Many parents ask me: “Am I a good parent?”; “Am I doing it right?” The answer is: “You’re doing the best you can with what you know at this time.” Parents often parent resembling how they were parented or go to the opposite end of the spectrum. Either of these choices will have outcomes with pros and cons. It’s often necessary and helpful to educate oneself and read parenting books or participate in programs that will give a person new tools to manage children. A program that I’ve used over the years in parenting workshops is the S.T.E.P. program (Systemic Training for Effective Parenting), created by Don Dinkmeyer, Sr., Don Dinkmeyer, Jr. and Gary McKay, psychologists.
I like the sensible foundation and practical suggestions that S.T.E.P. is based on. Dinkmeyer, et.al. identify the four goals of children’s misbehaviors: attention, power, revenge and inadequacy. Briefly, when a child is misbehaving for attention the parent will often feel annoyed. When the misbehavior is for power, the parent will feel caught in a power struggle and stuck. When the misbehavior is done for revenge, the parent will often feel hurt and angry; and, when the misbehavior’s goal is a display of inadequacy, the parent will feel helpless.
It is key, that when identifying the goals of misbehaviors parents tune in to their feelings and ask themselves what am I feeling right now? This will guide you as to what action you should take. The program gives clear step-by-step directions on how to proceed. In addition, I like that each chapter builds on the previous skills taught. Some of the skills I’ve taught parents are: empathic listening, encouragement, how to be consistent with consequences, logical and natural consequences and problem solving techniques.
Finally, from a trauma therapist perspective, another factor that plays a role in parenting is “limiting beliefs” that a person may have about themselves. Oftentimes, when life’s stressors occur, parents feel overwhelmed and turn to ineffective or harsh parenting techniques. If you find yourself “stuck” with negative “limiting beliefs,” and behaving in ways you don’t like, Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) can assist you in getting “unstuck”, changing your belief system and feeling more confident in your parenting style.
Learning and practicing parenting skills requires dedication, open-mindedness and most of all perseverance. I have seen many parents who make even small changes feel empowered and excited. Finally, I tell my parents, stay engaged, don’t expect perfection from yourself or from your child, celebrate the small victories and most of all, don’t give up!