Facts for Living: Apply knowledge and experience for effective parenting – Osage County Online | Osage County News

Facts for Living: Apply knowledge and experience for effective parenting

By Rebecca McFarland, Frontier Extension Agent

080714-facts-for-living1Like most people, I have gained so much knowledge and experience as a parent in the past 19 years. Yes, my oldest son will soon be 19. My resume not only includes my formal knowledge – a Bachelor of Science degree in human development and family studies, and almost 20 years of working in the field of humans services, reading journal articles and attending various workshops and conferences; but also many years of informal knowledge – my life experiences as a parent and stepparent and my personal insights of myself, my family and children.

There are thousands of books, articles and online resources about effective parenting strategies and adolescent development. The best resources are based on research or years of professional practice that draw on repeated observations of parents and teens. The information tells us what to expect of children, and provides general principles and expectations about child development and childrearing strategies.

Self-knowledge is also an important aspect of wise parenting – being aware of and honest about what we know and don’t know. We all have areas where we may be lacking in experience, understanding and ability. And sometimes we might pretend we know more than we do to maintain our parental authority. All of us have moments when we get in over our heads. Wisdom involves knowing our social and emotional limits. Sometimes our own emotional issues, such as being under a lot of stress, or dealing with co-workers or other family members, can make it difficult for us to be fair, objective or able to respond in an effective way.

A wise parent is aware of their limitations and seeks out other sources of support, guidance and perspective, such as the insight of other parents, or professional help. Self-knowledge also involves being in touch with what you value and believe. Communicating with your child about important matters can be difficult unless you know what matters to you.

When faced with a tough parenting decision, making wise use of knowledge begins by identifying what you need to know and seeking out the best source of information. Here are some suggestions on where to find the most appropriate information:

Know the strengths and limitations of different forms of knowledge. Research-based information (knowledge) tells us about teens in general, while our personal knowledge tells us about our particular teen. Research-based information is usually the most reliable, but it may not always be the most relevant. Personal knowledge may be the most relevant, but it may not always be reliable because it is subject to our personal preferences, limited perspective and emotions.

Learn from your experience. We gain wisdom by learning from our experiences – successes and failures. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes, and when you do, learn from them.

Know your child. In order to parent wisely, we need to know our child well. The only way we can do that is by spending time with them. Be a good listener and observer. Learn their needs, abilities and personalities.

Know yourself. Take time to think about what you believe in and what really matters to you. Use it to guide your parenting decisions. Take time to think about your weaknesses and blind spots and think about how you can strengthen them. Don’t hesitate to seek the insight and guidance of others. Be willing to step outside your comfort zone – attend a parenting class, see the guidance of a trusted friend or seek professional help.

When it comes to parenting tweens and teens, both types of knowledge, formal and informal, are invaluable. By bringing together both types of knowledge, parents are in the best position to make wise choices about which principles and strategies are most likely to work for their child in a particular situation.

McFarland_RebeccaRebecca McFarland is the Frontier Extension District family and child development 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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