September, 22 2017
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Raising great kids: 5 concepts parents should keep in mind
It's a big, complex, scary world out there. People need a place where they can talk, play, HELP each other, learn together, work toward commonly held life objectives, and love and support each other. They need a place that provides support they can count on no matter what.
"I call that place the family," says educator and author James D. MacArthur, who adds, "families are where the most important things happen. There is no personal investment we can make that is more significant than what we choose to put into our families."
MacArthur, who is assistant director of the Career and Counseling Center at Brigham Young University, is also a licensed psychologist and has run a RESIDENTIAL PROGRAM for TROUBLED TEENS. He and his wife, Sherri, are parents of 10 children, and he has recently published a book sharing some of the things he has learned about the family. "Everyday Parents Raising Great Kids" (Shadow Mountain, $15.95) offers practical tips and ideas that can "make a real difference in your family life," he says.
He wrote the book because he wanted to raise awareness of family issues, let people know that there are things they can do to make a good family even better, but that it takes work and planning.
"Sometimes we get so busy, so overwhelmed with everything else that's going on in our lives that we just let the family happen. So many things knock on our doors that we let the family float along." But, he says, you need to be an intentional parent, an intentional family manager.
Here are five key concepts he believes will help you do that:
Commitment. "At its core, the success of the family is based on the commitment of its members," says MacArthur. Family should be at the top of your priorities � above careers, above hobbies, above other personal interests.
He recommends that parents establish a time each week � a half-hour minimum � when they can talk about family issues with no children around. Family councils that do involve the children are also important and should be held regularly, he says, but parents also need a time alone when they can talk candidly about what needs to be worked on.
In his book, James MacArthur says parenting needs to be intentional.
For single parents, he admits that it is more difficult. "But you still need to set aside a time to think about family issues."
This will HELP you become more observant, will HELP you look for ways to enlist HELP, he says.
FamilyThink. "Looking at yourself and your family and really thinking about what you are doing is at the heart of what healthy families do," says MacArthur. It should get to the point that it's second nature, that you think about the impact on the family in regard to everything you do.
MacArthur has found it helpful to carry around a yellow notepad, where he jots down his thoughts, feelings and questions about the family. He writes down things he wants to think about regarding the family: how to help certain family members, things to try for a family evening, etc.
He likes to use a lot of self-evaluation assessments, too, and compare how he and his wife answer them. For example, one time they were thinking about the relationships they have with each child. "I thought I had a 9 (on a 1-10 scale) with each child, but she said, 'no, you have a 9 with five of the kids; with three you have a 6 and with 2, you have a 3.' I realized that she was right, and then we talked about ways to improve the relationship with those children."
Essential building blocks. Some parents think the goal is perfect children, but it's not, says MacArthur. "What you really want is happy, healthy children." One of the essential functions of the family is to create an atmosphere for not only healthy physical development, but also healthy emotional development.
There are three essential ingredients, three basic needs that must be filled, he says:
� Need No. 1: Every person wants to feel significant and valuable. Every person needs to feel that he is of some worth, regardless of how he performs or what he does.
� Need No. 2: Every person wants to feel loved. "In the family, love should be inevitable, ingrained into the woodwork of family life and etched into the unwritten rules of what a family is," says MacArthur. And, while you may want your children to change in certain ways, each one "must also feel loved as he or she is. Some things in life should just be free. They should not be based on certain conditions. They are too fundamental to human well-being to be earned. Feeling loved is one of those things."
� Need No. 3: Every person wants to feel capable and competent. Feelings of competence will not only encourage children to try new tasks and find new opportunities, they will also help develop additional feelings of worth, says MacArthur.
Sometimes, even simple things can help meet these needs. For example, MacArthur remembers the time he went to see one of his granddaughters play a basketball game. He was thinking about it the next day at the office and decided to write a quick note saying how much he enjoyed the game, how proud he was of her playing and how much he loved her. "That took all of 10 minutes, and it hit all of the building blocks."
No guarantees. Of course, you want good results. But focusing too much on outcomes can be detrimental, says MacArthur. You can do everything you should, do everything right, and your children may still not turn out the way you'd like.
"I've thought about this a lot over time, and I've realized that I really can't control how my kids turn out." All parents can control is what they offer. "I can be totally sure that I put my best efforts into raising my children as well as I can. But I can't control what my children do with what I offer."
If children are not doing what you had hoped, and you've given it the best you can, then you shouldn't feel guilty, he says. "All you can do is hang in there and keep trying." It's like coaching a ball team. "If the first half doesn't turn out as the coach wants, does he get in his car and leave? No, he stays and coaches the second half."
Do you only do things if you get the results you want? No, he says, "you do them because they are the right things to do. You have a responsibility to be a thoughtful, invested, intentional, hard-working parent. You give it your best shot and hope it turns out well."
It's sometimes a hard separation to make, he says. "But if your children turn out well, you can't take all the credit. And if they don't, you can't take all the blame."
Have fun.Parenting is serious work. It is a big job. But don't forget that it should also be fun. "Families that have fun together like each other more, relate to each other better," says MacArthur.
Fun can make up for a lot of parental mistakes. "Throw in some fun and your children will forget the last four or five mistakes you made and even how boring you are sometimes. Fun can compensate for a lot of things."
When you're feeling stressed and strained, he advises, instead of stewing about it, go have ice cream and a movie, go play miniature golf, have a laughing contest to see who can keep laughing the longest or who can make everyone else in the family laugh the hardest. "It takes the focus off the stress. It takes the focus off the burdens. For that short time, you don't have to worry about school or about pressures to perform."
In families that have played together, he's found that kids tend to listen to each other more, the older ones become better mentors for younger ones.
Find the lighter side of family life, he says. "Having fun together will help you and your children keep things in perspective. Even when you have a lot going on or have some major challenges in your midst and life seems complex, you have each other."
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