Custodial Grandparents, Parenting Stress, and the Loss of Self

Dr. Jeongeun (Jel) Lee

This week and next, we welcome Dr. Jeongeun (Jel) Lee, a Human Sciences Extension and Outreach State Specialist who studies gerontology. She will share her research on custodial grandfamilies and the stress, loss, and gains of this responsibility. Below is an excerpted interview.

Dr. Lee, please share with us some general information about grandparents raising their grandchildren.

“Interest in custodial grandfamilies, defined as those where grandparents provide full time care without significant involvement by grandchildren’s biological parents, has soared over the past quarter century. Currently, there are more than 2.7 million custodial grand family households in the United States serving as primary caregivers for their grandchildren without the presence of the grandchild’s parents (US census, 2012); 63% are grandmothers and 35% are grandparents of color (Whitely, 2017). Parental substance abuse, mental illness, incarceration, and child abuse/neglect are the predominant reasons grandparents are raising custodial grandchildren.”

Why is grandparents raising grandchildren something that we should give special attention to?

“Managing the care of custodial grandchildren (CGC) often requires constant attention and extensive resources. Scholars who observed grandfamilies argue that raising grandchildren can provide both emotional, physical, and financial challenges, but also provides many rewards.”

What are some challenges grandparents face?

“Part of the challenges come from the perspective of retirement. Most grandparents are at the stage where they could enjoy retirement or have other life plans but must forgo these plans and readjust their roles as parents. Given that grandparents may have different parenting strategies from current parents, this lack of knowledge or skills may also create some conflicts between generations.”

Reaching out to grandparents that are parenting their grandchildren is an important topic for communities to consider. Their challenges are unique and need focused attention.

Next week, Dr. Lee will discuss what is gained from custodial grandfamilies as well as the practical implications.


Kreider, R. M., & Ellis, R. (2011). Living arrangements of children: 2009 (Current Population Reports, P70-126). Washington, DC: U. S. Census Bureau. Retrieved from http://www.census.gov/prod/2011pubs/p70-126.pdf

Whitley, D. M., & Fuller-Thomson, E. (2017). African–American solo grandparents raising grandchildren: A representative profile of their health status. Journal of community health42(2), 312-323.

Grandfamilies 2.0

A tall teenager wearing a suit and tie stands between his grandfather and grandmother, who are looking up at him with pride.

Isn’t that a great word? I’m still smiling typing it. I found it on the AARP website while I was looking for statistics. According to their site, 4.9 million children under the age of 18 live with their grandparents. Thus making them ‘grandfamilies’ . In fact to quote the site, “As increasing numbers of grandchildren rely on grandparents for the security of a home, their grandparents are taking on more of the responsibility for raising them in a tough economy — many with work challenges of their own. For these grandparents, raising another family wasn’t part of the plan. But they step up to the plate when their loved ones need them.”

Grandfamilies, yes that’s a great word for those that are stepping up to take care of family members in need. Celebrate their commitment to family. Share their stories of greatness here.

This blog was originally posted on Nov. 15, 2013: Grandfamilies

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

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Taking Time with the Grandkids 2.0

As we come into a season of spending time with family I thought I would dig into how to manage those times of ‘togetherness’. Grandparents and grandchildren can be both excited and nervous to spend time together during family functions. Children may exhibit behavior grandparents aren’t used to and that can be a confusing dilemma. Extension.org has a great article on understanding children’s behavior during these exciting family times.

Understanding Grandchildren’s Behaviors

A close up image shows a grandmother and grandfather sitting on a couch with their two granddaughters, smiling and laughing with one another.

Don’t get me wrong, spending time together with extended can be a fabulous time. In fact another article I read made me smile and think of how much I miss my own grandparents and the wonderful stories they told.

Stories about Granparents and Grandchildren

I am grateful for the many stories I heard, for grandparents that understood my nervous behaviors and for countless times spent with extended family members.

This blog was originally posted on Nov. 28, 2013: Taking Time with the Grandkids

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

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School Success and Grandparents 2.0

Grandparents have always been an important part of children’s lives. In fact,  many schools celebrated grandparents day on Sept 9th this year. In celebration of grandparents and in keeping with the theme of school, here are a few tips on how grandparents can help children this school year.

