Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Parenting Never Ends… It Just Changes

I always have and always will enjoy my three, now adult, children Their mom and I, albeit divorced for the past seventeen years, are good friends and enjoy our roles as Grandma and Pop Pop. I thoroughly enjoy different interpersonal interaction styles with my children – "adult-adult," "parent-child," and the fun style of "child-child." As you may know, Eric Berne has written extensively on this. Dr. Berne is the author of Games People Play, the groundbreaking book in which he introduces Games and Transactional Analysis to the world. According to Dr. Berne, games are ritualistic transactions or behavior patterns between individuals that can indicate hidden feelings or emotions. A runaway success, Games People Play spent more than two years on the New York Times bestseller list in the mid 1960s - longer than any non-fiction book over the preceding decade. Games People Play and Transactional Analysis have gone on to influence and inspire millions of people, including Thomas A. Harris, author of the book I'm OK - You're OK, and Muriel James, author of Born to Win.

And even though I frequently think of and consider my children my friends, I also remind them and myself that I’m their parent. I guess I’m old school (and if you’ve read my pop-pych book, Mom and Dad’s Pearls of Wisdom: You Gotta Love ’Em, you’ll know – my parents taught me well. In my view, parenting never ends… it just changes. You start out as a dry dock, then a wet dock, then a wet slip… and now I think I’m at the light house stage. But that doesn’t mean you don’t go out and talk to the skipper if their boat’s heading toward a reef. (And if the skipper’s feelings are momentarily bruised, they will mend… keeping the boat off the reef and hoping the skipper learns something from the experience… that’s a good day – especially if the skipper himself or herself has a little one of their own in a wet dock).

Question: Does any of this ring true for you (as a parent and/or a child)?



Katie Alender said...

I don't have kids, but I think it's interesting that the prevailing thought of the day (maybe thanks to Dr. Phil?) is that you aren't your kids' friend, you're their parent. But I remember some really fun times with my own parents when everyone was being goofy.

I suppose it doesn't always have to be one or the other -- although that seems to be what gets ratings.

Dr. Bill Emener said...

Hello Katie,
Thanks for visiting and sharing your experience (and as I had said, I enjoyed your blog).
I know Dr. McGraw has said similar things, but such things have been said for years. Inherent in your Comment is an important aspect of the intrapersonal relationship style – being flexible and engaging in the style that is most functional at the time. For example, while recently at a family reunion, I “played” with my children on the beach and in the pool in a child-child modality, but previously when one of them was struggling with some employment issues and came to me for assistance, I was not being sought out as a friend (or fellow child) – she wanted some advice and counsel from her father (and as such, we engaged in a parent-child modality). Considered in another way, parents can minimize their overall relationship with their children when they get locked into one modality (e.g., I’m always in a parent-child mode with them or I’m always in a child-child mode with them). Interestingly, a few years ago when I was quite ill with the flu, my one daughter spent three days at my house taking care of me (guess who was in the parent mode and who was in the child mode?). Again, flexibility is the key.
Thanks again… you put the issue under a microscope (which is a wonderful thing).
Hoping to see you again,

Kelly (Lynn) Parra said...

I'm still in the early stages of parenting, but you love them and try to teach them to be a responsible and good person. :)

Dr. Bill Emener said...

Hi Kelly,
Yeah, I hear ya. And trust me, it’s a long yet wonderful journey.
I know the great Irma Bombeck once said, tongue-in-cheek, “When the last one leaves, change the locks.” But you and I know that’s not what good parents do.
Thanks for visiting, Kelly, and as I said, “Enjoy the journey.”

aniceplaceinthesun.blogspot.com said...

Bill, I love this post! I really like the metaphors, especially at the end. I'm so glad you stopped by A Nice Place In The Sun, since now I know of another great blog to read!

Great stuff-


Susan Hatler said...

I read a book one time that said something like "Your child will have lots of friends, they need a parent" and I thought it was a good point. I really value my parents' opinions. I know it's a fine line between helpful advice and interfering, so kudos to you for chiming in when you see your kids headed for a reef. :)

Dr. Bill Emener said...

Hi Ann,
You are very gracious with your compliments. Thanks you!
I will look forward to seeing you down the road... and I'll for sure be keeping an eye on your blogs.
Ciao for now,

Dr. Bill Emener said...

Hi Susan,
Thanks for stopping by and sharing your experience (and I love that line, “Your child will have lots of friends, they need a parent."). Says it all doesn’t it?!
If I err (i.e., giving helpful advice versus interfering), I’d rather have to apologize for interfering than to have to pick up the pieces because I remained silent. I also trust that my children know that and respect me for it. (At least I hope so.)
Thanks for the visit and encouragement,

Anonymous said...

My kids are so normally well behaved that I sometimes don't know what to do to correctly punish them. I try very hard to walk the thing line between wanting to be there for them, yet not seem as I am their best friend. RIght now I am going through stages of time with my daughter when she ultimately hates me much of the time even though she knows what I am doing is in her best interest. Right now it is a fight between helping around the house and limiting tv time. I feel like the bad guy alot and I realize I take on her and her brothers and dad feelings when they don't express them. I struggle with that. I just need some help in that area in our to feel as I am a productive role model. Did I get way off subject here. Sorry this cold med is making me a litle fuzzy. I so look forward to reading your blog. It makes me examine some real everyday issues.


Dr. Bill Emener said...

Hi Andie,
Good to see you again – it’s been a while.
I think most children go through a period of time when they seem to hate one or both of their parents – typically it’s just a form of venting (and considered by some a rite of passage). If they’re doing well, chances are you’re doing the right things (even though it sometimes doesn’t feel good doing them – the right things). I always have felt that it is important for children to know that while one of their parent’s voices may be a little louder than the other’s, both mom and dad are singing from the same page of the hymnal. (It’s one thing to be “the heavy” [as in all the time] and at times just the “heavier” [as in of the two].) If you’re really that concerned about your role as your daughter’s parent, you do have the option is to talk with her about it. (“What I do as your parent is not an option, but I would like to know what it’s like from your side….”)
I really don’t know what’s going on, Andie, only what I can read and surmise… I hope some of what I just said is helpful to you.
Hang in there, Mom…(and don’t be a stranger).
Thanks for stopping by, Andie, and good luck with that cold.