Some of us Modern Family Moms and Modern Family Dads grew up in positive family environments that were loving, supportive, and effective in raising good adults.
Our parents had MORALS, PASSIONS, AND EXPECTATIONS and they communicated these morals, passions, and expectations to us through heart-to-heart talks, consequences/punishments, and by being good examples of great human beings themselves (which child psychologists call behavior modeling).
Many of us believe that these classic parenting techniques greatly contributed to our own success in becoming happy and functioning adults and we want to honor the parenting techniques of our parents by integrating them into our own parenting playbook.
On the flip side of the coin, some of us Modern Family Moms and Modern Family Dads grew up in households that were abusive or unsupportive (and I will address how to parent effectively despite being raised by unsupportive parents).
Many of us also can identify several (or many, depending on the family situation) of our parents’ parenting skills that we tend not to use. Some reasons for not adopting some of our parents’ techniques include:
- They were not effective in teaching what they were supposed to teach us
- They brought up uncomfortable emotions for us that we feel we didn’t deserve
- They don’t work because times have changed (i.e. safety, technology, etc.).
Let’s start with the first point – some of our parents’ techniques were not effective in teaching us what they were intended to teach us. For example, the old rule of finishing all the food on one’s plate (while intended to teach gratitude for the food provided and not wasting that food) has not been adopted in some households because some of us feel that it also teaches us to overeat (we learn to ignore the signals that our bodies give off that tell us when we are full). However, one way of honoring the intention behind the empty-plate rule (being grateful for what parents have provided and not wasting family resources) is by TWEAKING IT TO FIT OUR MODERN UNDERSTANDING of nutrition and eating.
In an effort to modernize this rule, some families I know have their kids thank the parent who cooked the food for the meal (showing gratitude) and allow the kids to take only the portion of food they feel they can eat. Of course, an exception would be with vegetables – there is a minimum amount of vegetables that the kids are expected to consume, but they are welcome to have more if they want. This technique works for some Modern Families.
Another reason that some Modern Families ignore or tweak a traditional parenting technique is because of the negative emotions we experienced when this technique was used. This seems like I am telling you that our kids should never experience negative emotions (sad, frustrated, angry, etc.), but I am ADAMANTLY NOT saying your kids should ALWAYS be happy. A healthy dose of disappointment, sadness, frustration, etc. is important for our kids to experience so that they learn how to deal with these emotions in a healthy way. What I am saying is that if we look back to our childhoods, there might be times where our parents instituted a punishment/consequence that went too far – it DRILLED IN the intended lesson while causing severe negative emotions that did not fit the situation.
For example, one parenting guideline of my parents that I made a point not to repeat with my own children was their OVER-EMPHASIS on making sure my sister and I were ALWAYS treated the same. This sounds good on paper, right? If Christmas gifts were exactly the same, compliments were the same, and privileges were the same then that guaranteed no hurt feelings, right? Wrong! The down side of this meant that when one of us won an award at school, got a good grade on a test, or had something good happen to us then we rarely got a compliment because our parents didn’t want to hurt the other sister’s feelings!
As a consequence, I make sure that my kids know that I love them and appreciate them as INDIVIDUALS – I compliment my son on his unique wonderfulness when appropriate and I make sure my daughter knows what I really find great about her on a regular basis. The gifts I buy for them are usually an expression of my acknowledgement of their individuality. This also teaches them how to handle when their sibling gets a compliment and that they don’t have to be exactly like everyone else around them.
The take-home message here is that if there was a parenting technique that your parents used and it made you feel bad when it shouldn’t have, then it usually means the intention was appropriate, but the execution of the rule was a bit too much. You have an opportunity to re-examine this technique and to fine-tune it to meet your children’s needs!
The last point I want to make in this article regarding merging traditional parenting techniques with modern ones, is that times have changed. The Greek philosopher Heraclitus taught us that the only constant is change; therefore, AS MUCH AS WE MIGHT WANT TO RE-CREATE THE CHILDHOOD WE EXPERIENCED FOR OUR CHILDREN, IT IS JUST IMPOSSIBLE! The only thing that we can do to encourage these classic experiences is to acknowledge that changes occur, identify what those changes are, and then to effectively deal with them.
A great illustration here is the change in technology. I have had countless discussions with parents of my teenage clients regarding whether or not to allow their kids to use social media, ipods, cell phones, etc. I have seen parents deal with this situation by banning all electronics (except maybe the computer for homework). I have also seen the other extreme where parents “give up” and stop monitoring their child’s electronics use altogether!
What is the answer? It is an individual answer for every family – based upon that individual family’s morals, passions, and standards – but usually, the answer is somewhere in the middle. First, acknowledge that electronics (social media, cell phones, etc.) are part of modern life and that our kids will grow up to be adults using these conveniences. Next, identify what you are comfortable with in regard to their use. Establish guidelines (i.e. time limits, boundaries, consequences if boundary violations occur) that you are proud of and ones that you are prepared to enforce. Finally, communicate these standards to you kids in a way that teaches them that we will be enforce these guidelines because we care about the adults that they will be someday. It is always important that we relate what we are doing now to how this will affect our kids (for the better) in their future,
To sum up the message in this article, I am suggesting that in order to be the best MODERN FAMILY MOM and the best MODERN FAMILY DAD you can be is to merge classic and modern parenting techniques. Take what you like from your experience with your parents and modify those techniques to fit your individual family.
Now I want to hear from you! Tell me what classic parenting skills you strive to maintain in your household. Have you tweaked them to fit your modern parenting? What has worked? What hasn’t? Tell me about your experience in the comment section below.