Lesson 1: Understanding Parenting |
This first lesson introduces you to why it is important to study parenting. You will learn how to identify and develop good parenting skills. You will also learn about different parenting styles and theories of child development.
Return to top of page
After completing this lesson, you should be able to
- list the benefits of studying parenting and child development.
- identify the basic responsibilities and rewards of parenting.
- describe parenting skills.
- describe ways to learn parenting skills.
- list the ages and stages of child development.
- identify personal and outside influences on one’s parenting style.
- evaluate parenting styles.
- match important child development theorists with their theories of child development.
Return to top of page
Parenting: Rewards & Responsibilities, Chapters 1, 2, and 3, pp. 22–69
Return to top of page
Until the 1900s, learning about parenting and child development was not considered important. Parenting was considered instinctive, and people assumed that it would just come naturally when one had children of one’s own. Also, many people lived together as extended families, in which parents had relatives’ support and advice in raising a child. However, circumstances have changed, and we are learning that it is very important to prepare ourselves to be parents for many reasons (see “The Reasons for Parenting Education,” pp. 24–33 in the text). In our mobile society, families are more isolated from each other and lack the close family support with raising children that they had in the past.
Scientists have found that the most important stage of life for brain development is during early childhood. Research shows that an infant’s early attachment with his or her parents and other caregivers has a vital influence on brain development. (We will discuss this concept in a later lesson on children’s intellectual development.) Research of the brain has also told us that parents and caregivers must provide a stimulating environment for children in order for them to develop to their full potential. See the Web Resources for ten guidelines that will promote a child’s healthy development during the early childhood years.
Learning about children will help you know how to meet their needs at each stage of development from infancy to young adulthood. You may find yourself working in a child-related career someday, and knowing all the aspects of a child’s growth and development will be a great benefit to you. Children are a part of our lives in many ways (see p. 34 in the text). Keep in mind that how we pass down our culture or way of life to our children will determine the future of our society.
Parents who have taken time to learn more about parenting and child development are better able to undertake the responsibilities involved in raising children. Parents must balance all the tasks involved in managing their own work and family life. Just like time management and organizational skills are important in one’s job, they are needed in the home. Parents must use their time and energy wisely at home in order to fulfill the needs of their children. They must provide for both the physical and psychological needs of each child and other family members.
Parents must provide nurturing, protection, teaching, and guidance for their children. Nurturing means giving children the love and support they need to grow up to be caring adults. Oftentimes a child will need extra love and encouragement when things such as schoolwork get tough. To protect a child is to keep him or her safe from physical harm as well as emotional harm. Protecting children from all the dangers in today’s world is difficult. Because of all the new technology and new societal problems,
children are exposed to many more dangers. Teaching children is also very important. Children learn most of what they know before they ever attend a formal school situation. Providing an enriched learning environment that will teach them all they need to know to be successful in life is a challenge. Today we live in an “information age,” and there is so much to learn. Making the decision as to what a child needs to know is very difficult. It is important, however, to instill in children the idea that they should be lifelong learners. Guiding a child to adopt acceptable behavior is a final challenge. There are a lot of influences on children’s thinking outside the family. Friends, school, television, music, and many other factors do not always encourage a child to choose what is considered acceptable behavior in one’s family and society. Parents must help their children see what is acceptable behavior.
|Parenting involves nurturing, protecting, teaching, and guiding children—during good times and bad. Source: Photos.com|
In addition to responsibilities, parenting comes with rewards. I believe parenting can be one of the most rewarding roles we play in life. It can also be one of the most challenging. Parenting helps you keep your youthful perspective as you re-explore your own childhood and see things through the eyes of a child. The emotional fulfillment of the parent/child bond and the feeling of love provide another reward. There is nothing like the contentment you feel when holding an infant in your arms and putting him or her to sleep, or when a small child looks up at you with adoring eyes and says “I love you!” Also, the carrying on of family traditions and heritage through future generations provides a sense of accomplishment. Seeing children continue the family’s holiday and other traditions with their own children makes parents proud. Parenting can also help you learn more about yourself and grow personally. As you study children and see how they develop, it can give you many insights into why you are the person you are today. You will remember experiences that you had as a child and be able to associate them with some of your beliefs and behaviors today. Another reward is the feeling of pride when your child grows into a successful adult. Watching a child go out into the adult work world and establish his or her own family is a wonderful experience.
