989.

Free eAlerts

 For FREE updates... 
enter your email
address and click


Type words to search for, then click GO.
Online News
Site Links

Posted July 16, 2003 

By: Lon Woodbury

The job of parents can be boiled down to these two words, Protect and Prepare. The newborn infant is helpless, totally dependent on his or her parents for protection from all the dangers that exist in the world, looking to them to provide every need. By the time that infant reaches legal age, it is hoped the parents have been able to help prepare the young adult to make his or her own way in the world.

The process of getting the child from a stage of needing total protection, to the stage of being well enough prepared that the parents can largely let go, is the nuts and bolts of child raising. Only those who have never raised a child think it is easy.

Every child goes through this transformation at his or her own pace. It is the wise and sensitive parent who figures out the proper balance of protection and preparation at each little daily step in the transformation. Some children almost raise themselves, and the parents of these children just need to love, value, support and cheer their progress. Other children resist every step in the transformation, and their parents must exhibit the wisdom of Solomon to successfully help push their children along on the required course. Most, of course, are in between, with parents needing to alternate between aggressive intervention to induce growth toward maturity, and amazed acceptance of unexpected insights their child makes almost out of the blue. Parenting is probably more of an art form than any other human activity, due in part to the fact that no child arrives with an instruction manual. Every time a child is born, the parents are stepping into uncharted waters.

At first glance, it would seem this transformation from helpless infancy to responsible, mature adulthood would be fairly straightforward. But, in actuality, in our society we make it incredibly complicated. In every step of the process, a debate rages about the proper techniques for raising a child. Feeding schedules, potty training, discipline, when to express approval, and an almost infinite number of issues are hotly debated. The number of theories, philosophies and techniques an army of childcare professionals offer to parents seems almost infinite. Its no wonder parents are confused. After all, the advice is built on the best science possible, or at least each author would like us to believe that about his or her advice. Much of the confusion comes from when a parent follows the advice of one expert, to learn that the next expert very well might conclude the parents have harmed the child and remediation is necessary, using the new expert’s advice of course. This can be an endless process, especially for the insecure or uncertain parent.

The students we see in Emotional Growth/Therapeutic schools and programs for the most part come from situations where this balance between theory and common sense was lost. Of course sometimes it is almost impossible for parents to provide a sensible balance if their children have serious psychiatric diagnoses and possible physiological and/or biochemical imbalances that require more tools than conscious parenting alone. But, most children in Emotional Growth/Therapeutic schools and programs were either protected too long and thus were spoiled or felt entitled, or were prepared too soon and thus didn’t have much of a playful childhood. Both extremes can stunt healthy moral and emotional growth.

Either way, much of this can be traced back to the persuasive numbers of many theories propounded by experts. Where uncertain parents used to depend on the accumulated wisdom of grandparents, aunts and uncles, and extended family wisdom, and of course their own common sense, they now rush to study and adopt the latest child rearing expert’s recommendations. Fortunately, many of the books on the market are good, offering very helpful advise based on the understanding that parents are usually the best authority on their children.

Yet there are many other books that communicate less helpful ideas. Some start out by citing the latest research, but discard the conditions under which the data was obtained. The authors promote their new system or approach; citing it is backed by the latest scientific research, claiming this “new” understanding is the real secret for raising a child. Unfortunately, the conclusions they have drawn are based on a limited and narrow aspect of the research they have cited. Remember the “Growing Through Divorce” of the seventies that claimed children were better off if disagreeing parents separated? Although there was some evidence at the time supporting the idea that children were damaged through exposure to fighting parents, the solution offered, that divorce was usually helpful for these children, has not held true. The complete picture is now being established by research that children are harmed the most by divorce except in the most abusive situations.

How about the theory that “A child would never lie?” This was a gross misinterpretation of the common tendency of children to tell things about which general courtesy normally would have us keep silent. When experts commonly adopted this theory, parents were terrorized by the power that ideology gave children; in the extreme, some innocent parents were jailed, and other families devastated. Fortunately, further research has finally confirmed the commonly accepted, traditional understanding that children will misrepresent to protect themselves from punishment, or will provide the answer the questioner wants to hear. It takes a lot of common sense to hear what children are really saying, and many of the theories get in the way of common sense.

The last thing in the world children need is more theories wielded by “experts” trying to sell themselves and their reputation. What they do need are parents who are confident about their own common sense, supported by the wisdom of family, friends and neighbors. The best way for most parents to balance between protecting and preparing is to trust themselves.

PO Box 1671 | Bonners Ferry, ID 83805 | 208-267-5550
Copyright © 1995-2017 by Strugglingteens,LLC. All rights reserved.    Privacy Policy