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Why take a parenting class?

Ask the Experts

July 28, 2011
Q. My mother tells me I am spoiling my-six-year-old. She has encouraged me to take a parenting class. I don't understand her concerns.

I know my daughter is a little high strung and I do try to keep her happy by, perhaps, giving in a little too much. I am able to provide for her very well and can afford to give her what she wants.

Do I need to take a parenting class?

I thought they are just for parents who have big problems.

A. Parents take a parenting class if they are having trouble with their children. Some examples include:

u They can't get them to eat their peas.

u Children are throwing tantrums.

u They can't get their children to do their homework.

u Somehow their teen has gotten in trouble at school.

You may be surprised to know these are all the wrong reasons to take a parenting class!

To get a clearer picture, think to the future. Parents can ask themselves two questions: What kind of a relationship do I want with my child 20 or 30 years down the road? What characteristics do I want my child to exhibit? Most parents will say they want a friendly, caring relationship and they want their children to be capable, kind and able to support themselves.

These are noble goals, but are not achieved without hard work, over time, on the part of parents.

Take the following true/false quiz to access your knowledge of what the experts say are "important" steps in parenting:

u It is important my child feel special.

u I need to do everything to make sure my child has a high self esteem.

u I need to give my child as many choices as possible so he learns to make good decisions.

u Rewards are an important way for me to motivate my child.

No. 1. While some experts feel it is important for a child to feel special, most agree it is more important for a child to learn all people are unique and he is not more special than anyone else.

He needs to learn to fit into a world where character and contributions are valued above being special.

No. 2. A "healthy" self esteem is what is important. An overly inflated or high self esteem can give a child an unrealistic vision of his abilities, an elevated confidence and a public presence that borders on arrogance.

No. 3. Too many choices confuse a child. Choices need to be provided based on age, ability and reasonableness. Giving a young child a choice between 10 toothbrushes doesn't make sense. Neither does it make sense to give a teenager the choice of curfew, alcohol consumption or to have sex at an early age.

No. 4. Stephen Glenn, one of the earliest experts, says if a child is over the age of seven, gold stars don't work. Motivation follows success. If a child has few opportunities to be successful, tangible rewards will not move the bar. Glenn suggests encouragement in the form of words, hugs and smiles.

Parenting is serious stuff. It is not about making a child do what we want; it's about raising capable, contributing people. It is about the long haul. These are the reasons parents need to take a parenting class.

Kathy Rager is executive director at Community Assessment Referral & Education and a parent educator. She can be reached at (586) 541-0033 or rager@careofmacomb.com.

The Family Center, a 501(c) (3) non-profit organization, serves as the community's hub for information, resources and referral for families and professionals.

To view more Ask The Experts articles, volunteer or contribute, visit familycenterweb.org. E-mail questions to info@familycenterweb.org.

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