The Blog

As a newspaper columnist, Nancy Devlin, Ph.D. has written over 700 articles on subjects related to education and parenting. Welcome to her Classroom!

Learning to Parent

Dr. Heather Weiss of the Harvard Family Resource Project is

finding that more and more parents are taking courses in

parenting. She is presently involved in a three year study to

determine the effectiveness of such education. Psychologists are

also exploring the reasons for this trend. Dr. Elkind of Tufts

feels that many parents are confused about how to raise their

children in a society that is so different from the one in which

they were reared. Other reasons given are: the increased mobility

and the resultant isolation of the family, parents’ attempts to

avoid the mistakes of their own parents, and the fact that many

younger parents seem more comfortable with the idea of taking

courses to learn skills.


Most of us have to learn to be good parents. We learn this

skill either from having good role models in our own parents,

from associating with other parents or by taking courses. It is

a skill that cannot be left to chance, because children are our

most important resource. What happens to them in their formative

years does have an effect on them as adults.



The results of recent research seems to confirm this

conclusion. Dr. Patterson of the Oregon Social Learning Center

is studying 500 families and finding that there is a very strong

relationship between parents’ irritability and children’s

aggression in school. He also found that in the act of

disciplining, many parents actually taught their children to be

disobedient because there was a lack of follow-through on the

part of the parents. These same parents seem to be unable to

resolve conflicts in the family.


Dr. Elaine Blechman’s studies at the Albert Einstein Medical

College find that families which give children numerous

opportunities to be problem solvers were those that had open

discussions and these children were better adjusted socially and

perform better in school. Dr. Hoffman from New York University

finds that most parents use one of three approaches to


discipline: reasoning, assertion of power and withdrawal of love.

The best results are obtained when the parent points out to the

child the consequences of his actions and how they affect others.

His research shows that children of parents who rely exclusively

on force and threats produce children who are aggressive in

school. Parents who discipline by withdrawing love, on the other

hand, sometimes produce children who are passive and withdrawn.


North Carolina has begun a program called Project

Enlightenment because of that state’s conviction that early

interventions in children’s lives make a difference. The focus

of the program is to educate key adults. One of the services is

called Talkline. For parents of children, up to age six, it

provides a call-in telephone service for developmental guidance,

referral information and general information. The fact that

parents needed such a service was attested by the fact that

parents not only called in but also complied with the suggestions

they received on techniques, books, and courses and that they

followed through on referrals.


One place to learn parenting skills is in high school,

preferably before teenagers become parents. There are many

excellent programs developed for this purpose. Certain parenting

skills may be inborn and instinctive. However, the higher

parenting skills required for nurturing and raising children in a

complex society such as ours, must be learned and it is never too

late to begin.


Posted in Behavior, From Experience, Getting the Most For Your Child, Parenting, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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