Parents as a support

Dr. Kenneth Barish, in his book Pride and Joy, addresses the need for parents to be supportive of their kids. He discusses this in the chapter “What Matters Most- Understanding and Support”. Aren’t support and encouragement  important to all of us? Why else do we turn to support groups or befriend those facing similar situations as us?
Barish elaborates on parents’ role in a child’s emotional development. I agree with him when he says “It is through parents’ recognition and responsiveness to their child’s emotions that children feel known and understood.”1  I see how my daughter responds when I am more available to her than when I am preoccupied. He tells us about all the benefits of emotional regulation on the child’s adjustment to life. From increasing attention to tasks, improving their ability to resolve conflicts with peers, lowering levels of psychological and physical stress…the benefits are plenty.
One danger we face while being empathetic towards our kids is going overboard on empathy. As Barish says:  “Empathy without moral guidance is indulgence and may foster unrealistic expectations that also undermine a child’s initiative and resilience.  Our children need to know that their feelings are important but so are the needs and feelings of others. We need to encourage their self expression and also teach them self restraint.” 2
When we  listen to our children with empathy, play with them, work with them, show interest and offer encouragement in things that interest them, they feel loved and appreciated. As the feeling of being  loved increases, their demands will reduce and they will become more empathetic towards others. They will realise that the needs and feelings of others are as important as their own. When children feel that their concerns and grievances have been heard they will be less demanding, better behaved and more caring towards others. Accepting refusal will be easier for them and saying ‘no’ easier for us.
He says that we need to “use reasoning and discussion in the solution of problems, repair moments of anger and criticism, and let them know that we are proud of them, especially for the good things they do for others.”3
As I read through this chapter my mom’s voice rang in my head “You decide what works best for you’ll. We are here for you. We will help you in whatever way we can.” I’m in my thirties and have a family of my own, but I know that my parents’ hearts and house are always open to us. They will always be there for me. I hope to be able to raise my children with that confidence. A confidence in a support that will stay strong even if they go weak.

1. Barish, K. (2012). Pride and Joy. New York: Oxford University Press,p.23
2. Barish, K. (2012). Pride and Joy. New York: Oxford University Press,p.28
3. Barish, K. (2012). Pride and Joy. New York: Oxford University Press,p.30

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