Grandfather and granddaughter are seated at the kitchen table while looking at homework. Grandfather is marking the workbook with a blue colored pencil while grandaughter observes.
  • Ask. But ask specifically!  Rather than ask how school is going, be specific. Ask children what book they are reading, what their favorite part of the school day is, or what they are studying in a particular subject.
  • Praise. Not for their accomplishments but for their EFFORT! Praise them for the long hours they put into their studies. For eating that breakfast that helps their brain or simply for sharing their activities with grandpa and grandma!
  • Participate.  Visit or volunteer for activities or functions. Be a guest speaker. Or even join the class online blogs and discussion boards.
  • Read. Share stories both written and verbal with your grandchild. Write them notes, letters or emails.
  • Plan. Encourage your grandchildren to think about their future plans and goals. Let your grandkids know you believe in them and the importance of trying their best.

“If you as a grandparent are raising your grandchildren, remember that it is important to know the child’s school and teachers. Get involved in your grandchildren’s homework, make school work a priority and stay in contact with the school.”

How have grandparents impacted your child’s school success?

This blog was originally posted on Sept. 20, 2012: School Success and Grandparents

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

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That’s What Grandparents Are For!

Burgers and mashed potatoes for lunch. Solving math problems on the back of an old envelope. Horse-back and combine rides.

Grandfather is standing waist high in lake and is throwing his grandson into the air.

When I think of growing up and going to my grandparents’ house, these are the things that come to mind. What memories do you have of time spent with your grandparents? If you have grandkids, what are your favorite activities to do with them? If I asked my parents, I’m sure they’d say time spent in Okoboji would be on the top of their list with my niece and nephews.

Over the next few weeks, we will share some throwback posts with great information on grand parenting! Following these, we will hear from Dr. Jeongeun (Jel) Lee on her current work in grandfamilies, or families where grandparents are the primary caregivers of their grandchildren.

Mackenzie DeJong

Mackenzie DeJong

Aunt of four unique kiddos. Passionate about figuring how small brains develop, process, and differ. Human Sciences Specialist, Family Life in western Iowa with a B.S. in Family and Consumer Sciences and Design minor.

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Don’t Bully, Be Friendly

Five students walk towards the stairs in front of their school building, all wearing backpacks. The two girls in the back are chatting with each other.

The first few weeks of school have come and gone, and you may have had conversations about the classmates your children have interacted with whether playing at recess, sharing the lunch table or perhaps in reading circles. As your children spend more time away from home, they will engage with children who may or may not have positive social skills. Last week we explored the issue of the school bully. The way in which some children respond to situations and exert their personal power over others in their quest to get their own way. The bully may use strategies that cause others to be fearful or even sad.

Learning to make friends is one of those life skills that all of us go through from time to time. Building relationships that last takes patience, understanding and a good amount of effort! As young people meet new friends, they are challenged to communicate positively and make a good first impression. Children interested in building relationships could consider the following friendship tips:

  • Be accepting – before trying to change your friends, try first accepting them for who they are
  • Listen to your friends
  • Ask your friends questions about themselves and don’t make the focus of the conversation just on you
  • Be honest with your friend
  • If you are working together on a project, be helpful and do your part
  • Greet new people first. Don’t wait for someone to greet you, take the initiative and greet others, making them feel welcome and accepted

As parents, in order to find out what is going on at school, may I suggest family conversations about how the school day progresses. Perhaps inquiring about the friendships that are blooming and how the children are feeling about classmates they interact with daily.  I am convinced that as a school community, we can promote a healthy culture of social behaviors where all children can thrive and develop to their fullest potential.

For more on managing stress and building relationships:

Barb Dunn Swanson

Barb Dunn Swanson

With two earned degrees from Iowa State University, Barb is a Human Sciences Specialist utilizing her experience working alongside communities to develop strong youth and families! With humor and compassion, she enjoys teaching, listening and learning to learn!

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When is it Bullying?

Four children are walking toward a yellow school bus.

