Essential Parent-Theses

Words: Dr Rajgopal NIDAMBOOR

So you’d often thought that good parenting wasn’t a magic potion, DIY tool-kit, or how-to: something that could be obtained as an OTC item?  You are right.  Good parenting, in real terms, is not only a matter of practicality, common sense, sensitivity, and a few acquired skills, but also the modicum of collective wisdom: something which cannot be evolved by way of college education, library tomes, computer programmes, coaching, and so on.  Good parenting has more to it than meets the eye: of how to put it all together by sharing the secrets of other parents. This is also a good idea, because one cannot always go to the right source for unravelling any given facet of good parenting skills every time, wherever you are, or wherever you turn.

This is, no less, the raison d’être of a perceptively insightful book, How Good Parents Raise Great Kids, by Dr Alan Davidson, PhD, and Robert Davidson. It presents the collective wisdom of parents, in their own words.  This quite unique. What’s more, it takes an in-depth look at the lives of families whose kids are doing well. It opens new channels of dealing with parent-kid conflicts, and it also helps to resolve the arguments.

Good Parenting Made Simple

The book not only explains, but also relates and inspires why good parents don’t try to win every fight, why they are not perfect, why they admit to their mistakes, why they feel awkward while talking about sex, and why good parents prepare for trouble beforehand.  The tome goes right to the source — into the homes and lives of charmingly well-adjusted, self-confident kids, who were hand-picked by high school teachers across the US. Agreed that the concept is Western, but the implications are universal.  Because, kids, wherever they are, are kids; of what works, what doesn’t, when it comes to raising children, be it the East, or the West.

How Good… which is as relevant today as it was when first published, is designed to help children not only to survive in the Darwinian sense, but also thrive in our fast-paced, complex community, or society. For parents, it shows the way: that despite the enormous distractions kids face today, they can grow up happily, and do exceptionally well in life. The book, in more ways than one, is a pioneering effort. It is positive. Even innovative. And, it does not look at the neuroses, compulsions, phobias, and adjustment problems, and how to solve them.  Its emphasis is keyed to healthy cases and models — of intelligent solutions to parenting puzzles.

The book provides, no less, an intimate glimpse into the homes of all types of families, upper-class, lower-income, and single-parent. It contends that six key elements were indispensable to quality child-rearing: communication, encouraging intellectual development, discipline, self-esteem, values, and socialisation. Aver the Davidsons — after 18 months of tête-à-tête with parents of extremely well-adjusted, well-rounded, and happy children: “Inner contentment, self-reliance, and competence were the hallmarks of these kids whose perceptive parents focused less on cognitive milestones like first words, growth charts, or straight-A report cards, and more on helping them explore creativity, develop individuality, and realise their potential.’’

“The best approach to your parenting expedition,” say the Davidsons, “is to see the years ahead as miles on the trail. Static occurs when children’s needs develop faster than their parents’ communication skills.” The authors, who are dedicated professionals, of this parental road-map, are convinced that good communication skills come in handy if you want to raise great kids. Their directive: “Listening. Talking. Not talking. Being there when necessary. Not being there when appropriate. Respecting children’s right to privacy and their right to not communicate.”

Closing The Communication Gap

What about communication gap, one of the biggest problems today’s parents and kids face?  Simple.  Close the communication gap. How? Over to one of the good parents from the book: “When this happens to other parents — and, it will — they’ve got to begin closing the communication gap by making the first overture. Show a willingness to listen. Listen to new ideas, to new ways of looking at kids’ problems, even to silence. When people are considerate to listen to your point of view, you’re more willing to listen to theirs.’’

“Contributing to the communication gap,” underline the Davidsons, “is the generation gap,” They add: “If you have ever tried arguing the merits of Beethoven or even The Beatles over the latest rap, or heavy group, you know how wide the gap can be. Sure, every generation believes the one before it was square and out of touch, but today’s teenagers seem to be more inventive to date.” Kids, after all, learn their behaviours by watching their parents. So, the authors suggest: “Be sure your communication with everyone is calm and considerate.”

Good parents, according to the Davidsons, lay great emphasis on body language, posture, attention, keeping an open mind, listening quietly, participation, not pontification. Wait for a calm feedback with a feeling of caring and camaraderie. It’s a mode that can help parents use a brace of other communication techniques: compromise and collaboration. Not so easy, though. Because, children, howsoever smart they are, do not always think — rather, they respond, thanks to our educational system, where subjects aren’t taught with adequate emphasis on understanding the process, but just the answers.

Effective Parenting

Good parents are aware of creative and critical thinking. And, they have helped their children tap their hidden mental powers. In short, they have taught them to be junior Einsteins, Edisons, Martina Hingis, among others, and look at the world in new, innovative, also critical ways. “Effective parents relax the controls and preconceived notions of what is right and wrong. They encourage the unusual, value originality and spontaneity, and keep the creative spirit alive.”

Here’s another gem, courtesy of a good parent: “Children express themselves through dancing, singing, drawing, musical instruments — activities that allow them to freely exercise the vast regions of their imagination. The joy of creativity comes from producing something unique, something original without stipulations, or regulations. Kids do better in this department without guidance and directions, and certainly without censorship.  More teachers ought to pursue such subjects for the mere enjoyment of them and nothing else.”

The book places great emphasis on the need for developing intelligence in kids too — by way of reading, learning the fundamentals through observation, comparison, categorisation, sorting, recall, questioning, evaluation, inferences, and intelligent conclusions. The value of linguistic intelligence and logic-mathematical skills, not to speak of setting goals to oneself is well emphasised. Discipline, sans spanking, is also focused upon, with case-examples, as much as common parental foibles: extreme punishment and over-protection. Most importantly, self-esteem, familial, social and cultural values, the good and bad of money, and a host of other related issues also come under its compass. So also the need to love and be loved.

A useful resource, also a fount of wit, wisdom, and understanding, How Good… has the wherewithal not only to actualise our children’s potential, and purpose in life, but also ‘draft’ the much-needed pragmatic approach to character building and effective change.

How Good Parents Raise Great Kids
Dr Alan Davidson & Robert Davidson
Grand Central Publishing
pp: 336
Price: $5.99

Dr RAJGOPAL NIDAMBOOR, PhD, is a wellness physician-writer-editor, independent researcher, critic, columnist, author and publisher. His published work includes hundreds of newspaper, magazine, web articles, essays, meditations, columns, and critiques on a host of subjects, eight books on natural health, two coffee table tomes and an encyclopaedic treatise on Indian philosophy. He is Chief Wellness Officer, Docco360 — a mobile health application/platform connecting patients with Ayurveda, homeopathic and Unani physicians, and nutrition therapists, among others, from the comfort of their home — and, Editor-in-Chief, ThinkWellness360. 

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