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Steven Richfield provides articles on many different aspects of raising a child
month we our advocate will be answering questions from our visitors about yours
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Study on ADD and TV
The recent study published on watching television between the ages of one and
three and the possible link to ADD/ADHD did not take many considerations into
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television watching and ADD/ADHD are linked.
Parent Coach Archives
Parent Coach: Resolving Disciplinary Differences
Dr. Steven Richfield
A parent writes, “One of our family’s big challenges is the ongoing
debate between my husband and I over how strict vs. how lenient we should be.
Our kids complain that we are too strict, my husband complains that I am too
flexible, and I complain that he is too rigid. This creates too much stress. How
can we find a middle ground?”
Of all the necessary ingredients that parents add to the
mixture called childrearing, rules and limits are among the most vital.
Complicating this task, though, is the fact that excessive limits leads to the
boiling over of resentment and defiance, but inadequate limits interfere with
adaptation to rules and the willpower needed to resist unhealthy
pressures. It’s not uncommon for mothers and fathers to be on opposite
sides of the “firmness fence,” each convinced that the other is doing it
wrong. This leads to inconsistencies, mixed messages about rules, and the
undermining of each other’s authority. Such circumstances can breed
dishonesty, deceit and manipulation within children, some of the very
behaviors that proper limits are designed to discourage and prevent. Therefore,
it is particularly important that parents are united in their approach to this
issue. Here are some suggestions for finding the elusive middle ground:
” Bear in mind that upbringing plays a pivotal role in this clash of
philosophies. The limits and punishments handed down by our parents
creates a template for what we refer to as parents. Some of us defend our
parenting decisions with the statement, “I turned out okay,” as if this
indicates that our kids will be just as happy and well adjusted. To borrow a
phrase from the investing world, past results do not guarantee future
performance. Today’s complex culture has led to an entirely different array of
forces and frustrations that parents must help equip their kids to contend with.
Simply doing what was done to us risks overlooking many opportunities to
use limits, coaching, and consequences to build stronger character strengths in
our kids. One way to act upon this knowledge is to consider which past parenting
lessons are helpful in today’s world and which ones need discarding.
œ Take heed of your spouse’s opinions since to ignore them leads to troubling
results for your children. Children who are raised with two different sets of
limits and consequences have more difficulty adapting to the outside world.
Rather than internalizing rules that become self-governing, they seek out fulfillment
of their desires by deception, avoidance, and self-justification. This
underscores what’s at stake if parents don’t resolve their differences. If
you can’t totally agree with your spouse’s position consider what you “can
live with” as the next best choice. The benefits of unified rules and
consequences, even if you are somewhat unhappy with them, is preferred to the
arbitrariness of shifting standards and attempts to “make up” for the
perceived excesses of one’s spouse.
œ Remember that parenting often leads us directly to our hot spots. This is due
to the expectations and emotions that we wrap tightly around our children’s
behavior. When they act out inappropriately, we are at risk for losing control
over our reacting sides. This can be a major issue when couples don’t agree
about rules and discipline. One parent is responding emotionally to the
child’s misbehavior; the other parent attempts to shield the child from this
fall-out. The over-emotional parent is wise to consider where their triggers are
in order to prepare a more thoughtful response. The other parent would be wise
to use verbal diplomacy when discussing this loaded issue.
œ Consider what mental blinders you might bring into your parenting role. These
blinders get in the way of our seeing our child accurately or responding
empathically. Sometimes it’s due to behaviors in our child that remind us of
parts of ourselves, siblings, or parents that we have associated with negative
or hurtful memories. Sometimes the blinders are due to aspects in our spouse
which we find undesirable and find evidence of in our child. If this is the
case, it’s likely contributing to an overly harsh or lenient disciplinary
style. Try to have as open and honest a discussion with your spouse as you
possibly can, recognize where these blinders may be emanating from, and pledge
to find ways to shed them.
Dr. Steven Richfield is a child psychologist in Plymouth Meeting, PA. His column
appears monthly. He can be contacted at 610-238-4450 or email@example.com