As the school year begins, I am reminded that children may experience classmates who use bullying tactics to get what they want or need in the school setting. These situations may cause your child to feel upset and you might not even know why. According to information shared on StopBullying.gov there are two types of children who might be more likely to bully – those who feel socially isolated from their peers and those individuals who have social power.

In addition, children who bully may show signs of aggression or become easily frustrated. Perhaps they have a low sense of self-worth; or have difficulty following rules. A child’ size may not be a characteristic that is readily noticeable in all bullies. In fact all children, both boys and girls, can bully. If you or your child has never been impacted by bullying, it might be because you have coping or refusal skills that you have used to defend yourself.

Bullying is when a child is a target, over time, of repeated negative actions. A bully is:

  • A child who is aggressive for rewards or attention
  • A child who lacks empathy and has difficulty feeling compassion for other children
  • A child who does not feel guilty
  • A child who likes to be in charge, to be the “boss”
  • A child whose parent(s) or other guardian, often models aggression
  • A child who thinks in unrealistic ways – “I should always get what I want!”
  • A bully fully believes that the victim provoked the attack and deserved to be bullied       
  • A bully likes to win in all situations

Who are bullies? Both boys and girls bully others! Many times, boys will admit to being a bully and will use physical force to bully. Girls use verbal threats and intimidation to bully others.

What type of children are likely to be victims? A child who is:

  • Isolated and alone during most of the school days
  • Anxious, insecure and has trouble making friends
  • Is small or weak and unable to defend him/herself
  • Cries easily, gives in when bullied, unable to stick up for themselves
  • May have suffered past abuse at home

What can we do when we suspect a child is bullying another child?

We must communicate a ZERO tolerance policy for bullying, it just will not be tolerated at school, home, after school or in our community. We must talk to children about appropriate behaviors. And we must teach our children appropriate coping skills so that they can defend themselves when attacked. Children will stop bullying when it stops working. As adults we must have heart to heart discussions with our children about behaviors they exhibit and see exhibited in their classrooms. We can make a difference, one child at a time.

Source: https://www.stopbullying.gov/

Barb Dunn Swanson

Barb Dunn Swanson

With two earned degrees from Iowa State University, Barb is a Human Sciences Specialist utilizing her experience working alongside communities to develop strong youth and families! With humor and compassion, she enjoys teaching, listening and learning to learn!

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Ten Tips for Easing into a New School Setting

Cheryl Clark

Guest blogger and Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Human Sciences Specialist in Family Life, Cheryl Clark, shares insight about facing a new school setting.

The first day of school is fast approaching and many families may be facing a transition to a new school. Careful preparation for beginning at a new building or a new district can help minimize effects on children – academically, socially and emotionally.

I offer these tips to help children get used to their new setting.

Mid adult Hispanic father helps his elementary age son with his homeschool homework assignment. The little boy is writing on a pad as his father teaches him. They are sitting at the kitchen table.
  1. Attend school orientations or open houses. These events are planned to ease children into the new environment. Sometimes just seeing what the new school looks like relieves stress. This is a good opportunity to meet teachers and see classmates.
  2. Make friends early. Before school starts, if possible, sign up for sports teams or attend events where students can meet others who go to their school. Once the school year begins, encourage your child to join clubs or extracurricular activities.
  3. Model the behavior you want to see in your children. Introduce yourself to the new teacher or principal. Get involved in parent organizations and meet other parents. You can be a strong role model for how to venture into new spaces.
  4. Get school supplies based on lists furnished by the school. Selecting their own backpacks, lunchboxes or other supplies gives children a sense of control on the first day. Having the supplies specified by the school can ease jitters that might otherwise happen by not having the appropriate materials.
  5. Talk about it. Ask questions such as “What are you most excited about for the new school year?” and “What are you most worried about?” Reassure your child that other students have the same feelings. Keep in mind that how you frame the experience will impact your child, so emphasize the transition as a chance to learn new things and meet new people.
  6. Do a trial run. Take your child to the bus stop, drive to the building or practice the walking route ahead of the first day of school. Set your departure time and plan backwards, allowing plenty of time for a healthy breakfast.
  7. Rest up! In the days leading up to this transition, set routines so your child gets enough sleep. Not getting enough sleep can increase stress, make concentration difficult and just simply leave your child grumpy.
  8. Prepare the night before. Set out clothes. Pack lunches and backpacks. Any prep done the night before can reduce the chances for last-minute emergencies.
  9. Be patient. Children may be quieter, more challenging or just not themselves during this transition. Give them a little time and space to adjust to the new setting and let them know that home is a safe space for sharing their feelings.
  10. Keep tabs. If your child shows signs that the transition isn’t going well, talk to school personnel. Guidance counselors and school psychologists can give advice for difficult situations. Signs to watch for might include changes in eating and sleeping patterns, separation anxiety or refusing to go to school.

