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The Parenting Game

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May 9, 2009 | by Sarah Chana Radcliffe, M.Ed., C.Psych.Assoc.

Good parenting means paying attention to the ness of each child.

Parenting is a lot of
fun, one of life's truly gratifying activities. When your kid reaches about 18 months
of age, the parenting challenge really kicks in.

Once your child is
mobile and can say a few words, you've essentially lost control of the
situation.Before that, you could cradle her in your arms, and there wasn't
anything she could do about it.However, once she can run, the chase is on.

WHERE ARE WE
RUNNING TO?

The question is, where
do you want to go in parenting?Do you want to catch the little rascal and bring
her back to bed?Do you want to get her sitting at the dinner table, brushing
her little teethies, putting her pajamas on?

What about raising a fine human being, developing a loving relationship, passing on spiritual values - when does that all happen?

A lot of parents are
just trying to get through the day in this way, making sure that their
youngster gets out of bed, gets dressed, eats some breakfast and leaves the
house for school, comes back and does his homework, eats his dinner, cleans his
room, has his bath, and goes to bed.

But what about the
other stuff - raising a fine human being, developing a close, loving
relationship, passing on spiritual values - when does that all happen?Between
breakfast and carpool?

IT'S NOT
WHAT, IT'S HOW

In parenting, it's not
so much about what you do, as how you do it.

Every parent in the
world is trying to get his child toilet-trained and every parent is trying to
get his kid to eat, wash, and perform independent tasks.

But some parents will
be demolishing their youngsters as they go about this process of education and others
will be building strong, healthy human beings.Some will be forging life-long
bonds and some will be destroying relationships.What makes the difference?

IT TAKES MORE
THAN LOVE

Most parents truly
love their children.However, even though you love your children, you can
probably think of a time when you've hurt them.Loving children does not
guarantee that we'll always do the best thing for them.However, the combination
of love, skills and great genes, is a winner.

GREAT GENES?

Yes.If your child has great
genes and you use good parenting strategies, life should go pretty smoothly for
both of you.What are great genes?

These are the genetic
programs that create personality characteristics, traits and temperaments in
your youngsters.

Your job is to optimize the child's development, bringing him to his potential.

Your child actually
comes pre-programmed with personality.He is not a tabula rasa (a clean
slate) upon which you write his character.Rather, much of character is a given
and it is your job to optimize the child's development, bringing him to his
potential.

Each child must be
handled differently, according to his nature, or as our Sages teach us,
"Educate a child according to his way." (Proverbs 22:6). That is, train him using
techniques suitable for his make-up.

WHAT IF HIS
GENES AREN'T SO GREAT?

The kid with great
genes is born sunny-side up.She's easy going, flexible, happy around people,
curious, brave, relaxed and even enjoys regular body rhythms.She's pretty hard
to mess up so even "mid-range" parenting techniques will pass.

However, lots of kids
are born cranky and moody, irritable, hyper, rigid, negativistic, fearful,
intense and even suffer irregular body rhythms which interfere with their
eating and sleeping routines.

Lots of kids are born cranky and moody, irritable, hyper, rigid, negativistic, fearful and intense.

Sometimes they have
neurologically based difficulties in personality arising out of complex
disorders such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or Tourrette's
syndrome, or they may have biochemical disorders such as unipolar or bipolar
depressions or anxiety based disorders.

Whether or not there
is a formal name or diagnosis, the child may have inherited Uncle Joe's
agitation, Grandpa Mo's impatience, Mom's bad temper and Dad's
impulsiveness.And now you get to raise him.You're going to need lots of
patience, lots of support and a sack full of excellent parenting strategies.

WHAT ABOUT
THE AVERAGE KID?

If you have several
kids, chances are you'll have one that's "easy," one that's "difficult" and one
or more in-between.

There are many
factor's that determine the ultimate outcome for the average kid: his genetic
make-up, his free will, his environment including his birth order, his school
placement, his neighborhood and community, his friends and relatives and --
last, but not least -- you and your spouse.

Although your role in
all this may be 50 percent or less (this hasn't yet been scientifically determined,
but research does increasingly show the major role of in-born factors), you'll
want to do the very best you can with your parental power to influence.

If he turns out to be
someone you're really proud of - you can claim your 50 percent! If, heaven forbid, his
developmental difficulties last into middle age, you can always chock that up
to the other 50 percent!

BRINGING OUT
THE BEST IN BABY

In order to do the
best job with each child, parents need plenty of options in
parenting.Flexibility is required!No one parenting strategy can work with every
kid in the family -- so you have to have more than one strategy available!

No one parenting strategy can work with every kid in the family.

The home you grew up
in gave you at least one set of parenting options.Your spouse brings a second
set.Even these two approaches won't always be enough.The more you read, the
more ideas (options) you can acquire.

The more parenting
groups you attend and the more you talk to other parents, the more ideas you'll
glean.Even then, no parent can ever do exactly the right thing on every
occasion -- nor is it necessary.What is necessary, is to consistently convey
positive intent and a protective structure.We'll examine in detail how this can
be done.

To raise children is a
difficult, weighty task.We must do our best, but we're not in control of the
outcome.Ultimately, no matter what else we do, we must pray for God's help!

Sarah Chana
Radcliffe, a member of
the College of Psychologists of Ontario, is a family therapist and
author of numerous books, including
The
Delicate Balance

and
Teen Esteem



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