Last year I went to a baby shower where everyone present was asked to write their one best piece of parenting advice on a piece of paper to give to the mama-to-be. There were about 20 women at the shower. 8 of the slips had the same advice: “Take Rose’s parenting class.”
Rose is something of a legend in our sleepy little town. In her early years in the trenches of motherhood, she found herself with 3 young, rambunctious boys and a rising sense of panic. In her reading, she came across Rudolf Dreikurs’ book “Children: The Challenge”, and found it so helpful that she enlisted other mama friends to read it with her. The word about Rose and Rudolf spread, and some thirty years later I had the tremendous privilege of sitting in Rose’s living room and reading Dreikurs with Rose as she added her annotations and advice to the discussion.
The basic premise of Rudolf and Rose’s parenting is this: children want to belong. They want to know they are significant and feel secure in their place in the family. However, sometimes children will pursue misguided behavioral paths to try and achieve a “place”, after all – negative attention is better than no attention. As such, much of Rose and Rudolf’s advice is aimed at cultivating parenting practices which instill a sense of belonging in our children: cooperation and togetherness are the name of the game.
Of course, to find out more you should read Dreikurs. Even though it is at times outdated (e.g. what to do when your children are climbing all over each other in the back seat of the car…. clearly in the days before mandatory safety belts) and even frustratingly 1960’s in its gender roles (describing “Mother” and “Father’s” roles in a way that would have given Gloria Steinem palpitations) – it is an encouraging, wise and deeply helpful book. Especially if you read it with Rose.
Sadly, there is no mail-order Rose to send to desperate parents, but thanks to the glories of the internet, here are just a few of the gems from Rose’s treasure-chest of advise on parenting which I scribbled down in my notebooks:
- Have fun together as a family
What people enjoy together brings them together. Make time for games and projects where ALL enjoy the fun. Cultivate a sense of belonging while laughing together, you’ll need it later on.
Talk WITH them, not TO them
Involve your kids in family decisions, whether they are small or big. “If you tell me, I forget. If you show me, I learn. If you involve me, then I understand.”
Don’t sweat the small stuff.
Rose’s rule of thumb was this: “If it doesn’t last more than 5 years, if it doesn’t cost more than 5 dollars, or if it doesn’t hurt more than 5 people… it’s not a big deal.”
Don’t do for a child what they can do themselves.
Wait for them, encourage them, but let them do it.
Take time for training
Set aside time to teach your children skills: how to clear their plates, how to fold a shirt. This need does not disappear with time: in adolescent years, take time to teach them how to drive, have conversations with adults, how to face awkwardness (Rose’s suggested line, which I wrote down in toto for future reference was this: “Sometimes you’ll make mistakes in public places or not know what to do and you’ll feel awkward or embarassed, but that’s okay, and it will pass.” Simple, yet SOLID GOLD, people!)
A misbehaving child is a discouraged child
Our kids often use wrong means (misbehavior) to try and achieve good goals (a sense of belonging). If they are discouraged about who they are or insecure about their place in the family, often that means they will ramp up the only “effective” behavior they know (effective in that it gets their parents’ attention). Rose and Rudolf have much to say on this topic, but they call for compassion on “misbehaving” kids, as well as combining it with a few ace parenting tricks, one of which is…
Encourage, encourage, encourage your children.
Whereas praise refers to general statements about a person (“you’re so smart”), encouragement gives specific statements about a deed (“I see you worked hard at putting ALL the colors into that painting of a rainbow!”) Tell them you love them, you SEE them, you notice their effort and their progress
Skimming through my notes on Driekurs makes me realize how much I need a refresher course with Rose. Her kids are testimony that it is possible to raise teens who have a strong sense of belonging. I want a home like that too. Encourage, encourage, encourage, so that our children will know they belong, belong, belong. Lord, have mercy.
This is post 28 of 31 Days of Belonging. For a complete list of posts, click here.