Friday, March 25, 2011

Parenting Through Affirmation

Our small group at church is doing a study on Parenting The Early Years by Drs. Les & Leslie Parrott. Our first week we talked about 10 character traits for parents to have to be affective parents:

  1. Affirming
  2. Patient
  3. Celebratory
  4. Visionary
  5. Prayerful
  6. Authentic
  7. Connected
  8. Attentive
  9. Comforting
  10. Insightful

This is not to say that any of us parents will ever have all 10 of these character traits, and even that what each of us mother and father brings to the table in character traits will equal all 10, but it is a list to think about, and ask ourselves what each of us do offer. It is these 10 traits that we will be looking at through the course of our study.

This last week we looked at Affirming. “Somebody said the job of a parent is to fill a kid’s bucket full of so much self-esteem and affirmation and self respect that the world can’t poke enough holes in that bucket to drain it.” Les Parrott

The first question after this to ponder on was: But won’t too much affirmation make a kid too proud? Isn’t it better to keep challenging children, to prepare them for the real world?

I know for Michael and I we have always tried to be very affirming with Selena. We want her to know that she is special, God made her the way she is, He loves her for who He made her to be, we love her for the way that He made her, and we want her to love herself for this same reason. We also feel very strongly that there has to be a balance in this affirmation. There needs to be correction as well as consequences. We like to think that Selena isn’t afraid to tell us when she has been in trouble while staying with a babysitter and what she did that was wrong. We want to give her affirmation for her honesty, but we also want her to know what she did do to get in trouble was wrong, and that we expect she will not do these things again.

The other trait discussed was being attentive. “An attentive parent hears what a child doesn’t say…”

This is probably the hardest thing as a parent, as our child is acting out and we are trying to figure out why, and they just don’t seem to know how to put it into words so that we will understand. I know we face this a lot with Selena, especially with issues concerning her parents. Now we also have the baby brother in the mix, and I know there are so many questions in Selena’s mind as to why he is with mom and she is not or why he isn’t here with us? We see it in her behavior, and have really seen this a lot this week. We know she is having a hard time communicating her feelings, thoughts, and questions about this situation. We try so hard to not only take extra time when answering what questions she does have to touch on things that maybe she doesn’t have the words for. We have also had to have a talk with Mom, about calling and not taking the time to talk to her daughter.

For me this type of parenting truly isn’t that new of an idea, I worked very hard with my children in this manner. My daughter may have a hard time now and then to express to me what is on her mind, but I always know that both my children, even now that they are adults are not afraid to talk to me about things, they both know I will not approve of. It was pointed out in the study that this type of parenting can prepare a child to come to you as the parent with most anything instead of seeking the advice of peers. No child will never want to know what their peers think, but we as parents can sure pray and hope that they will come to us for as sound of advice as we can give them.

I know this is really only a summarized version of what our study was about, but I hope I have provided enough information for you, my readers to ponder and reflect upon. My question: How important do you feel affirmation is for building up your child against the world that lays before them? Do you think we can give too much affirmation, if so how do you think this can be balanced?

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  1. You gave a lot to think about. I think I struggle most with trait #2 on this list. Affirmation made me pause and ponder the same question you pondered in your study. I think it depends on what self-esteem is based on. I don't think that it's good to tell the child that she is good enough no matter what she does or whether she does anything at all. I think we should believe in our children' abilities, talk about their good qualities, but also challenge them to go beyond and correct them when they are not at their best. I truly believe that too much self-love and self-esteem often creates selfish and maladjusted adults that cannot face the knocks of life successfully.

  2. I'll agree with Natalie, it depends on what the affirmation and self esteem is based on.

    I've certainly seen eough studies of my generation that was raised on self esteem to see that self esteem isn't the be all end all. But it is important.

    So, to answer your question before I start talking myself in circles, yes you can give too much affirmation if it isn't balanced with discipline and rules.

  3. I completely agree with Natalie and Ticia. As with all other areas of life, balance is so important in parenting. I have taught eighth grade and now have an eighth grader and the one thing that drives me crazy is that parents raise their children to think they are entitled to everything and this often leads to disrespectful brats. I want my children to know that they have to work for things in life, nothing is handed to you, and to have respect for elders and authority figures.

  4. “Somebody said the job of a parent is to fill a kid’s bucket full of so much self-esteem and affirmation and self respect that the world can’t poke enough holes in that bucket to drain it.” Les Parrott

    I really like this quote. I have a slightly different perspective than others. Perhaps, it's because I just read over my diaries from middle and high school. I believe it's important to have affirming parents with whom the child can turn to. This is not easy when parents are judgmental or authoritarian, even if it's well meaning and comes from the right place. Often, kids are fearful of punishment or judgment that they prefer to hide and not tell. I cannot stress the importance of having open communication.

    As for affirmination and self-esteem for your child, I see it more as developing a strong sense of self and self-worth. This is different from a sense of entitlement and being spoiled. Having a strong sense of self-worth means you are less likely to tolerate abusive language or behavior from others. It also means you can stand up for yourself and know that what you have to say is important and needs to be heard. I believe this is also important in standing up for others as well. Kids with low self-esteem will follow what others say and not question if it's good for them. Having high self-esteem does not mean you believe you are better than others. It's knowing who you are and that you are valued. I don't think you can give too much LOVE. I do believe we can give our kids too many THINGS. For me, unconditional love from God and my grandmother gave me strength to carry me through the tough times.

    I also believe that parents need to have a stronger role than peers. Too often kids look towards each other for answers but they are just as confused or lost. A good mentor who can relate on their level or at least meet them half way would be ideal. Connection, communication, problem-solving together, praying together, etc. are all good things.

    Thanks for the thought-provoking and sensitive look on the role of parents. It's wonderful that you are able to proactively help Selena through some of her questions and unresolved issues instead of simply seeing her behavior and judging only based on it. I've often seen kids who act out or misbehave and then discover that there are real issues that they are dealing with at home that are more than any child needs to handle at such a young age.

  5. I think the sense of entitlement needs to be addressed. I've subbed in some of the wealthier neighborhoods and was surprised at how disrespectful some of the children were (different form acting out due to problems at home). There's definitely a disparity in parenting when it comes to SES. Lower SES neighborhoods tend to focus on obedience to authority and the higher SES tends to focus on getting what they want. Parents support this as they are willing to do anything to get their kids in the right class, right school, right everything.

  6. Hmmm...that is a lot to think about, and a lot to reach for. True affirmation takes a lot of work - really knowing, and appreciating a child, even when their talents, or path are different than what we envision for them - and not just the empty, "everybody's great" type praise, that kids get so much of. They really know the difference.

  7. Leah - How true! Recently, K said she wanted to be a conductor and daddy said,"Then you'll have to read music." When K clarified that she wanted to drive trains, you had to see the look on daddy's face. Sometimes, you can see people's approval or disapproval in just a look! So, when we went to the SF Symphony, K said,"This is the kind of conductor daddy wanted me to be?!" Talk about expectations! Personally, I think it would be more fun driving a train across America or through Europe. ;)