Parenting young children — 26 May 2013
How to decide what is best for your child

Though many books, classes, articles and parenting experts teach methods of effective parenting, most parents still struggle, at times, with determining which option would best serve their child in any given situation.

In her book “Peaceful Parent, HAPPY KIDS”, Dr. Laura Markham recommends: “Positive parenting, or Gentle Guidance, to raise an amazing, emotionally intelligent child.” She lists step-by-step tools for creating a good relationship with the child, correcting the behavior while affirming the youngster’s conduct, setting limits with empathy, being firm and loving in potentially dangerous situations, avoiding punishments and teaching consequences. The tools are excellent and helpful.

Yet, these tools, as most authors offer, deal with how to parent and not with guiding principles for decision making on behalf of your child.

For example, how do you balance permitting the child to bike to a friend’s house three blocks away that fosters the youngster’s autonomy, competency and pride with the risks of possible harm or injury to the child?  How do you determine the likelihood of the possible harm?  How do you assess how much of your own anxiety may be interfering with your child’s enhancement?

Often, there are compromises that can help parents modify the downside of decisions to still allow the youngster to venture out. Weighing them is not always easy.

Is it sufficient to advise a teenage daughter not to drink at a party without expounding on the possible devastating consequences?  Could the explicit potential scenarios cause the adolescent serious psychological damage?

One decision weighing principal is to compare the best and the worst possible outcome of each option and select the one that offers the least potentially damaging risks. For example, not allowing an eight year old to ride on his abdomen on a skateboard down a paved steep hill may cause him to feel restricted, mistrusted, “babied” and resentful toward the parent. Allowing this fun ride may empower and delight the child but may risk serious injury to his face or body.

Another deterrent to parental calm decision-making is the child’s hateful responses to restrictions. Whether the young child proclaims, “I hate you” or a teenager uses demeaning, derogatory name calling, none of these retorts should sway your decision of what you believe to be within the best interest of your child.

Parents must also consider how current requests of the child/adolescent are likely to impact him/her in the future. Decisions that may have ramifications to social inclusion/exclusion, physical/emotional safety, pleasure/pain, legal/illegal consequences should be evaluated by the parents with a long-term view.

Good parenting requires love, kindness, respectful consideration of the child and mature perspective about the child’s long-term welfare.

To decide what is best for your child:

  • Trust your judgment in assessing your child’s needs based on your guiding principals, maturity and love for your youngster.
  • Refrain from being impacted by your child’s demands, threats or discounts as you wisely make decisions about his/her present and future welfare.

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About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

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