Simi Valley Family Magazine --
Fall 1997 Edition
Wendy Wilkinson, M.S.
Recently, some friends of our asked us for advice on how to coordinate career planning with child rearing. After having one child, and now thinking about having another, they realize that children add a whole set of unpredictable variables to their straight-forward career goals.
As we thought about our career paths, marriage, and family life, we realized that it was not well-laid plans that enabled us to achieve our successes in career and family. Instead, it was a well-laid concept of who we are and what we are about that guided us. We challenged them that instead of trying to plan out career paths and trying to fit children into those plans, they should instead be determining just what exactly they are about. We asked them the following questions to help them figure this out:
After deciding upon our values, goals, talents and limitations we now have the structure we need to make decisions for ourselves and our family. When opportunities or circumstances come our way, we now have a guideline. We must ask ourselves, "Does this opportunity fit into my goals? Does it reflect my values? Does it take into account my talents and limitations? If the answers are "yes," then we know the opportunity will fit into our family's "master plan."
It is also important to remember that life is always about change. As our family changes, as our children grow, and as our circumstances and opportunities change, we can expect to implement many different plans. But if we know what our values, goals, talents and limitations are, we will be able to evaluate the opportunities and challenges as they come along.
Sue White, M.A.
A close, nurturing parent/child relationship is the dream of most parents as they prepare for and anxiously await the arrival of each newborn baby. Webster defines nurturing as "To nourish, care for, provide for, to feed or sustain." Beautiful words, but just how do we care for, provide for, feed or sustain a close relationship with our children? Following are some suggestions that hopefully will help parents to achieve this goal.
One of the most important elements in sustaining a relationship with a friend or spouse is time, and so it follows that this would be equally important as we build a relationship with our children. How much time have you spent with your child in the past 24 hours? How much of that time has been spent in nurturing activities? Most of us spend considerable time in the car with our families. Have you ever considered how that time could be best used to build relationships? Do you sing together in the car? Tell stories? Talk about the day? Play games? As children get older this can be a great place to discuss more delicate issues as eye contact is minimal and thus the atmosphere a little less threatening or embarrassing (not to mention there is no place for either of you to run). When was the last time you asked your child for their opinion about something, and then listened carefully and respectfully to their answer? Learn to take advantages of small segments of time to discover a little more about who your child is. Maybe they will, in turn, learn to listen respectfully to your beliefs and opinions.
This leads to another very important element in any relationship -- respect. We can demand that our children treat us with respect, but we can't demand that they respect us. We earn respect. The tone of voice we use when we talk to our children (or our spouse), our ability to admit our mistakes and apologize when necessary, the amount of grace we are willing to extend to others when they fall short of our expectations, all determine what our children will learn and what skills they develop in the area of respect. What about the pet names that we call our children? Are these names that model respect? We have a great deal of control over this area of our children's lives whether we believe it or not, just by who we are.
Another important factor is attitude. Do we find qualities to be thankful for in our children on a daily basis? Do we see our children as burdens or ourselves as inept? Either one of these attitudes will greatly affect our relationship with our children. What are our expectations? Do we expect trouble? Do we expect hostility? Do we see our children as growing into competent, caring young people? Do you expect from your children what you gave to your parents? This isn't inevitable and our positive actions to change any past negative patterns can affect our family for generations to come. Our expectations are often fulfilled, so carefully examine your expectations and aim for realistic but honorable results.
How would you rate your style of parenting? On a continuum there are three basic styles: AUTHORITARIAN -- AUTHORITATIVE -- PERMISSIVE. A parent who has an authoritarian style is demanding, rigid, has many rules. They believe in absolute obedience to authority without question. An authoritative parent, on the other hand, is more flexible. They provide clear guidance, based on competent, reliable authority. There is much more room for grace and nurturing. A permissive parent allows freedom, is lenient, the relationship is based on equality. The most nurturing parent/child relationships generally come from the middle, the authoritative style of parenting.
We can't demand that our children be close to us, but we can invite them to come closer. We can create an atmosphere that makes it safe and even fun. We have control. Remember, change is slow; progress is measured in very small increments. You will slip up and so will your kids. But move forward. Desire a closer, more nurturing relationship. As we demonstrate love and nurturing to our children in a healthy way, it will become contagious.