I recently ran across a NY Times article from 2009 that I first read in grad school. It’s titled When a Parent’s ‘I Love You’ Means ‘Do as I Say’ (it’s still available online if you want to read the whole thing). I’ve got two kiddos on the way, so I’m as keen as ever to learn vicariously and soak up parenting advice now before I’m too tired and overwhelmed to understand it. A quick re-read gave me not only food for thought regarding the value and risks of using attention, encouragement, and isolation as child-rearing tactics, but also a reminder of why God’s love is so much better than an earthly parent’s.
Here’s an excerpt:
… The talk show host Phil McGraw tells us in his book “Family First” (Free Press, 2004) that what children need or enjoy should be offered contingently, turned into rewards to be doled out or withheld so they “behave according to your wishes.” And “one of the most powerful currencies for a child,” he adds, “is the parents’ acceptance and approval.”
Likewise, Jo Frost of “Supernanny,” in her book of the same name (Hyperion, 2005), says, “The best rewards are attention, praise and love,” and these should be held back “when the child behaves badly until she says she is sorry,” at which point the love is turned back on.
As a parent-to-be, and (as much as I hate comparing kids to animals) a pet-owner, I can relate to this kind of thinking. It’s pretty simple, and seems to make sense. Reward good behavior so the child will repeat it. Punish or ignore bad behavior so it won’t be repeated. Except it doesn’t actually work that way at all. Continue reading