Tag Archives: national parenting education network

Wishing for a Super Bowl that Promotes Non-Violence

It’s been a tough year for the National Football League. There was renewed emphasis (for a while) on the devastating brain damage caused by repeated concussions. Then there was the Ray Rice domestic violence incident. And then there was the Adrian Peterson child abuse incident. And now there’s the Aaron Hernandez trial for murder and weapons charges that started a couple days ago. All these scandals added up to big, bad publicity . . . so much so that the Fiscal Times noted in a recent headline that these incidents “Rocked the NFL.”

Then there was deflate-gate, the ridiculousness that led us to wonder if our football heroes might just be a bunch of cheats.

But wait.

Through all these scandals the NFL has continued laughing its way to the Bank with obscene gobs of money that could be used to wipe out Ebola or end child abuse. Last year, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell made about $44 million. Vegas odds are that he’ll do better this year. Super Bowl advertisings are doing just fine, thank-you. And Katy Perry may or may not have a wardrobe malfunction tomorrow evening, but you can bet there will be millions of viewers. The NFL is right on pace to increase its economic worth to something well over being a $9 billion dollar industry. Not bad. Talk about Teflon.

It’s clear the situation is hopeless and that the Juggernaut that is the NFL will stroll into the future without substantially addressing anything that might be remotely linked to a social virtue. Nevertheless, I can’t stop cheering for underdogs, and that leaves me with an array of dreams that are so silly that I’m embarrassed to admit them. That said, I’ll go ahead and embrace my embarrassment and tell you what I’m watching for tomorrow.

I’ll be watching to see how many advertising bucks are used to promote domestic violence or child abuse prevention. Will we see NFL players, coaches, owners, and the commissioner go on record to support sexual assault prevention? Might there be room for the tiniest of sprinklings of valuable educational public service announcements during the four hour Super Bowl feast?

I think not; but I hold out hope.

And here’s my biggest irrational wish. I’m wishing for the NFL to provide educational information about the dangers of corporal punishment. Adrian Peterson said something to the effect that all he did was send his kiddo out to get a stick so he could beat him with it, just like his Momma did to him. Peterson was talking about our great American tradition of believing that it’s a good thing for parents to hit their children.

Even more disturbing than the single Adrian Peterson incident is the fact that during a typical 4 hour time period (about the length of the Super Bowl broadcast) there are approximately 1,500 reports of child abuse . . . and so maybe, just maybe, we could use a little NFL-sponsored education here.

But what really smacks my pigskin is the fact that Adrian Peterson’s parenting philosophy is still alive and well on the internet. In particular, it’s featured on the website of Christian “parenting expert” James Dobson. Seriously. It’s on a Christian-based website. This is stunning not only because there’s a truckload of science telling us that hitting kids is linked to bad outcomes, but also because it’s pretty difficult to imagine the Jesus that I read about in the Bible hitting children with a stick . . . or advocating the hitting of children with a stick.

Now that it’s the 21st century and time for Super Bowl XLIX, shouldn’t we know better? Shouldn’t we know that we shouldn’t send our kids out to get sticks so we can beat them? Come on NFL . . . just share that fun fact. Just come out and say you don’t support beating children . . . and how about you take 0.001% of your net worth and use it to launch an educational campaign that will teach parents what to do instead of hitting kids.

That’s what I’ll be watching for tomorrow . . . if I can manage to stomach turning on the game at all.

Parenting, NPEN, Portland, a Parenting Philosophy, and Smell Check

Yesterday and today it’s been excellent being back in Portland and taking in the fabulous spring showers. To make things even better,  I’ve been at the National Parenting Education Network (NPEN) annual meeting along with an interesting mix of people who are immensely dedicated to helping and supporting parents. It’s hard to get any better than that, but to add even more frosting to the cake (I use this only metaphorically because I’m not really a frosting fan), I got to be here with Chelsea and Nora and Rita and . . . even Waganesh!

Here’s NPEN’s Vision Statement: The vision of the National Parenting Education Network (NPEN) is that all parents/families will have the information, resources and support needed to provide a nurturing relationship and an optimal environment that will encourage their children’s healthy growth and development.

What still surprises me is that very few people seem to understand the deep importance of parenting and even fewer seem to know about NPEN. Just in case you don’t know about NPEN, here’s the website address: http://npen.org/

In this coming year, NPEN will be turning the corner and beginning to incorporate and post original content on it’s website. You can become a member (it’s cheap, only $25) and join the listserv. Additionally, at some point in late summer or early fall, Sara Polanchek and I, along with the many experts and parents associated with NPEN, will be launching a series of parenting podcasts underwritten by the fabulous Engelhard Foundation. So . . . be watching for that.

