I read article today by Anna Quindlen published in Newsweek magazine about teaching parenting skills that I loved. It's about the importance of parenting skills and I think the idea is really important. As I mentioned in a previous post, I feel strongly that every parent should follow their instincts when it come to making decisions for their children, but reading through this article reminded me that educating yourself first is an important part of that equation. Don't make decisions in ignorance (or at least try not to). Get lots of information and then listen to the one that makes the most sense to you.
Quindlen wrote about a parenting training study that showed how teaching basic parenting skills like consistent discipline (Oh, there's that word again. We try our best, really.) without corporal punishment (hmm, mostly without? I believe in spanking in certain situations.), positive reinforcement and playing with your kids changes the stress level in young children in measurable ways.
Two points I want to make relative to this analysis:
- Learning how to be a good parent is important. I went through a lot to become a parent and it made me think about how easy it is for some people, even accidental. We need a license to drive, be 18 to vote, and don't get me started on how laborious the process is to become a teacher in the public schools. But to be a parent? Anybody can do that. The problem is, though, that the desires that makes many of us parents have nothing in common with the desires to be a good parent. Now, I'm not saying we should make any new laws or anything; I'm a strong believer in personal freedom. What I am suggesting is that we spread the word that there are parenting skills to be learned that help.
- The most important parenting skills aren't that complicated. A few basics go a long way. They aren't always easy – who can be consistent all the time? But, holding the line on them goes a long way. For example, with discipline, a child who knows how his parents are going to react to certain behavior because they always react the same way will be less likely to test those parents with misbehavior.
I liked the last line of the article: It can be a great job, motherhood, but it would be nice if everyone could be more honest about how overwhelming the job can be, and more willing to find ways to support and inform the people who are trying to do it. We should all strive to be more of a community, whether it's physically or virtually.