Sources:

Pathways.org – Tips to Help Your Child Transition to a New School

GreatSchools – 11 Tips for Adjusting to a New School

Words Have Power – Even on the Second Try

We’ve been talking an awful lot about WORDS lately on the blog. We looked at a post from a mom who wished she had used her words differently. We’ve agreed to stop using the words “good” and “bad” to define our parenting. Over the last little while, we’ve been taking a look at four words we can use to describe our parenting that research shows helps lead us toward positive outcomes – Effective, Consistent, Active, and Attentive.

With all of the focus on the words we use, it only feels right to bring it all back together by talking about communication. We saw across these different posts how the way we communicate with our children and ourselves impacts our relationships and well-being. That’s the research part of it, right? Research shows us over and over how important our words and communication are in parenting.

A mother crouches to her young daughter and smiles while her daughter holds a teddy bear.

Now it’s time for us to take a look at our reality. I’ll share a little of my reality recently. I had a sick toddler at home with me, AND I had some serious deadlines I needed to meet. I laid my toddler down for nap and was feeling hopeful for all that I could accomplish in those next two hours… except she woke up and was not going back to sleep. (Mom face palm). I was tired, stressed, and I was feeling like I had used up all of my patience and multi-tasking abilities in the morning. So as my sweet kiddo came down the stairs, my words were exasperated and short. We immediately started to spiral downward – with my daughter teary-eyed from being sick and overtired, and I was stressed and out of energy.

ENTER Stop. Breathe. Talk. … I didn’t get my words right on the first try. I spoke from a place of frustration first. After a few minutes of our downward spiral, I realized I was the one tanking the interaction. So I pulled my girl up in my lap, and after I stopped to catch a breath I talked… I told her I was tired too. I talked about how sleeping is important to starting to feel better when you are sick. And I told her I was sorry for not speaking kindly to her.

Research and reality tell us that our words do have power. My words and actions helped transform my interaction with my toddler from one of frustration to one of bonding. But I want to be transparent that it took me awhile to get there. I didn’t get it right on the first try.

I think that’s a really important message for us parents to share with each other as we think about the power of words – it’s about practice, not perfection. There is room for a little grace. There will still be days when you call yourself a “bad parent” without remembering you have other words that can be more helpful, and there will be moments where you don’t get the words right on the first try during a challenging moment with your child.

Challenging Moments are inevitable in parenting. Luckily we can use our words to help navigate them – even if we don’t always get it right on the first try.

Mackenzie Johnson

Mackenzie Johnson

Parent to a little one with her own quirks. Celebrator of the concept of raising kids “from scratch”. Learner and lover of the parent-child relationship. Translator of research with a dose of reality. Certified Family Life Educator.

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Can I Have Your Attention, Please?

A mother is sitting on the seat of a picnic table while her son sits on the tabletop drinking out of a bottle.
Mother sitting with child

We’ve been looking at different ways to reflect on our parenting over our last few posts, which can be found under the “Trends” tab, and today it continues with the final of our four words – ATTENTIVE parenting, which the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development defines as “paying attention to your child’s life and observing what goes on.”

Observing children is one of my very favorite things to do. I love watching young children’s smiling eyebrows and wiggly fingers or toes. It seems as if every word, thought, and idea is communicated through those pieces and parts of their small bodies. Teenagers also communicate with us through their rolling eyes, sagging shoulders, and tapping feet.

