I will be presenting about Reflective Parenting to therapists and parents in China in May 2019. What I have learned in preparing for my presentation has amazed and pleased me. Much to my surprise, it turns out that the Chinese know a lot about and are very interested in our more western ways of parenting. In fact they invited me to speak there.
It turns out that despite our different cultural ways, that when it comes to parenting, we are really more alike than different. Parents in both countries are overly stressed because they feel the anxiety and pressure of being a “perfect” parent and raising a “perfect” kid. Because of all this stress, parents are often looking for a quick fix answer to the problems they are facing with their child.
Reflective Parenting reduces this toxic level of stress, by emphasizing that there is no such thing as a perfect parent. The truth is, children do better when their parents are accepting of who they really are as people.
Even though parents seek out that quick fix solution from the experts, these only help in the short run but not in the long run. We find that parents and their children do better when parents are helped to feel more confident that they can use their own mind to figure out their own solutions that will fit best with who their child is and who they are as parents.
Reflective Parenting encourages parents to think for themselves. This is because ‘there’s no one right way to parent’, ‘no one size fits all’ and there’s always more than one way to handle any situation you may face with your child. Now, Emily Oster, an economics professor at Brown gives one of the best arguments I’ve ever seen in favor of these ideas. Here is a link to her opinion piece in the New York Time that is adapted from her forthcoming book “Cribsheet”.
In it she supports what we always tell parents, ‘it’s fine to learn from what the experts have to say. But only put their advice into practice if it makes sense to you and if it works for who your child is and for who you are.’
This is a good article, but the title is deceiving. The title implies that helicopter parenting helps kids achieve more: an implication I disagree with. I think the problem is that the author does not fully understand what helicopter parenting actually means.
The author describes ‘helicoptering’ as a parent who is very involved with their child, insisting on hard work and achievement and who structures their child’s whole day, leaving no downtime. But that is not what the term ‘helicopter parent’ in fact refers to. A helicopter parent is one who over protects their child and tries to eliminate all the bumps in the road. A helicopter parent jumps in too quickly to fix a difficult situation and tries too hard to avoid situations that would make their child uneasy or uncomfortable. The problem with helicopter parenting is that it prevents the child from learning how to cope with challenging situations and developing resiliency. Once they are away from the care of their parent, they can’t manage well on their own. It is like the phrase, use it or lose it. A child who does not learn to manage when times are rough while they are young, ends up kind of handicapped when they have to make the transition to adult life.
So why do I say it is a good article? The article is
actually about the value of being involved with your child and using an
authoritative approach to parenting rather than an authoritarian approach: two
claims I totally agree with. The point is there are some very good ideas buried
underneath the helicopter.
(1) Being involved speaks for itself. Children don’t do well if their parents are too detached or too permissive. Being involved gives children a feeling connection and that someone cares.
(2) Being authoritative means that the parent is confident, feels ‘in charge’ and recognizes that a child needs guidance and limits, but also respects the child’s autonomy so they leave some wiggle room. By contrast, an authoritarian parent is controlling, demands obedience, tends to be more rigid and usually will resort to some type of aggression when a child does not cooperate as expected. It is the authoritative parent’s sense of confidence and competence, that enable’s the parent to guide and set limits without resorting to coercion, hostility, or aggression. Underlying the authoritarian approach is usually a parent who has difficulty not being in control or difficulty with the child being a separate person, with their own perspective on the world. Reflective Parenting is designed to help parents be more authoritative and less authoritarian. We do this by helping parents to self-reflect and get in touch with the underlying reasons that are leading them to be over-controlling and hostile.
(3) Parents who work hard, care about doing well and try to achieve their best tend to raise children who do the same. The reason is uncertain. It could be they are good role models for children. Or it could be something genetic.
What I don’t like about this article: It is a one size fits all approach. Everyone is different. I believe parents would be wise to adjust their parenting approach to the needs of their child.
Regina Pally, Co-Director of CRC was interviewed by Agnes Regeczkey of the New Center for Psycho-analysis. In the interview (click here to watch), Dr. Pally talks about
The interview is about 1 hour. Here are some of the topics it covers: What it means to be reflective and why it is important; Why we misunderstand each other so often and what we can do about it; How to reduce stress as a parent; The tools for building and maintaining a strong relationship with your child, so that you can be both comforting and empathic, but also be able to firmly set limits.