Families, communities, and nations are stronger when parents take marriage skills classes before marriage and parenting classes before having children. For my marriage and family studies degree, I am required to take several marriage and parenting classes. The classes are good after more than 50 years after marriage, but they could have helped a lot more in the early years. This semester I am taking a parenting skills class, and I hope to pass along my new knowledge to other parents.
The first lesson was about a family pyramid that shows the importance of doing first things first. The bottom layer of the pyramid is taking care of self. To do their best parenting, a parent needs enough sleep, proper nutrition, regular exercise, spiritual studies, and other ways to keep themselves healthy in body, mind, and spirit. The next level builds on the first - the relationship with the spouse. If we are in a good place, we are much more likely to meet the needs of our spouse.
The spousal relationship affects the relationship that each spouse has with each child. A good relationship between the parents is essential for the best relationship with the children. A good relationship with a child will affect how well the child will listen to what the parent says, so teaching is affected if the relationship is strained. The top of the pyramid is correction. If a parent must keep correcting a child, it should become apparent that the child has not been properly taught. The pyramid approach shows that each step depends on the step below it. If a parent gets to the point of needing to correct a child, they should start at the bottom of the pyramid and determine that all levels are as they should be. If they are not, make those corrections and do the teaching before correcting a child. By the time the parent works through the lower levels of the pyramid, they often discover that the need for correction no longer exists.
The second lesson was about the importance of understanding the child. Most parents recognize that a child moves into a different stage about the time that the parent feels comfortable with the current one. Wise parents study the upcoming stages and are prepared before the child moves into it. Wise parents also study the disposition and temperament of their child and adjust their parenting techniques for the child. Since each child is unique and what works with one child or in one stage often does not work with the next child or in the next stage, wise parents are constantly learning and changing in their role as a parent.
The third lesson was about guidance and discipline. The lesson focused on the idea that disciple and discipline come from the same root word. Therefore, discipline does not mean punishment. Discipline means to guide and teach. Parents must learn to give praise and to say “no.” Even though choices and consequences are part of parenting, but parents must learn to do both appropriately. A big part of this lesson was on controlling anger and eliminating physical and verbal abuse. Anger is a human response to certain stimuli. Since anger is an emotion and emotions are neither good or bad, we must recognize that it is what we do or say when we are angry that is important. It is okay for a parent to say, “I am angry because you ran across the street when I called you. That was a bad thing to do, and this is the consequence. You will not be able to walk around the block with me for the next week.” It is essential that the parent control his anger and never lash out at the child.
The fourth lesson was about nurturing. A big part of the lesson was about validating a child’s emotions and helping them to recognize and manage their emotion rather than getting angry. This technique is called “emotion coaching,” which helps a child to gain emotional intelligence. One interesting quote said that emotional intelligence may be more important than IQ.
The lesson for next week is about motivating children. Many parents use bribes to motivate their child to do something that is important to the parent even though bribery does not bring lasting change in the child. Parents may use bribery because they do not know what else to do. However, a parent can learn better ways to motivate if they take a parenting skills class.
Since the goal of most parents is to prepare their child to launch successfully into adulthood, it is helpful to learn the various skills that will help the parent in this task. Many people are blessed to grow up in families where the parents are great role models and set good examples of how to teach children properly. However, many other people grow up without seeing good parenting examples, or even knowing that what they see is not the best way to parent. I believe that a short parenting class in high school would helps thousands, if not millions, of young people become better parents. Better parenting skills would strengthen families, communities, and nations.