Paying attention – OOOF! So hard sometimes yet so very important. Admittedly, observing our own children can be difficult. However, if we really took a moment to quietly sit back, watch, and listen, we may be amazed at what our children are truly sharing with us. We may learn that they are too hot or cold and it’s making them squirm and fidget. We may find out that the sounds around them are overwhelming and they are becoming whiny or frustrated. We may discover that they are hungry or thirsty and their aggressive behavior is overshadowing their words.

By taking a moment and making it a priority to PAY ATTENTION to the small signs and signals our children are sharing (the eyes, the fingers, the shoulders), we could potentially begin to avoid some of those meltdowns. In the moment it may seem as if there was ‘no sign or signal,’ but if we had a video camera to go back and show us what we missed, we’d begin to think otherwise.

I’m not suggesting this is easy or will be the one and only magic answer -BUT – it may be another tool to add to your parenting tool box. Fill it with more tips, tricks and techniques as you continue on your parenting journey.

Pay Attention. I encourage you to find a time to just quietly observe the wonder that is your child. You just may find another cool parenting word (Effective, Consistent, Active, Attentive)…AMAZED!

Next week we will conclude this series and reflect on how words, indeed, have power!

Source: National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, https://www.nichd.nih.gov/sites/default/files/publications/pubs/documents/adventures_in_parenting_rev.pdf

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

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Being an Active Parent Can Look Differently for Each Family

We’ve been looking at different ways to reflect on our parenting over our last few posts, and today it continues with a look at active parenting, which the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development defines as “participating in your child’s life.”

Boy wearing a chef's hat measures flour while baking with his father in the kitchen.

This one is pretty broad, right? Just participating… that seems simple. And yet, how each of us might define participation looks so different! Some parents may say you are an active parent if you see your child every day. Others might say it’s being available for big moments like ball games and concerts. Some might say it’s more about being present for the little moments like dinner time and bed time.

Some of these definitions may leave out certain parents – like parents who work a night shift, so they may not be there for evening meal and bedtime, or parents who live separately and may not see their child every day. Does this mean those parents cannot be active in their child’s life? The answer – NO.

Every family is different. We each have kids with unique temperaments, our family structures may vary, and our schedules may look different. I think that’s part of the beauty of this broad definition of active parenting: participation can look differently for each parent and each family!

It ultimately comes down to the experience of your specific child. Does your child feel like you are available to them? Do they know that you want to be a part of their life? Do you have a plan for maintaining ongoing contact with them?

For some parents, this aspect of being an active parent may feel very obvious, while others have to give more thought and creativity to ensuring their participation in their children’s lives. Whichever spot you may fall into, know that your efforts to be active and available to your child are worthwhile and are an important aspect of developing your relationship! Keep up the good work!

Come back in our next post to explore the concept of being an attentive parent!

Source: National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, https://www.nichd.nih.gov/sites/default/files/publications/pubs/documents/adventures_in_parenting_rev.pdf

Mackenzie Johnson

Mackenzie Johnson

Parent to a little one with her own quirks. Celebrator of the concept of raising kids “from scratch”. Learner and lover of the parent-child relationship. Translator of research with a dose of reality. Certified Family Life Educator.

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“Do as I say, not as I do”… and Other Challenges in Consistency

In our last few posts we’ve been talking about tossing out the ideas of “good parents” and “bad parents” and replacing them with some new words — Effective, Consistent, Active, Attentive.

A father, mother, and son are sitting on a couch having a conversation.

It comes from a place of good intention, right? We want our kids to develop healthy eating habits, even if we maybe don’t always have great habits ourselves. Or maybe we are trying to teach our child not to interrupt, but then catch ourselves interrupting them when they talk to us. Ultimately, if we feel the urge to tell our child “Do as I say, not as I do,” it might be a sign that we are struggling to be consistent in our words and actions.

This week, let’s take a closer look at consistent parenting – which the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development defines as when “You follow similar principles or practices in your words and actions.” …Anyone else looking around the room all guilty when they read that definition, or is that just me?

Even if our inconsistencies are unintentional, we can see how our actions speak louder than our words when it comes to our kids. For example, we have been working on teaching our almost three-year-old to speak kindly to others (without the sass). It’s something we offer reminders and redo’s on everyday to practice. The other night at supper my daughter turned to my husband and said, “You are bothering me. Go away.” I went to help her rephrase it to something more like, “Dad, I need some space,” and noticed my husband giving me a look. Then he said, “you know she learned that from you, right?”.

