Parents find themselves confounded by their children, they're not always sure what to do. Dr. Fran Walfish demystifies parenthood and offers advice on how to be a good parent.
Last week I bought a new Blu-ray disc player. When I got home I tore open the box and began the set-up process by reading the instructions. My impatient seven-year old gently pushed me aside and hooked it up by eschewing the instructions and merely matching the colored plugs. Within seconds everything was working.
I remember that when I brought each of my daughters home from the hospital I got handshakes from the medical staff. “Good luck dad,” the nurses told me.
Blu-ray’s come with instructions. Kids don’t.
It wasn’t long before I discovered that parenting is the most confounding activity an adult can experience. Dr. Fran Walfish, a psychotherapist and the author of The Self-Aware Parent: Resolving Conflict and Building a Better Bond with Your Child says it doesn’t need to be.
I sat down with Dr. Walfish and asked her about ten of the most difficult things parents face.
1. What do you do if you find that you sometimes don’t like your child?
FW: Find some areas where you can empathize and identify with your child. Every child wants to feel understood. Sometimes parents see things in their children that remind them of themselves. You have to recognize this and accept your children, flaws and all.
2. How do you make sure both parents are on the same page?
FW: It’s common for moms and dads not to be on the same page. That old saying “opposites attract” applies to parenting too. Mom and dad might have different temperaments so you’ll need to find ways to have open and honest communication with your spouse. You need to talk about your shared values such as, “What do you value in people and in our families.” Talk about what you want to teach your kids. The likelihood is that you’ll have shared values like treating each other with kindness, and don’t hurt each other with our hands or our words. When you begin with shared values you can springboard to create mutually comfortable strategies for how to teach the children.
3. How do you teach your children boundaries?
FW: Each parent needs to balance two things at the same time. First, love and nurture. Second, setting and holding boundaries. Most of the parents I know are good at the first one and fall down somewhere in the boundaries. Where they fall down on boundaries is the follow through on taking action. Sometimes what you need to do is to take action that will trigger a temper tantrum (like turning off the TV) then empathically say, “I know it’s hard to stop doing something that’s fun” and then put your arms around your child to show empathy and help them settle down from the tantrum that just erupted while maintaining the boundaries.
4. How do you teach your child to self-soothe?
FW: Self-soothing begins at birth. What I suggest to moms, especially those who are breast feeding, is when you put the baby down to sleep, gently arouse the baby until they make eye contact and let the baby wrestle with the tossing and turning until they find that comfortable spot to go to sleep. The baby will find her thumb, a soft blanket or something that will help in the self-soothing process.
5. How do you determine what’s appropriate autonomy and when?
FW: It’s healthy for parents to develop their children’s autonomy and independence. Parents should reward every increment in your child’s autonomy and self-reliance with increments of more freedom and independence. Your child may, for example, want to go to the mall with his or her friends. Your child must demonstrate that they have the discipline to go to the mall responsibly by doing other things such as their homework, chores, always telling the parents the truth, and those behaviors get rewarded with allowing him or her the chance to go to the mall.
Check out Part 2 of the interview HERE.