Facts for Living: Wise parenting begins by staying cool, calm and reflective

By Rebecca McFarland, Frontier Extension Agent

Today I’m starting a new series on wise parenting. Wise parenting is a process that can help parents of tweens and teens respond more effectively to challenging parenting issues. This model was developed by Steve Small, a professor of human development and family studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a family relations specialist for the University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension Service.

This wise parenting model consists of six principles:

  • Stay cool, calm and reflective.
  • Aim for the right purpose.
  • Frame the problem appropriately.
  • Expand the perspective.
  • Apply the best knowledge.
  • Find the right balance.

Most parenting, like day-to-day living, is pretty much automatic and doesn’t require much thought. We have rules and routines in place, and they are pretty much followed by parents and kids alike. However, there are times when, as a parent, we face a difficult problem or decision that is without an obvious solution. There might not be a “right” response, but we still need to respond the best we can.

When we are upset with our teen’s actions or decisions or faced with a difficult parenting problem, we often experience strong emotions. Such emotions are an important signal that something is worthy of care and concern. But, it can also cause us to respond impulsively and result in a “heat of the moment” irrational decision. Or even worse, it can lead to us to say mean, cruel and untrue things that may make the situation worse.

Wise parenting requires us to respond less with our gut or emotions and more from our head. When we are faced with an important parenting issue and wait until our emotions have subsided, we are able to think more clearly about our response. It’s likely we’ll find a solution that is practical, caring and that we’ll feel better about in the long run. I frequently tell parents there is rarely a situation that requires an immediate decision or action. Sometimes as parents, we need to put ourselves in “time out”, so we can calm ourselves down and think rationally about the situation.

When we are calm, we are better listeners and our ability and willingness to understand other’s perspectives is enhanced. Calm parents hear more and low-key accepting parents are the ones whose children keep talking.

Time and distance usually help us regain our composure and clear our head. Meditation, a quite walk, and spending some time in a relaxing or vigorous activity are all effective ways to calm your emotions and gain a clearer head.

It may also be helpful for you to enlist the help of an impartial listener. A trusted friend, family members, clergy or helping professionals, who are all less emotionally involved, can often provide a more honest and unbiased perspective that is focused on a good solution.


McFarland_RebeccaRebecca McFarland is the Frontier Extension District family and consumer sciences agent. For more information, she can be contacted at the Extension district’s Ottawa office, 1418 S. Main, Suite 2, Ottawa, KS 66067, or call 785-229-3520, or email [email protected].

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