In the meantime, tomorrow night Families First Missoula is having a fundraiser. Check it out here: https://www.childrensmuseummissoula.org/events/go-mad-spring-soiree/

And FF Missoula asked me to write a short parenting philosophy. . . and so here’s that: Parenting is a balance of many things; it includes balancing joy and disappointment and love as well as anger. This makes consistently parenting well an immense challenge. Perhaps the biggest parenting challenge of all involves being able to simultaneously set limits while communicating empathy. This is difficult because often children need (but don’t want) their parents to be an authority—and it’s easy for parents to become too authoritarian and consequently lose the ability to respond empathically to their children’s developing emotional struggles.

And finally, here’s a photo of my two daughters engaging in the balance of conducting some sort of smell check with each other. Don’t ask me why.

Pit Smell

If You Work With Parents . . . Check This Out

This case example is used to illustrate the model Rita and I describe in our “How to Listen so Parents will Talk. . .” book.

The key principles or attitudes (similar to Rogerian approaches) are:

1. Empathy

2. Radical acceptance

3. Collaboration

Here’s the case example:

Theory into Practice: The Three Attitudes in Action

In the following example, Cassandra is discussing her son’s “strong-willed” behaviors with a parenting professional.

Case: “Wanna Piece of Me?”

Cassandra: My son is so stubborn. Everything is fine one minute, but if I ask him to do something, he goes ballistic. And then I can’t get him to do anything.

Consultant: Some kids seem built to focus on getting what they want. It sounds like your boy is very strong-willed. [A simple initial reflection using common language is used to quickly formulate the problem in a way that empathically resonates with the parent’s experience.]

Cassandra: He’s way beyond strong-willed. The other day I asked him to go upstairs and clean his room and he said “No!” [The mom wants the consultant to know that her son is not your ordinary strong-willed boy.]

Consultant: He just refused? What happened then? [The consultant shows appropriate interest and curiosity, which honors the parent’s perspective and helps build the collaborative relationship.]

Cassandra:           I asked him again and then, while standing at the bottom of the stairs, he put his hands on his hips and yelled, “I said no! You wanna piece of me??!”

Consultant: Wow. You’re right. He is in the advanced class on how to be strong-willed. What did you do next? [The consultant accepts and validates the parent’s perception of having an exceptionally strong-willed child and continues with collaborative curiosity.]

Cassandra: I carried him upstairs and spanked his butt because, at that point, I did want a piece of him! [Mom discloses becoming angry and acting on her anger.]

Consultant: It’s funny how often when our kids challenge our authority so directly, like your son did, it really does make us want a piece of them. [The consultant is universalizing, validating, and accepting the mom’s anger as normal, but does not use the word anger.]

Cassandra: It sure gets me! [Mom acknowledges that her son can really get to her, but there’s still no mention of anger.]

Consultant: I know my next question is a cliché counseling question, but I can’t help but wonder how you feel about what happened in that situation. [This is a gentle and self-effacing effort to have the parent focus on herself and perhaps reflect on her behavior.]

Cassandra: I believe he got what he deserved. [Mom does not explore her feelings or question her behavior, but instead, shows a defensive side; this suggests the consultant may have been premature in trying to get the mom to critique her own behavior.]

Consultant: It sounds like you were pretty mad. You were thinking something like, “He’s being defiant and so I’m giving him what he deserves.” [The consultant provides a corrective empathic response and uses radical acceptance; there is no effort to judge or question whether the son “deserved” physical punishment, which might be a good question, but would be premature and would likely close down exploration; the consultant also uses the personal pronoun I when reflecting the mom’s perspective, which is an example of the Rogerian technique of “walking within.”]

Cassandra: Yes, I did. But I’m also here because I need to find other ways of dealing with him. I can’t keep hauling him up the stairs and spanking him forever. It’s unacceptable for him to be disrespectful to me, but I need other options. [Mom responds to radical acceptance and empathy by opening up and expressing her interest in exploring alternatives; Miller and Rollnick (2013) might classify the therapist’s strategy as a “coming alongside” response.]

