Parent Skills Take Work, Not Luck

A few years ago, author Rebecca Hagelin appeared on Fox News’ “O’Reilly Factor” to promote her first parenting book, “Home Invasion.” During the interview, an incredulous Mr. O’Reilly challenged Mrs. Hagelin, asking how she reacts to teens who rebel against standards in the home about media.

Mrs. Hagelin calmly explained that when children and teens understand their parents’ standards and values, they tend not to rebel much – or at least, that’s been her experience. Mr. O’Reilly summarized, “Well, then, you’re just lucky, that’s all.”

I’ve no doubt that Mrs. Hagelin is lucky, in the way that we all feel blessed with the embarrassment of riches that parenthood brings. But it wasn’t luck that created a household in which she and her husband could expect that their children follow guidelines about media consumption; it was skill.

Parenting skills seem to have gone the way of the hula hoop. Perhaps it’s the result of our increasingly transient society, where families move from state to state for jobs, better weather and quality of life, leaving behind networks of extended family from whom to learn the tricks of the trade.

Or maybe it’s the growing sense of defensiveness about parenting decisions that makes it socially taboo to question or comment on the choices of another mom or dad – choices that may affect our own children in the process.

In a world where the back fence is a faded ’50s memory and what passes for a coffee klatch is the time spent waiting in line at Starbucks, parents don’t share their concerns much anymore in an environment that invites suggestions, encouragement or constructive advice. That is, unless you’re so at your wits’ end that you hire a professional parenting coach to tell you what to do.

But so-called parenting experts may be part of the problem. Pick up any parenting magazine while waiting for your kid’s name to be called in the pediatrician’s office and discover just how confusing it is to raise a child these days. You can easily learn how to make “green parenting” choices and serve organic snacks after school, but the advice on asserting authority in the home while forging close family ties tends to defy common sense.

Thankfully, Mrs. Hagelin is back with a primer that shares what she knows about being a parent. In her new book, “30 Ways in 30 Days to Save Your Family,” Mrs. Hagelin offers common-sense insight into the daily struggles, successes and skills that ought to be instinctive to most moms and dads, but which our culture has rendered unusual.

Some highlights:

Commit to the daily battle. Mrs. Hagelin wisely notes that we parents must be fully engaged in the job of parenting each and every day.

Envision the childhood you want for your children and the adults you want them to become. Raising good children who become responsible adults isn’t luck; it’s the result of intentional parenting that looks down the long road and offers an atmosphere and a value system that follow the path you envision.

Make your home warm, inviting and fun. Mrs. Hagelin’s focus on family fun and the love that marks a strong, healthy home means she gets what’s crucial in family life.

Mrs. Hagelin is one of several authors who finally are asserting their hard-earned expertise as parents. Others – such as Jen Singer, Lenore Skenazy and Betsy Hart – prove the most valuable credential to give advice may just be the letters M-O-M.

As my children would say, parenting takes “skeels.“ Thankfully, some great moms are sharing theirs.

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  • Ann

    I’m definitely not an expert (never married, therefore no children), but it has seemed to me as I see me friends with families, the kids tend to live up to the expectations and limits placed on them. My friend who tries to reason with her son never gets obedience or even much respect, while the ones who set boundaries have generally happy kids who understand what responsibility means (even while being kids and pushing the limits).

    I can only hope that if I ever marry and have a family, I can take what I’ve seen and use it to make a good home life.

    Happy Easter to all!

  • Lucky Mom of 7

    “Your children are so well-behaved. You’re so lucky!” I’ve heard that way too many times. I try to be a humble person, but it’s truly insulting to have someone say that somehow the stars aligned to make my kids naturally obedient and cooperative with one another (on occasion). I work *hard* to discipline my kids, I bite my tongue a lot and count to ten to avoid raging fits of violence on a daily basis. (Yes, I’m exaggerating–a little.) I think that “lucky” thing is one of the most uncharitable things one parent can say to another.

    Lucky Mom of 7 (ha ha)

  • Ann

    Lucky mom,

    I do try to remember to compliment people I see with well-behaved kids. They do seem to appreciate comments like “You have such well-behaved children”, “You’ve raised wonderful kids”, etc. Parenting is hard work, there’s no luck to it as far as I’ve seen! The kids didn’t just end up that way – they learn by limits, consequences and good example every day from the parents.

    Congrats to YOU for having good kids!