Art of Parenting, The


By Ron Hindbaugh M.A.


Sometimes a parent thinks that there is some magical formula that will "cause" their child to develop into a responsible person with a good self-concept. This is a myth that a parent must give up. When you believe this myth you spend your time determining what you should do different to "change" your child. If you feel you are not doing the things that will "cause" your child to change, you put the blame where it does not belong. You blame yourself.


        Rule #1 - A parent is not responsible for the child's behavior. A child is responsible for his/her behavior.


        Rule # 2 - A child is not responsible for the parent's behavior. The parent is responsible for his/her behavior.

Because the parent has control of "only" his/her behavior, this is where the parent must start. Becoming the best person/parent you can be is the best way to help your child. The reason for this is that the primary way that the child learns is my modeling the behavior of others.


        Rule # 3 - A parent who spends time taking care of himself/herself has the strength to take care of his/her child. If you do not like yourself, if you do not take care of yourself, and if you blames yourself for your child's behavior, you spend a lot of energy on "unsolvable problems." If you feel responsible for your child's behavior, you are saying to yourself, "If I am disappointed with my child, angry with my child, or let them know that they have failed, my child will feel bad and change. If I praise my child, they will change. If I cannot make my child behave I am a failure."


        Rule # 4 - If a parent feels responsible for the child's behavior, the child may model the parent and blame them self for their parent's behavior. This can be the beginning of a poor self concept in the child. The child, in essence, says to himself/herself, "If I have the power to disappoint my parent, if I can make my parent angry, if I can let him/her down, if I do not live up to his/her expectations, I must be a bad person." They may adopt the mistaken belief that "good children make parents happy."

If you, as a parent, have a set of principals you live by, if you accept yourself as you are, if you like yourself, if you admit that you make mistakes and that mistakes are ok, then you will be a parent who will have the patience you need with your child. Children naturally make lots of mistakes. When you know who you are then you can then share with your child. The second way a child learns is by instruction.

        Rule # 5 - A parent who instructs by helping the child evaluate his/her own behavior rather than trying to control is a happier parent and usually the child is happier. When you instruct in this manner, you will ask questions like this, "Looks like you really goofed. What did you learn from this? Hope you don't repeat that mistake. When I was your age I learned that one the hard way. Would you like to know what I learned when I made that same mistake?"


        Rule # 6 - A parent does not determine how the child views them. The child is the one who decides this. A child who decides to see their parent as a friend and sympathizer, rather than "the enemy," is in a better frame of mind to accept help, to see himself/herself in a positive light, and to develop a better self concept. The child who sees his parent as a helper will respond like this, "I really messed up on this one. Here's what I'm going to do, Mom/Dad do you have any ideas that might help?"

When you have taught well, when you have set a good example, your child may still view you as "the enemy." If this is the case there is only one way left for the child to learn. The child must then learn by experience. The third way a child learns is by experience.

        Rule # 7 - When a child decides to misbehave, the wise parent does not rescue the child. The message you, as a parent, give to when you "fix a problem" that a child has created, is that you are the "servant." The child can feel that the parent's job is to "fix things." This makes it hard for your child to feel like a capable person who is responsible for the mistake. Teens who are in trouble with the law find it easy to blame the parent. The child reasons this way. "If my parent believes he/she is responsible for my behavior, it must be true. Let them fix it. If it wasn't for them I wouldn't have done it anyway."

Parenting is not a science. It is an art. You become a good parent in the same way you become a good artist. You learn to parent by parenting. As you respond to the circumstances created by your child, as you make the same mistakes parents before you have made, as you sense the helplessness, as you feel the joy and pain that are part of the process, you know that it is, after all, worth the journey.

You are not creating a child. You are creating a parent. If you do a good job of creating a parent you will enjoy the process. Then, if your child chooses to benefit from the great parent you have created, your child will find joy with you. If your child chooses to learn the hard way and does not benefit from your excellent parenting, it does not change the fact that you are a good parent. Mark Twain was amazed at how much his parents seemed to change as he aged.