Consultant: That’s a great reason for you to be here. Of course, he shouldn’t be disrespectful to you. You don’t deserve that. But I hear you saying that you want options beyond spanking and that’s exactly one of the things we can talk about today. [The consultant accepts and validates the mom’s perspective—both her reason for seeking a consultation and the fact that she doesn’t deserve disrespect; resonating with parents about their hurt over being disrespected can be very powerful.]

Cassandra: Thank you. It feels good to talk about this, but I do need other ideas for how to handle my wonderful little monster. [Mom expresses appreciation for the validation and continues to show interest in change.]

As noted previously, parents who come for professional help are often very ambivalent about their parenting behaviors. Although they feel insecure and want to do a better job, if parenting consultants  are initially judgmental, parents can quickly become defensive and may sometimes make rather absurd declarations like, “This is a free country! I can parent any way I want!”

In Cassandra’s case, she needed to establish her right to be respected by her child (or at least not disrespected). Consequently, until the consultant demonstrated respect or unconditional positive regard or radical acceptance for Cassandra in the session, collaboration could not begin.

Another underlying principle in this example is that premature educational interventions can carry an inherently judgmental message. They convey, “I see you’re doing something wrong and, as an authority, I know what you should do instead.” Providing an educational intervention too early with parents violates the attitudes of empathy, radical acceptance, and collaboration. Even though parents usually say that educational information is exactly what they want, unless they first receive empathy and acceptance and perceive an attitude of collaboration, they will often resist the educational message.

To summarize, in Cassandra’s case, theory translates into practice in the following ways:

  • Nonjudgmental listening and empathy increase parent openness and parent–clinician collaboration.
  • Radical acceptance of undesirable parenting behaviors or attitudes strengthens the working relationship.
  • Premature efforts to provide educational information violate the core attitudes of empathy, radical acceptance, and collaboration and therefore are likely to increase defensiveness.
  • Without an adequate collaborative relationship built on empathy and acceptance, direct educational interventions with parents will be less effective.

The amazon link to the book is here: http://www.amazon.com/How-Listen-Parents-Will-Talk/dp/1118012968/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1380502481&sr=1-2&keywords=how+to+listen+so+parents+will+talk+and+talk+so+parents+will+listen


Who Needs Parenting Education Anyway?

Today and tomorrow I’m in Minneapolis at the annual work meeting for the National Parenting Education Network (NPEN). The room at the Search Institute (our host for the two days) is filled with very nice and very intelligent people—all of whom are deeply dedicated to making high quality parenting education a norm in the United States. Being with these fabulous people gave me a 15-year-old flashback.

I transported back in time and saw myself as the executive director of Families First Missoula, making a routine appearance on a local television news show. The vintage female newscaster was interviewing me about the upcoming Missoula “Parents’ Convention.” The Parents’ Convention was a full-day—including  a keynote speaker and 75 minute break-out sessions—all designed specifically for parents. It was pretty darn cool.

The newscaster nodded attentively. I explained how the event was created for parents because parents often didn’t get respect for all the knowledge required to fulfill their parenting commitments. This Parents’ Convention was about treating parents as professionals. As I finished talking, the newscaster turned to the camera, exclaiming, “Do go!”

I was pretty happy.

But moments later she scrunched up her face and muttered: “If you need that sort of thing.”

I wish I’d been ready for this negation of my message. But I wasn’t and so I just ignored her. Instead, I wish I’d explained that good, competent, and effective parenting is NOT NATURAL. I wish I’d emphasized that everyone needs parenting education and that everyone should want the sort of knowledge that just might make them a little better parent.

And this flashback takes me to another one.

This time I’m doing a short stint of in-home family therapy. There’s a mom with her 8-month pregnant teenage daughter and the room is filled with worries—worries about whether this teen mom is ready for what she’s facing. In a massive effort at denial, the soon-to-be grandmother turns to me with a strange and strained grin, stating, “Once she holds that new baby in her arms, she’ll know what to do . . . don’t you think?”

The answer then—and now—is the same. “No. She will not naturally and automatically know what to do. Parents need education. Parents need support. And parents need to know they need education and support. Rarely are parents really ready to face the enormity of their task. It’s hard to competently cope with sleep deprivation, mood swings, a wailing baby with poop somehow defying gravity and making its way up your child’s back, as well as the many other emotional, physical, and psychological demands of parenting.

And so this is why I invite you all to go to the National Parent Education Network’s website. For a mere $25 a year, you can join the movement to make high quality parenting education more accessible for to all parents. Somewhere inside, behind our strange and strained grins, we all know that parents need our help and that it’s the children who will benefit.

NPEN’s website: http://npen.org/