Have You Heard Of Dr. Spock?

Or, Parenting Tips For The Ages

Family Counseling Insights brought to you by California Psychotherapeutic Resources, Inc.

It’s been 75 years since Dr. Benjamin Spock published The Common Sense Book of Baby and Childcare. Essentially, Dr. Spock broke from the tradition that said children required discipline, schedules and little affection. That advice struck a chord with the parents of the baby boom generation and the book sold more than 50 million copies.

A happy family

The core of Dr. Spock’s advice was simply that good parents should try to carefully attend to what a child required at each stage of development. Hundreds and perhaps thousands of parenting books since then have in large part built on this fundamental outlook. An article in KidsHealth makes the point, offering “Nine Step to More Effective Parenting” that fall right in line with Dr. Spock’s philosophy. The nine steps are pretty good advice and, if you’re a parent, might inspire some self-reflection about your own parenting style.  

The Nine Steps are:

Boost Your Child’s Self Esteem: “Kids start developing their sense of self as babies when they see themselves through their parents’ eyes. Your tone of voice, your body language, and your every expression are absorbed by your kids… Choose your words carefully and be compassionate. Let your kids know that everyone makes mistakes and that you still love them, even when you don’t love their behavior.”

Catch Kids Being Good: “Make a point of finding something to praise every day. Be generous with rewards — your love, hugs, and compliments can work wonders and are often reward enough. Soon you will find you are ‘growing’ more of the behavior you would like to see.”

Set Limits and Be Consistent With Your Discipline: “Establishing house rules helps kids understand your expectations and develop self-control. Some rules might include: no TV  until homework is done, and no hitting, name-calling, or hurtful teasing allowed.”

Make Time for Your Kids: “Kids who aren’t getting the attention they want from their parents often act out or misbehave because they’re sure to be noticed that way… Because there are fewer windows of opportunity for parents and teens to get together, parents should do their best to be available when their teen does express a desire to talk or participate in family activities.”

Be A Good Role Model: “Young kids learn a lot about how to act by watching their parents. The younger they are, the more cues they take from you. Before you lash out or blow your top in front of your child, think about this: Is that how you want your child to behave when angry?”

Make Communication a Priority: “ If we don’t take time to explain, kids will begin to wonder about our values and motives and whether they have any basis. Parents who reason with their kids allow them to understand and learn in a nonjudgmental way.”

Be Flexible and Willing to Adjust Your Parenting Style: “Kids’ environments have an effect on their behavior, so you might be able to change that behavior by changing the environment. If you find yourself constantly saying ‘no’ to your 2-year-old, look for ways to alter your surroundings so that fewer things are off-limits. This will cause less frustration for both of you.”

Show That Your Love Is Unconditional: “Strive to nurture and encourage, even when disciplining your kids. Make sure they know that although you want and expect better next time, your love is there no matter what.”

Know Your Own Needs and Limitations as a Parent: “Recognize your abilities — ‘I am loving and dedicated.’ Vow to work on your weaknesses — ‘I need to be more consistent with discipline.’ Try to have realistic expectations for yourself, your spouse, and your kids. You don’t have to have all the answers — be forgiving of yourself.”

A lot has changed in the last 75 years — and a lot hasn’t. Parenting was hard then and it’s hard now. For a more in-depth discussion of these parenting tips, see the full KidsHealth article here.