January 23, 2007

Parenting and The Dog Whisperer

I happen to be a big fan of the "Dog Whisperer" on the National Geographic channel. I watch this show every time it is on (when I can remember to look for it) and think that Cesar Millan has some really interesting ideas on rehabilitating dogs (and training humans!) I think his three-fold approach of rules, boundaries and limitations (also exercise, discipline and then love) is excellent and works well for dogs, cats and humans!!

The other night there was an episode where Cesar was helping a family who had a beagle that howled all the time. I thought it was interesting because I personally love beagles but know they are "known" for their howling. [We do not have any dogs in our home, just a cat now. I had dogs growing up but have always been more of a cat person. I love dogs and think I am one of those people whom dogs find interesting. I meet people and their dogs always seem to find me. I love this show, nonetheless, and do practice some "cat whispering" when my beloved 16yo starts crying incessantly! Does it work? Yes, it does!]

Anyway, to the point...Cesar said something in that episode that I thought was very good and relates to this discussion on parenting styles. In a nutshell, he told the family that the problem with their dog howling was the result one or more things: one, the dog was dominant and trying to be pack leader; two, the dog was obsessive and howling was the out-working of this behavior; or three, the dog was just being a beagle When he said point three, I laughed so hard because this very thing I said when the trailer came on!! "It is normal for a beagle to howl -- that is WHAT THEY ARE SUPPOSED TO DO!" As the show progressed, Cesar showed the family that their dog was simply doing what he was created to do -- find things (in this case, other dogs) and then point them out to the pack leader by howling!

Well, the thought crossed my mind that this little truth really is valuable advice for parents of children and teens. I reminds me of what it says in Proverbs 22:6:

"Train up a child in the way he should go [and in keeping with his individual gift or bent], and when he is old he will not depart from it."

Children and beagles are sort of the same thing -- they are both created with individual bends and gifts and as such they need to be loved and accepted for their uniqueness and their contribution to the pack (the family). If we believe that we are training our children according to their individual gift or bent, then we must be paying very close attention to them (observing their bent). We cannot successfully parent them successfully from afar nor can we parent globally with a one size fits all mentality. No, we must parent according to each child's needs and specific bent and that means we really have to get to know our child (what is natural and what is artificial). IMHO, we cannot always change the natural (those things that are in keeping with God's design), but we can change the artificial (those things that are learned).

I know that in my case I have had to learn this lesson the hard way. My son is highly sensitive and as such I have had to learn not to "crush" him. He can easily be crushed and I have had to figure out how to set rules, boundaries and limitations that take into consideration his uniqueness. I was much more of a disciplinarian when my son was little, but that was because he had a tendency to do things that could hurt him (like sticking things in the light socket). As he has matured, I see his natural bend more clearly. I see where I can bend him and where he will break. I want to help him achieve his true giftedness but I cannot force him too hard or else he will shut down and give up. It is a give-take process and needs to be done gently, not with pressure.

I was sharing something with another family not long ago and I said that if we stop and consider the fact that our children are young for a very short amount of time and that they will be adults for the majority of their life -- shouldn't our parenting strategy be modified for the long-term result and not just the 18-20 years we have them under our roofs? I know many families that have inadvertantly squashed all hoped of friendship and life out of their relationship with their teens. There is little hope of lasting relationship and their teens are chomping at the bit to leave home and leave their parents -- and do not want to look back. How sad for both -- this is not God's design for family and it is not the way things are supposed to turn out. I hear so many stories of adults who never see their parents and have no desire to form relationships with them (and they are Christians).

For me, I am more concerned about the relationship I will have with my son when he is 40, then the relationship I have with him now (though it is precious all the same). I want to be a part of my son's grown-up life, to be able to have fellowship and conversation and friendship with him. To me, the very thought of not sharing in my son's adult life is crushing to me. As such, I want to develop that friendship now, but also make sure that I am allowing him the freedom to blossom and grow as God leads him.

