Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Let’s Start a Family…Not!

by Dr. Dathan Paterno

Today is Pet Peeve Day. In case you didn’t know, the second week of June is Pet Peeve Week. I just made it so. 

So one of my biggest pet peeves is when parents say “We’re going to start a family” when referring to their decision to have children. Umm, news flash: if you are married and deciding to have children, you already are a family. This is an important distinction to make. It isn’t just semantics; it has enormous implications for how you will parent and how your marriage will survive parenthood.

A new family is formed when a man and woman marry (I’m not going to get into same-sex marriage here), whether or not the wife takes her husband’s name, vice-versa, or neither spouse changes names. The wedding pronounces the new family’s primary members and officials: Husband and Wife, Mom and Dad, Chief Executive Officer and Chief Operating Officer, President and Vice-President, King and Queen, co-consuls, Czar and Czarina, or whatever other titles make sense to you. The point is that you are family before you have children. 

If you conceive—pun intended—of your family as beginning when your first child arrives, you make the child the primary focus of your family. It is as if your family simply could not exist or survive without that child. This threatens your family’s hierarchy. Instead of a healthier parent-first hierarchy, your family will descend into child-first thinking. Children do not need to be first. They need to know that they have entered an already existing system, with firmly established rules, boundaries, expectations, and relationships. In short, children need to know that their place in the family is of equal value, worth, and love, but that the parents hold the positions of authority.

So instead of saying, “We’re starting a family”, say “We’re ready to expand our family!” or “We’re going to start having children”. Or if you are feeling a bit cheeky, “It’s time we added to our workforce!”

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Top Ten Behaviors that Parents in Charge Never Tolerate

by Dr. Dathan Paterno

Parents in Charge is the term I use for those parents who are in control of their families without being too controlling. Of course, Parents in Charge do not have perfect children. Their children can be ridiculous and foolish just as any other children can. However, Parents in Charge do not tolerate such behavior. They expect their children to exhibit superb behavior and reinforce them when they behave well. When their cherubs choose to misbehave, they enforce consequences that make them wish they had behaved better.

The following is a list of behaviors I see many parents tolerating that simply should not be.

1. Parents in Charge do not allow their children to order them in any way: not about meals, not about wheels, not about stations, not about vacations. They will not boss them here or there; they will not boss them anywhere!

2. Children who have Parents in Charge do not Answer Shop (e.g., appeal to Dad when Mom has said “no”), because they know this will not be tolerated.

3. Parents in Charge do not tolerate eye-rolling, arm-folding, stomping, door-slamming, or any looks that suggest they are from another planet, especially when establishing limits or bestowing one of their many invaluable pearls of wisdom.

4. Parents in Charge do not tolerate children whispering “whatever” or speaking anything under their breath to or about them.

5. Parents in Charge do not sustain their child’s whining, nagging, or even adorable begging in order to get things that can be gotten with “Please, may I…” Parents in Charge can spot and dodge even the best brown-nosing maneuvers.

6. Insulting a Parent in Charge never pays because Parents in Charge never tolerate their child calling them “retarded”, “lame”, or “backward” (even though all parents slip into one of these from time to time).

7. Parents in Charge do not suffer complaints of boredom. They respond to such complaints by saying, “Only boring people get bored. Interesting people find or create something to do. If you would like my guidance, I have a fantastic list of chores that could keep you occupied for hours. Would you…hey, where are you going?!”

8. In restaurants, Parents in Charge do not tolerate obnoxious behavior. If their child acts out, they take him outside or to the bathroom, establish the seriousness of the expectations, give him an attitude adjustment if necessary, and assure him that if he acts out again, he will be eating wheat bread and broccoli when he gets home. Parents in Charge follow through with this.

9. Parents in Charge never tolerate other children misbehaving in their home without consequence. Rather, a Parent in Charge asserts his sovereignty gently but firmly, confronting any misbehavior and removing the child from the home if necessary. Afterwards, the parent communicates very clearly to that child’s parents what occurred and which behaviors will not be tolerated in their home. Finally, the Parent in Charge extends an open invitation for the child to return to the home if the child can respect the family’s limits and boundaries.

10. Finally, Parents in Charge witness no positive behavior from their children without acknowledging, appreciating, praising, respecting, and expressing gratitude for it. Parents in Charge know their children crave their love, acceptance, attention, and approval and waste no opportunity to dole it out.