Events, features and things to do for families in New Hampshire
By Ron Schneebaum, MD, FAAP
Enjoying an activity takes passion, some skill, insight into the activity and a set of goals. A skier, for example, likes to ski, understands basic principles and has his/her own measure of success.
Parenting can be enjoyable with just a few thoughtful guides. Though fired with passion, parents often lack clarity about goals and how to achieve them.
I've whittled these goals to two: To raise children who have a strong sense of self-worth, but who are caring and compassionate at the same time. I arrived at this because it works in life. Great teachers are only great when they use their knowledge to inspire, and the physician we want for our child combines knowledge and skill, with caring and a favorable bedside manner. Self-worth and empathy might be polar opposites but together they parallel life, where we go forward by putting all of our weight on one foot and then putting it on its complete opposite.
Self-worth grows with encouragement, praise and positive reinforcement – with helping children to feel good about themselves in the present moment. Teaching children to go beyond themselves takes an opposite tack; it begins with action, with teaching children to do what is asked effortlessly and easily. For example, we don’t focus on children seeing the value of baking cookies for grandma. We simply want them to be a helpful part of the process. Appreciating the value of doing for others often doesn’t ripen until years later.
Two ideas mark American child-rearing. One teaches children to be respectful, promoting the idea that through respect children become responsible and caring adults. This approach held sway until the late 1960s, when views on authority changed. Afterward, children’s feelings became primary, and parents were taught to nourish the delicate flame within each child. Cold authority was seen as crushing to this beautiful center. Parents were told to be positive and not use the word “no.”
Most of today’s parenting advice comes from this latter perspective, but both approaches have built-in limits, for when parents learn to act from only one viewpoint they give up their ability to truly think for and be themselves.
I've coined a third way, one I call the Michelangelo approach to discipline. By legend, someone asked Michelangelo how he made such beautiful stone sculptures. “I look at the stone and see the horse,” he reportedly said, “and then I chip away at everything that is not horse.”
Our task as parents is to see the deepest and best in our children and chip away at that which does not serve them, and we can use all the tools available to us. This means using discipline, communication and consequences. Our children do not need us to be perfect, just as the people who meant the most to us in our own childhoods were rarely perfect.
With love guiding our thoughts and actions we will find the right thing to do, and we can take joy in this very challenging process. They simply liked us and that highlighted our relationships with them.
Dr. Ron Schneebaum, MD, FAAP, works in the Pediatric Department at Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock in Bedford and created and continues to run Fresh Perspectives, a program that believes by focusing concentration on issues related to our children can lead to the insight and understanding needed for creative problem-solving and long-term solutions. For more information, go to CHaDKids.org
Last updated by Parenting NH Administrator Jun 7, 2012.