GUILTY!

I often playfully tell my husband he is bothering me when he teases me or says something that’s realistic that I don’t want to hear. The fact that I was telling my toddler not to speak to others that way wasn’t getting very far when I was modeling that behavior myself! I had to take the moment to “fess up” that I do say that sometimes, and that it’s not a nice way to talk to Dad. I had to acknowledge to my child (and myself) that maybe I wasn’t being the most consistent in my words and actions on this particular front.

So I’m still working on being consistent in my words and actions across different fronts with my parenting. It is requiring some honesty and humility on my part, but I know consistency also helps me work toward being a more effective parent! It’s alright if we don’t get it perfect every time. We can all work together to strive to be more consistent in our words and actions with our children! Join us at Science of Parenting for the journey!

Come back next time to learn more about being an active parent, regardless of your family situation!

Source: National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, https://www.nichd.nih.gov/sites/default/files/publications/pubs/documents/adventures_in_parenting_rev.pdf

Mackenzie Johnson

Mackenzie Johnson

Parent to a little one with her own quirks. Celebrator of the concept of raising kids “from scratch”. Learner and lover of the parent-child relationship. Translator of research with a dose of reality. Certified Family Life Educator.

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“How Can I Get my Kid to Listen?” and other aspects of Effective Parenting

In our last few posts we’ve been talking about how we talk about ourselves and parents. We’ve agreed that using the terms “good” and “bad” isn’t very helpful, and in our last post we looked at four words we can use instead that are based on aspects of parenting that research has shown are important.

The first of those four words is EFFECTIVE parenting – which the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development defines as when “your words and actions influence your child the way you want them to”. This sounds pretty straightforward, right? The things I try to get my child to do is what they actually do. Wait…. maybe that only sounds easy to someone who has never raised a toddler or had a tough conversation with a hormonal teenager!

For most of us parents, we have had some great moments where we are really pleased with how effectively we got our child to listen and other times where we feel like throwing our hands in the air. At our house, my recent challenge was getting our toddler to stay in bed at night. We tried talking about why sleep is important, setting some expectations and consequences, and even planning a small reward system. NONE of it was working!

Mom is helping daughter with math homework, and they are high-fiving for a successful answer.

I found myself totally slipping into labeling myself as a “bad mom” because we could not get it figured out. However, calling myself a bad mom was not helping me find a solution – in fact all it really did was make me feel worse about an already challenging situation! So I had to change my frame of mind. Instead of saying “I’m bad at this,” I had to find a way to look at the problem that gave me a way to seek a solution. I realized this was really a challenge in being EFFECTIVE, because I was struggling to find a way to influence my child the way I was hoping to.

Sometimes the journey toward being an effective parent, or influencing your child the way you hope to, takes some thought and trial and error. Whether it’s trying to get a toddler to stay in bed, getting your teen to do their chores, making sure your child is kind to others, or whatever else,  considering if we are being effective (rather than good or bad) gives us a concrete way to find some solutions!

After a few more ideas, we did find a solution that works for our family and our child’s temperament. An important step in getting there for me was realizing that I wasn’t being a bad parent, but that I was working toward being more effective, and that in order to do so, I had to keep looking for an idea that worked for us.

Come back next time to explore the idea of consistent parenting!

Source: National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, https://www.nichd.nih.gov/sites/default/files/publications/pubs/documents/adventures_in_parenting_rev.pdf

Mackenzie Johnson

Mackenzie Johnson

Parent to a little one with her own quirks. Celebrator of the concept of raising kids “from scratch”. Learner and lover of the parent-child relationship. Translator of research with a dose of reality. Certified Family Life Educator.

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Let’s Stop Calling Ourselves “Good” or “Bad” Parents, Instead Let’s Say…

In our last post, “Am I a Good Parent?” we talked about how calling ourselves a “good parent” or a “bad parent” isn’t very helpful. For one thing, it doesn’t give us anything concrete to decide if we are “good” or “bad”. Plus, this way of thinking can create unnecessary guilt or shame related to our parenting. So today, we want to look at a trustworthy parenting model that gives us a different way to reflect on our parenting!

