This is the companion article to Dr. Ramey’s article we posted on June 1, 2013, titled “Are Child Raising Strategies Causing Conflict in Your Marriage?” You might want to read them together!
Jason’s dad loved sports as a youngster, and he encouraged athletic participation from the time his son was a toddler. This caused tremendous conflict between the parents as Jason’s mom felt her son’s interests were only intended to gain his dad’s approval.
Anna’s mom was fascinated by the reality-TV program “Toddlers and Tiaras” and began enrolling her 5-year-old daughter in local beauty pageants, which dad felt were primarily attended by “sexual perverts.” After two events, he told his wife that their marriage was in serious jeopardy if she ever brought their daughter to another pageant.
These are tough issues to resolve in a marriage because the disagreements are about goals, not strategies. When parents agree on the outcome (e.g., decrease temper tantrums), it’s easy for most parents to compromise and consistently try one strategy for several weeks. Keep careful records, and change the approach if the problem continues.
There’s no quick way to resolve arguments about goals. Is it a worthwhile activity for Jason to play basketball or for Anna to participate in beauty pageants? These are not questions that can be answered by some expert in child psychology but rather reflect fundamental parental values. Here is the roadmap to help resolve such dilemmas.
- Follow the law of moderation. One of the many things I’ve learned from families in my office is to avoid extremes in parenting. When in doubt, follow a moderate approach. Perhaps Anna participates in a few pageants every year rather than every month. Maybe Jason signs up for one sport rather than three.
- Be guided by your child’s interests and skills. Jason’s dad finally admitted that his son had modest athletic ability and would probably never obtain an athletic scholarship to college. The parents should help Jason develop a lifelong interest in health and physical exercise rather than investing an inordinate amount of time in team sports. The issues with Anna’s parents were more problematic as it was difficult to determine Anna’s real interest in beauty contests. However, after several meltdowns at pageants, even her mom began to question the value of these events.
- Compromise. It was troublesome that Anna’s dad threatened divorce if he didn’t get his way. Raising children is all about not getting what you want most of the time. You need to figure out how to communicate and compromise with your child and your spouse. Ultimatums are generally not a good negotiation strategy.
- Stay focused on what matters. Here’s my latest list of the skills our kids need to be successful adults: integrity, self-control, resiliency, persistency, communication, problem-solving and emotional intelligence. Encourage your kids to participate in activities that help them acquire those key skills.
Gregory Ramey, Ph.D., is a child psychologist and vice president for outpatient services at the Children’s Medical Center of Dayton. For more of his columns, visit www.childrensdayton.org/ramey and join Dr. Ramey on facebook at www.facebook.com/drgregramey. Dr Ramey has been a guest contributor to the Ohio Family Law Blog since 2007.
[Reprinted by permission from the December 1, 2012, edition of the Dayton Daily News, “Help for resolving parental conflicts that are about goals,” Family Wise, Gregory Ramey, PhD]
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Guest Contributor Gregory Ramey, PhD, Child Psychologist and Dayton Daily News Columnist
Gregory Ramey, PhD, is a nationally recognized child psychologist and columnist who has worked at Dayton Children’s Hospital since 1979. In addition to his weekly column in the Dayton Daily News about effective parenting, Ramey has conducted more than 200 workshops and has recently been quoted in articles in Redbook, Parenting, Ladies Home Journal as well as columns distributed by the New York Times Wire Service.