Being prepared is the first step in achieving success in any career. How does one become prepared to be a successful parent? Taking classes such as this one will help you learn more about child development and parenting. Parenting classes are also offered at various places such as hospitals. Observing others who serve as role models, such as your parents, grandparents, or family friends, can also help. Remember that by observing you may learn both what to do and what not to do when caring for children. In addition, many books and publications are available that can help you learn more about parenting. See the Web Resources for sites that list books about parenting, or visit your local library or bookstore. The Internet also contains a wealth of information about parenting and sites that answer many questions about parenting and child development. You can also learn a lot about children by taking care of the children of family and friends or volunteering in roles in which you work with children. One of the most important parenting skills to develop is patience. It takes a lot of patience to be able to cope with the ups and downs of each day when raising children. Confidence in one’s abilities as a parent is also important. Parents must be realistic about their expectations and very resourceful regarding the use of their time, money, and energy as they help children through to adulthood. Parents should remember to keep a sense of humor when dealing with children and to be sensitive to a child’s needs. It helps if parents and other caregivers work as a team in caring for a child.
Dedication to the job is another attribute needed by parents. Parenting is a 24-hour job every day of the week. Parents also need to be flexible, as they face many new and different circumstances each day that they will have to adjust to and deal with as best as they can. Lastly, parents need to give children lots of TLC (tender loving care) all through their lives.
To learn more about becoming a parent, interview two individuals who are parents of children at different ages. (Do not interview your own parents.) Use the Parent Interview form below. Ask the questions included in the interview of each parent and write down his or her answers. Then compare the answers. What are the similarities and differences between the two parents you interviewed? Also compare their answers to what we have discussed in this commentary and in the textbook. This is for your benefit only; do not send your answers to the Center.
- How many children do you have and what are their ages?
- Where did you get most of your information about parenting?
- What do you feel is your most important responsibility as a parent?
- What do you feel is your greatest challenge as a parent?
- What do you feel is your greatest reward as a parent?
- Why is it important for young people to participate in parenting
- How do you guide and discipline your child to have appropriate behavior?
- What advice or “words of wisdom” would you give to someone
wanting to become a parent today?
As you observe and interview parents and read about parenting, you will see many different parenting styles. You will find that not all people handle parenting the same way. Each parent must select his or her own style of parenting. This is often based on how that person was parented as a child. It is also influenced by what he or she has learned about children and their development.
The way a person parents his or her own children is influenced by the type of person he or she is and the experiences a person has had in life. Personality traits will also influence style of parenting. For example, if you are generally happy and easygoing, that will be reflected in the way you raise your children, and your children will probably adopt these traits as well. Children also tend to pick up bad attitudes. That is why it is important that people work on self-improvement and eliminate negative traits, if necessary, before becoming a parent.
It is important that you examine your personal feelings about children to see if you really want to become a parent. What are your values and goals? These need to be examined to see how they will affect your parenting style. Your environment, including family, culture, economic level, social policies, and changing gender roles, will also affect your parenting style.
There are many different theories about why children develop as they do (see the chart on pp. 62–63 in the text). Children go through different stages of child development, including infant, toddler, preschooler, school-age, and adolescent. These are defined on page 61 of the text.
The three basic parenting styles are authoritarian, democratic, and permissive. Most styles are a combination of the three with one style dominant. Authoritarian parents assume a strong leadership role in the family. In a democratic family, parents let the children help make decisions that affect them. In permissive parenting, children are allowed to make most decisions affecting them with little parental input. You will need to choose a style that fits you, your spouse, and each of your children’s personalities.
Return to top of page
Complete the following exercises. These are for your benefit only and should not be sent to the Center to be scored.
After you have completed these exercises, you can check your answers.
- List reasons for studying child development and parenting.
- List some activities that people can do to develop or improve their parenting skills.
- How can learning about parenting help you if you never become a parent?
- What are some of the parenting skills that need to be developed by caregivers of children?
- What are the responsibilities of parenting a child in today’s society?
- What are some of the rewards of becoming a parent?
- What are some personal influences that affect one’s parenting style?
- What are some outside factors that influence one’s parenting style?
- What are the ages and stages of child development?
- Describe the different parenting styles.
Return to top of page
You should now complete the Lesson 1 Progress Evaluation. This progress evaluation consists of 20 multiple-choice and matching questions worth 1 point each for a total possible of 20 points. Use the links below or on the course home page to preview and submit this progress evaluation.
Return to top of page