I think to do that means that I have to do a couple things:

1) I have to pay attention to my child, really close attention. I need to be there and listen, of course, but I also need to look for signs of stress, frustration, self-defeating behaviors, mental stability. I have to really look at him and "know" him. I think by getting to know your child -- you are doing something God-honoring and highly valuable in His sight. You are recognizing and appreciating God's design and His purpose and plan. Just as you study and observe a flower or butterfly, you are giving praise to Him as creator when you study and observe your children.

2) I have to parent with gentleness and not with short-term results in mind. If I want to have that long-term relationship with my son, then I must do what is in his best interest now. That may mean correction or it may simply mean listening to him and giving him the freedom to express himself. I must create an environment in our home where there is no failure, no wrong, no right -- a safe place where he can learn how to be a grown-up without all the peer pressure and nastiness of the world.

3) I have to recognize as he moves through the various stages of development and act accordingly. Responsibility begets more responsibility; leadership is praised; model behavior is championed. Life is hardest during the teen years and it is difficult to understand all the biological changes, emotional changes, and pyschological changes. Parents need to be accutely aware that so much of what teens face is internal and that while not always appropriate, some behavior is the result of this internal struggle to become an adult.

I believe very strongly in setting rules, boundaries and limitations for my son, always have and always will. Habit training is fundamental and sets everything in motion. Good habits will help steer a proper course, but the parent must be willing to go the distance with their child and consider the final outcome (raising healthy and happy adults) as most important.

January 21, 2007

Snow in AZ

Yes, it snowed in Arizona again!

I was at church and it was absolutely freezing out. I couldn't believe it when children started arriving (for p.m. church) and were excitedly telling me that it was snowing in Scottsdale!

January 12, 2007

My Parents

My son, hear the instruction of your father; reject not nor forsake the teaching of your mother. For they are a [victor's] chaplet (garland) of grace upon your head and chains and pendants [of gold worn by kings] for your neck. Proverbs 1:8-9

My parents are great! They are the best parents a child could ever hope to have. I am so blessed that they live near me (about 2 minutes down the road) and cherish the time we have to spend together. Words cannot express how much I love them and how much I appreciate them. Mom and Dad -- you are a gift to me from the Lord and I thank Him for choosing you to be my parents!

January 6, 2007

PVCC Sports Camp

DJ working as a junior coach at PVCC's winter sports camp (a turn on summer VBS). He served all week as coach for soccer and generally all-around good guy!

January 5, 2007

Home School Tracker Plus

I recently purchased Home School Tracker Plus, a home school organizing and tracking software management tool. I had used the basic version (FREE!) for the past couple years (off/on) and never really felt comfortable using it. It worked well as designed, but it didn't do what I wanted it to do. I didn't think the Plus version was worth the $40 price tag.

This past January, however, I decided to give the Plus version at try and have to say I was pleasantly pleased with the package. It offers a wider range of tools, more reports, and will post letter grades as well as print out a very nicely formatted transcript. It is not intuitively easy to use, however, and folks who have little computer experience might find the program difficult to use. The support group at TGHomesoft.com's website is very good and it is available to everyone, regardless of whether they are free or paid users.

This is a sample of what my son's schedule looks like with this program. I like it and think it will help me schedule his assignments and track his progress with minimal time on my part.

January 1, 2007

Happy New Year!

Well, it is January 1st and 2007 has officially begun. I cannot believe it myself...I always feel so weird whenever the calendar changes to a new year. I mean, it is not like anything "new" has really happened and if we were just counting days...there would be nothing to think about other than "it's just another day in paradise!"

This has been a record cold January for us and personally I don't really like it when the temps hit down to freezing. All of our delicate plants suffer in the cold. My Aloe Veras are taking it hard this year, even though they have weathered some pretty cold temps in the past. I don't think there is hope for them but the garden-guy on the news said not to do a thing and just let them be...for now!

Happy New Year, bloggers!