By Dr. Glen Baker, Principal Forest Lake Academy
Becoming a parent opens up a wide range of opportunities and challenges for both individuals and couples. And, I think it is safe to say, almost everyone intends and wants to be a good parent. However, several questions immediately come to mind when one thinks about parenting. What determines whether you are an effective parent? How did you learn to be a parent or who taught you your parenting skills? Were your parents “good” or “bad” at parenting?
If you were fortunate to have “good” parents, then you may have learned some good parenting skills from their example. If you had “bad” parents, you may have learned things you definitely did not want to do as a parent so that you would not be like them. And it is highly unlikely that most parents ever went to any kind of parenting class or attended a parenting workshop taught by a parenting “expert” to learn good parenting skills.
Even more, what makes someone an “expert”?
A relative of mine used to teach parenting workshops, yet her own family and children were a mess. Would you really want to listen to her counsel?
In the award-winning movie, Dead Poets Society that featured Robin Williams as a teacher, there is a powerful scene where one of his students, who later commits suicide, rants about his own lousy parents whom he hates. He rants to his classmate and teacher saying in effect when a person wants to learn to drive a car, they are required to take driver’s training to get their license. When a person wants to become an airplane pilot, they are required to go to flight school to learn how to fly a plane. However, any ####### (and he used an expletive) can be a parent. It requires no training at all.
What a tragic, yet sometimes true statement this is.
When I was a young parent and a young elementary principal, my wife and I had our first child, a beautiful little girl. As she grew up and began school, she seemed to be the perfect child – organized, thoughtful, diligent, hardworking, and a responsible student.
And, as a young principal, when I dealt with parents of challenging students, students who were having behavioral issues at school, I used to privately think to myself, “What is wrong with these parents? Why can’t they raise a child like mine?”
And then, God decided to bring me back to reality by blessing our family with a second child, a boy.
Suddenly, everything that we had done that seemed to work with my daughter, did not work with my son. He was the exact opposite of my daughter. He could care less about school, was not interested in studying, couldn’t organize his way out of a paper bag, and just wanted to socialize with his friends and play video games all day long. It was hard to believe that both he and my daughter came from the same set of genes. I quickly came to understand that there is no quick and easy formula for raising children, no matter how dedicated you are as a parent.
Each child has their own personality, talents, and abilities, and the way they respond to you as a parent differs. The way they respond to their mother or their father will differ. The way they respond to discipline will differ. What might work for one child has no impact on the other.
Trying to be an effective parent can be daunting.
Years ago, as an elementary principal, I began a feature in our weekly school newsletter where I would share a book, a video, or some other kind of resource, that I thought would be useful to parents interested in learning more effective parenting skills. And you know what I discovered? Most of my school parents wanted to be good parents, however, they just didn’t know where to turn to try to learn skills or strategies to help them become more effective as parents. I soon had many of my school parents telling me that they were saving the weekly newsletters so that they could remember the parenting tips that were shared or so that they could purchase the book or resources recommended.
I do not consider myself a parenting expert, just an individual who is both a parent and an educator who constantly reads and seeks to learn how to be more effective in working with my children and the students in my school. Therefore, I would like to share with you four books that I consider to be very useful in helping parents learn skills and strategies that can help them be more effective as a parent. Although the books were published several years ago, they remain a valuable resource for parents and are still available for purchase on AMAZON.
The first three books I am recommending are authored by Dr. Stephen Glenn and Dr. Jane Nelson. They are nationally recognized child development experts, colleagues, and renowned speakers who work closely together and who have authored numerous books on raising responsible children, positive discipline, and healthy family dynamics.
I had the privilege of attending one of Dr. Glenn’s parenting workshops. He has authored an entire parenting resource curriculum entitled, Developing Capable Young People, a curriculum that was determined to be so effective, it was modified and implemented in juvenile detention facilities around our nation to help deal with troubled kids. And you know what sold me on the things he said? In addition to his own three children, he adopted many children out of the juvenile detention system into his own family and they all grew up to be responsible and productive adults. The proof is in the pudding. I found that his strategies helped significantly in making me both a more effective parent and a more effective school principal as I worked with children and young people each day.
You can find many books written by Dr. Glenn and Dr. Nelson, however, here are three that I would recommend:
•Raising Self-Reliant Children in a Self-Indulgent World: Seven Building Blocks for Developing Capable Young People, by Dr. Stephen Glenn and Dr. Jane Nelsen, 2000
•Positive Discipline: The Classic Guide to Helping Children Develop Self-Discipline, Responsibility, Cooperation, and Problem-Solving Skills by Dr. Jane Nelsen, 2006
•Positive Discipline A-Z: 1001 Solutions to Everyday Parenting Problems by Jane Nelsen, Lynn Lott, and H. Stephen Glenn, 2007
The fourth excellent resource I would like to share with you is the following book:
•Children of Character: A Parent’s Guide Leading Your Children to Ethical Choices in Everyday Life by Steven Carr Reuben, Ph.D., 1997
I met and became acquainted with Dr. Reuben many years ago when I was the principal of a large private high school in the Los Angeles, CA area. At the time I was also serving on an advisory committee for the local public school district. Dr. Reuben, who is a Jewish rabbi, was a very well-known and dynamic popular speaker and author. My private school partnered with the public school district to bring Dr. Reuben to our community to conduct a workshop for any parents in the entire city who were interested in attending. His book is very practical and an easy read and the tips and strategies he shares are extremely useful and practical. And what parent does not want to raise a child who develops into a responsible, ethical, and moral adult?
No parent is perfect. You can only do your best.
In conclusion, I would encourage all of you as parents to not get discouraged or give up when facing challenges with your children. No parent is perfect. You can only do your best. And, it is my sincere hope, that someone reading this article will find one of these recommended resources helpful to your personal growth as a parent.
The footnote to my personal story is this: My irresponsible, frustrating, unorganized, and goofball son who couldn’t manage himself and who at times made me wonder whether he would even graduate high school, now has his MBA degree and works in Human Resources for an AdventHealth hospital, assisting in managing and supporting all of their employees.
All you can ever do as a parent is to always love your children, do your very best, continually seek to improve your parenting skills, and hope and pray it will all work out in the end. Blessings to each of you as a parent as you navigate your journey with your children and family.