As I ponder what you might like to know more about, I, like all technology savvy adults, ask Google “topic parents want to read about.” This list is long—ugh, not much help. One of the challenges in a brief article is, well, it’s brief and the work psychologists do on an everyday basis is typically more than “brief.” Ok, how about the BIG picture? Or the view from 30,000 feet above. So this time around let’s talk Myths about Parenting:
Myth #1: Parenting comes naturally. Wrong! Maybe nurturing comes naturally to some of us but not parenting because every child is his or her own set of half your DNA and half of the other parent’s DNA. Each child gets a different set of half the parents’ DNA so each child’s temperament, thought processes, development, physical characteristics differ.
Myth #2: I turned out ok so I’ll just do what my parents did. This may be fine if you have really great parents with whom you agree 100% and think they were wonderful. A couple of things to think about: 1. are those things that you would like to improve on? 2. Has the world has changed since you were a kid? Think about the new challenge of how to talk with your teenager about your or other parents’ use of medical marijuana. The point here is that parenting is something to think “What kind of adult do I want to raise?” And it is not difficult to make minor changes in your parenting to address those things in your upbringing which you would like to improve on. Recently, one of my sons told me I make assumptions that his actions are affected by nervousness and worries. He was right, I do make assumptions. I’m working on that.
Myth #3: Spanking is a form of parenting. All the evidence shows that aggression, even well thought out spanking, results in aggression in children. Anyone who suggests otherwise, is not grounded in actual evidence. What “evidence-based” means in terms of parenting, psychology, medicine, is that there is a body of research evidence that shows an intervention or practice should be considered by the clinician in concert with the patient because it works. One example of evidence-based parenting books are Alan Kazdin’s books (e.g., The Everyday Parenting Toolkit, Parenting the Defiant Child) are based on research evidence at the Yale Child Study Center. Spanking results in children hitting other children. Period.
Myth #4: All this parenting-speak changes all the time. No, the basics of behavioral principles, respect, responsibility and the Golden Rule remain the core of parenting children of all ages.
Myth #5: Parenting is all about children’s needs, not about parent’s needs. The ultimate goal of parenting is creating a human who can reasonably care for himself or herself, and who respects that you have a life, too. Show your child that you value your relationships with others and yourself. Children have a bottomless need for time and attention from parents; give them time focused on them completely (no computer, phone, television, other child, adult) and establish expectations for when you spend time with other people.
Myth #6: Children should be happy. Generally, content, cared for, safe but not happy all the time. Many Americans suffer from this myth. Life has ups and downs. Happy all or most of the time is not the human condition. For more on this topic, check out The Happiness Trap: Stop Struggling, Start Living, 2007.
That is my 500 words. I hope it was worth your time.
Sheryl Lozowski-Sullivan, MPH, PhD.
Printed in the Good News paper, May 2019