In everyone’s life there are always a few people who have an unexpected major impact. One of mine came in 1973, when as a graduate student, I enrolled in a course called, Principles of Family Counseling, a parenting class taught by Dr. Oscar Christensen. Little did I know at that time the enormous impact this class and this person would have on my future and that of my family.
Fast forward fifteen years and I can actually put my theoretical parenting knowledge to the test, as I now have four sons under the age of seven running, climbing and jumping in a testosterone filled home. I just don’t recall Dr. Christensen ever mentioning what to do when one child has another in a bone crushing scissors 4 leg lock or stands on the couch ready to deliver a flying knee drop. Seriously, I do remember respect, love, patience, natural consequences and a whole lot more. All I can say, is, thank you Dr. Christensen. That parenting stuff I learned many years ago have no doubt helped maintain a semblance of sanity in our home, and allowed my children to see parenting models that would hopefully help them in the future. It wasn’t always smooth sailing, especially when one child went sailing through the air, and many times things did not work out as planned, ( I don’t ever recall planning a trip to the emergency room), but at least we had many good models to work with.
Which brings me to the main focus of this essay. As Bill Cosby one remarked, “Raising children is a kind of desperate improvisation”. While I might agree with Mr. Cosby, my experiences with Dr. Christensen made it just a little less desperate.
I often ask parents and perspective parents how they plan to raise their children? They will often ponder the question and most respond, “ I guess I raised my children pretty much the way my parents raised me“. You know, the old ‘it was good enough for me and I turned out just fine‘. And some will say ” I will never (you fill in the blank) the way my parents did with me. When asking students the same question, they will often stop and think for a while.” Hmmm, I guess I will do just as my parents did or I’m just not sure.
Who teaches us how to raise a child? Where does one get certified? How does one obtain a license?
My son’s high school offers classes in almost every conceivable subject; language, debate, health, drug and sex ed, 8 dance classes, yoga, cuisine, web design, sculpture; you get the idea. All wonderful classes, I’m sure, but how much impact will any of these have in a student’s future? Most students will one day be parents, yet very little is offered to prepare these young adults to be better parents.
I asked my son Sam , a senior in high school, for his thoughts on a parenting class, and he wrote:“ My friend is taking a photography class, and I’ll guarantee that he spends a lot more time in a dark room comforting his first born than he ever will developing pictures in a dark room. Having taken four years of Spanish will help me communicate with others, but will I be able to communicate with my children?“.
I recently read that starting this September, cooking classes will be mandatory for all youth ages 11-14 in Great Britain (Agent France Presse). Employing Sam’s logic, British parents will be able to cook wholesome meals for their families, but what will they do when their child refuses to eat, or throws the food on the floor?
As former Surgeon General of the United States, C. Everett Koop said, “Life affords no greater responsibility, no greater privilege than the raising of the next generation“. It’s about time to accept this responsibility. We owe it to future generations.