Summertime Parenting: Building Intentionality
May is a month of commencement, celebrations of students’ progress and their respective classes. It’s a time of anticipation of the next the chapter and a time for goodbyes to what is, holding fast to what growth has occurred in the preceding months. Each year, parents have the joy of seeing their children grow in skill, pathways and agency.
It can also be a time to reflect on where we have had less success than hoped and a time to step back from the laser focus of work completion just to obtain specific grades. A predictive protective factor for success in school is support from home. Youth experience more support when strong bonds exist in the parent/child relationship.
In my work as a child and family therapist, I heard all too many parents share that as children grow up, they also grow apart from their parents. The parents were often confused about how to maintain strong family ties.
The Frameworks Institute has noted that most of the general public believes that “parenting comes naturally.” But, while most parents desire to have close relationships with their children, they need help to be intentional parents. Life can be complex, and negative life experiences can create deep wounds and damage that no one anticipated.
How do we look ahead and consider needs? How do we help our children thrive in a world with many influences that concern us?
Last summer I had the opportunity to hear Dr. Jane Nelson, the founder of Positive Discipline, speak at the annual conference of the same name. Dr. Nelson, an octogenarian, has a worldwide following; folks from as far away as Japan and Europe shared in the audience with me at Butler University as we focused on developing the craft of Positive Discipline.
The approach involves taking leadership, encouraging personal responsibility and thinking about the long-term bonds of the family. The 5 prongs include:
- Being both kind and firm
- Paying attention to your children’s needs for belonging and significance. Children want to make contributions, and we need to help them find ways to be a part of things.
- The method works long-term and is different from punishment that works for now, but can add to tensions and draw battle lines.
- Teaching valuable social skills such as problem-solving and decision making
- Helping Children develop a sense of capability.
Positive Discipline approaches encourage active engagement, regular family meetings for building communication and personal voice and having fun together. Conducting family meetings involves a routinely-set-aside time to share and celebrate family accomplishments, share in household responsibilities and listen to one another’s needs. It provides a good time to bring up things that are concerning and a time to conduct planning.
Family meetings are easy to begin during the summer when the responsibilities of school are less pressing. Summer also marks a good time to read about, think about and improve your relational bonds with your children. Two books that can help build family relationships include Dr. Gary Chapman’s “The Five Love Languages for Children” or “The Five Love Languages for Teens.” (The five love languages include acts of service, physical touch, words of affirmation, quality time and gift giving. These intuitive languages are simple ways to consider what helps your child feel loved and valued.)
“How full is your bucket for Kids,’ from Tom Rath, author of ‘Strengthsfinder.” This book helps parents and kids to look for ways to fill up the bucket every day. We all have a bucket of ourselves that needs filling. When it is empty, we are likely to feel awful. When it’s full, we are more productive and positive. What a great book to read together with your kids and look for ways to “fill up the bucket” every day.
Whatever your course of action, take advantage of the season to learn and grow as parents and families.
Davi Stein-Kiley is Vice President of Social Work & Programs for Youth First.