This model is pretty simple. With just four words, we can describe our parenting WITHOUT using “good” or “bad,” and have concrete ideas about what aspects of parenting are important! The four words are:

– Effective – Consistent – Active – Attentive –

Each of these introduce aspects of parenting that research has shown helps raise great kids! But what do they mean??

  • EFFECTIVE PARENTING: Your words and actions influence your child the way you want them to.
  • CONSISTENT PARENTING: You follow similar principles or practices in your words and actions.
  • ACTIVE PARENTING: You participate in your child’s life.
  • ATTENTIVE PARENTING: You pay attention to your child’s life and observe what goes on.
A mother and daughter laying on a bed on their stomachs looking at one another.

Next time you are tempted to label yourself as a “bad mom” or sarcastically call yourself “dad-of-the-year,” consider which of these aspects of parenting you are wishing you had done differently. Maybe you’ll discover that you actually ARE doing pretty well across these important aspects of parenting, and you can give yourself a pat on the back instead of a face palm.

Come back for our next series of posts where we will dive into each of these aspects of parenting a big deeper!

Source: National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, https://www.nichd.nih.gov/sites/default/files/publications/pubs/documents/adventures_in_parenting_rev.pdf

Mackenzie Johnson

Mackenzie Johnson

Parent to a little one with her own quirks. Celebrator of the concept of raising kids “from scratch”. Learner and lover of the parent-child relationship. Translator of research with a dose of reality. Certified Family Life Educator.

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“Am I a good parent?” – and other ways we reflect on our parenting

Two Children, a boy and a girl, fighting In Front Of their frustrated mother at home.

“Am I good parent?”…“I feel like a bad mom today.”… “Feeling like Dad-of-the-year over here (sarcastically).”

From morning to evening, parents make countless choices throughout the day.

  • The thought process about how to get your child to clean up their room without it becoming an ordeal.
  • The decision whether to “choose this battle” about your child’s clothing choice.
  • The debate about whether to let your child stay up a little later tonight for something fun or stick to the usual curfew or bedtime.
  • The split second reaction either trying to remain calm during a frustrating moment or losing your cool.

Everyday we are faced with an ongoing slew of split-second decisions about how we guide and even just talk to our children. Sometimes at the end of the day as we reflect back on our interactions with our child, we may be have feelings of guilt or defeat. We may look back at the day and think, “I was a bad parent today”.

Today, I want us to really reflect on the way we talk to ourselves about our parenting choices. We often use this idea of a “good” or “bad” parent as the standard, but I want to suggest that these terms really aren’t very helpful for us as parents. Here’s a few reasons:

  • Who or what defines what is a good or bad parent? This is often based on other’s opinions, our feelings, or the way we were raised – but all three of those things are not a helpful or reliable standard.
  • This feeling of good/bad can fluctuate greatly throughout even one day, or even within one moment. For example, maybe you feel like a good parent for making a healthy supper for your family while simultaneously feeling bad because you raised your voice at your child to get out of the kitchen.
  • Finally, using the terms “good” and “bad” really doesn’t give us a chance to reflect on our parenting in a helpful way. If I just say “I was a bad mom today,” it can just build feelings of shame and guilt instead of encouraging me to reflect on what in particular I wish I had done differently.

I want to encourage all of us to stop using the terms “good” and “bad” to describe our parenting. Fortunately, there are several research-based parenting models that give us alternative ways to reflect on our parenting (which we will dive into over the next few weeks). But for now, I encourage you to use this week to give thought to how you reflect on and how you talk to yourself about your parenting. Try to avoid using the terms good and bad. If you are wishing something had gone differently about a particular interaction, choose to reflect more on what you may want to try different next time instead of focusing on the guilt.

Come back for our next post where we will discuss a research-based parenting model that will give you new terms to replace “good” and “bad”.

Mackenzie Johnson

Mackenzie Johnson

Parent to a little one with her own quirks. Celebrator of the concept of raising kids “from scratch”. Learner and lover of the parent-child relationship. Translator of research with a dose of reality. Certified Family Life Educator.

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