By Scott Prater
Today’s parents have a distinct advantage when it comes to keeping track of their children. Advances in technology make reaching family members a mere text or phone call away. But as technology improves communication, it can also detract from meaningful communication. Yesterday’s parents never had to compete with a computer or smartphone screen for their children’s attention.
Good communication is crucial to good parenting, one topic addressed during Active Parenting, a class to be hosted by the Airman and Family Readiness Center here Friday.
“There can be negative ramifications to today’s connectivity,” said Capt. Dawn Scovel, 21st Medical Operations Squadron, family advocacy chief. “For example, how many times has a parent used these devices to distract themselves from communicating with their children? And, when will a child stop coming to their parent with ‘important things’ because they know they are not being heard.”
Parents have an opportunity to set a good example for their children by turning off their cell phones and computers. Scovel even recommends that families dedicate quiet time where no electronic equipment is present, allowing families to connect on a more personal level.
Eliminating distractions becomes vital during the communication process because tone of voice and nonverbal gestures are important attributes to the information being relayed, explained Christina Stump, community readiness consultant.
Stump and Schriever’s Military Family Life Consultant will facilitate the class and help parents discover not only their communication style, but their parenting style, while teaching the importance of building character, independence and courage in their young ones.
“Parents should understand their parenting style,” Stump said. “Do they follow their parents’ lead or are they intentionally choosing a different style. Generally, people fall into three categories, depending on the level of limits they set and the amount of freedom they choose to give their kids: autocratic, permissive and authoritarian. Autocratic parenting is dictatorial, where parents make limits but don’t allow freedoms, permissive parenting is where parents give lots of freedoms but don’t set any limits and authoritarian parents are those who provide freedoms within limits.”
According to the class facilitators, setting limits and awarding freedoms allows children to grow and learn on their own, which in turn, helps them build personal character. Parents should also strive to help their children build self-esteem, the opinion they have of themselves, and their capability to tackle life’s challenges.”
Stump closes the character-building segment of the class by addressing the idea of responsibility.
“Responsibility is about making decisions and accepting the consequences of those decisions,” she said. “Children have to be prepared to make responsible choices for themselves because they are faced with so many critical decisions at young ages, such as those that involve alcohol or drugs.”
The idea here is that if parents provide choices for their children whenever possible, then children gain practice and experience in making decisions that come with consequences.
“If you give them small choices every day, then they start to become independent so they can make smart choices themselves,” Stump said. “Providing choices also helps parents avoid power struggles with their kids. Giving your kids a choice instead of just making a demand allows your children to feel empowered, respected and respectful.”
“Active Parenting” takes place from 1 to 3 p.m. this Friday. Contact the A&FRC to sign up at 567-3920.