Sunday, November 22, 2009

Flowers in Winter

One of the reasons I love Florida (in the winter, let's be perfectly clear about that...I don't "do" heat and humidity) is f-l-o-w-e-r-s!  I have to keep reminding myself here that it's winter, not spring or summer, when I come upon them.

And I feel blessed by their companionship now.   (Click to enlarge)

Parent Effectiveness

In Parent Effectiveness Training, Dr. Thomas Gordon says:

It puzzles me that those who reject the idea of parent training readily accept the logic that if they wanted to become effective or competent in any other endeavor or activity, they would take lessons, get coaching, or enroll in a training program.  Those who aspire to become good at tennis take tennis lessons from a pro...few persons would go out on the ski slopes until after they have had several lessons from a ski instructor....most people accept the idea of getting professional help when they learn how to a gourmet interior decorating...or fly an airplane.

With parenthood it's different.  People somehow assume they're going to be good parents when they get children.  Or perhaps they cannot accept that anyone knows enough to teach them what it takes to be an effective parent.  In fact, what we know about parent effectiveness has been learned rather recently. 

Behavioral scientists only about twenty-five years ago [this book was originally published in the 1970's] began acquiring knowledge about what it takes to foster and maintain good relationships.  By now much is known.  We know the skills required to bring about effective two-way communication in an interpersonal relationship; we know a method for resolving interpersonal conflicts so that no one loses and both win;  we know how a person can influence another to be considerate of his needs;  we know a method that will help another person work through his personal problems and find his own solutions;  we know how power and authority erode personal relationships.

Now that I'm a (fairly new) grandparent, I'm rereading some of these books I read, or partially read, when I was a parent with a son in my home.  I wish I'd read them more thoroughly and practiced more often what they teach.  I learned some valuable parenting skills from them, but wish I had had the opportunity to be a stay-at-home-mom (which I'd believed in) to practice them more.

Not having chosen single parenthood, the dilemma I had with trying to study these books thoroughly is that I was overwhelmed with what it takes to get through each day (teaching and grading, household chores and repair, grocery shopping, doctor's visits, helping with homework, car maintenance, everything it usually takes two parents to do) so I had little energy or time left to devote to it.  Yet, it is far more important than any of those other responsibilities.

That's another reason I believe in the idea of having mandatory classes within the school system to teach this.  Granted, teens are (hopefully) not thinking of having children when they are in high school, but they will be someday and to acquaint them with effective parenting methods might influence them to go back to those resources when they actually do become parents.  And who's to say they can't educate their own parents by sharing what they learn with them at home?  Moreover, the skills they learn for the parent-child relationship are applicable to other interpersonal relationships -- friend-friend, husband-wife, teacher-student, boss-subordinate.

I've spoken to some friends/colleagues in the field (social workers, psychologists) who recommend, in addition, other more current sources than Gordon's Parent Effectiveness Training (he also does Teacher Effectiveness Training books) but I can't recall the titles they advocate.  One of my goals for the near future is to reconnect with those people and get those books, too.

I'll always be a parent, am now also a grandparent, and have room for improvement, so I'm grateful for the time now in retirement to be able to revisit the information.