5 THINGS PARENTS NEED TO KNOW

Kassandra LambI’m excited about my guest today. Author Kassandra Lamb is visiting with great parenting tips. Not only is she a parent herself, so she’s had plenty of hands on experience; but she was also a psychotherapist in a former life, so she has the professional credentials as well.

I’m just going to get out of the way, and let Kassandra get started.

~~~

Thanks for having me over to your place, Rhonda! *waves to Rhonda’s peeps*

Hi, everyone! I’m a retired psychotherapist and psychology professor who now writes mysteries in my old age. (Note from Rhonda: She ain’t old.)

To celebrate the release of the fifth book in my mystery series, I’m doing some posts around the blogosphere involving things there are five of. Since my other great passion, besides writing, is psychology, today I’m talking about child development and parenting.

Some of these things may surprise you; others, you’ll be thinking Well, duh. Number one’s probably in the well, duh category.

1.  Parents are the most influential people in their children’s lives.

Thank heavens this is so, because as parents we want to shape our children into the adults we think they should be. But they aren’t going to just listen to our words of wisdom and model our behavior during our finest moments. They are going to model EVERYTHING we do.

I learned to cuss like a sailor from my father. I tried not to do it in front of him, because that got me in trouble. He was a do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do kind of parent. Yeah, that didn’t work out so well. So I learned from his mistakes and tried very hard not to cuss in front of my son.

When he was seven, my husband took charge of him one Saturday, so my mother and I could wallpaper the stairwell and foyer. Uh, yeah, a stairwell is not the best place to learn how to wallpaper.

Fast forward past several frustrating hours and we were finally down to the last, and theoretically easiest task, putting the border across the top of the wallpaper. We cut the border, gooped it up with glue and smoothed it out along the wall. And it was crooked. Peel it off, put fresh glue on it and try again. Still crooked. After the third try, it was stretched totally out of shape.

I lost it! I yanked the border off the wall, balled it up, threw it on the floor and jumped up and down on it (seriously, I did). But I wasn’t totally out of control. I was mindful of the fact that my son was somewhere upstairs, so I kept my voice down as I let out three F bombs in rapid succession.

Unfortunately he was a lot closer to the top of the stairs than I thought he was. He turned to his dad, wide-eyed, and said, “I didn’t know Mommy knew that word!”

2.  You cannot spoil an infant.

In my developmental psychology classes, I got a lot of raised eyebrows when I made that statement. I would have to quickly repeat, “I’m talking infants here, folks, as in below the age of one! When they reach the terrible twos, it’s time for discipline.”

Imagine being a baby for a minute. You’re clueless. There’s this vague, noisy, sometimes cold, sometimes warm cosmos out there that you can’t even see all that clearly. You have no concept of up or down, much less cause and effect or right and wrong. And your ONLY means of communication is to let out a loud “Waaaa!” when something’s not right in your little world.

So how will attempts to discipline your behavior affect you? They will make you anxious and insecure because you won’t understand what’s going on.

My newborn son with his grandmother.
My newborn son with his grandmother

Why do I bring this up? Because every few years somebody writes a book to make money and resurrects a theory that research disproved several decades ago!

In the mid 1940’s, members of the still fledgling  field of psychology advocated letting babies “cry it out,” saying that picking them up to comfort them would “reward their crying behavior.” Sounds logical, right?

That’s not what really happens. Babies who are immediately comforted every time they cry actually cry less, not more, because they develop trust in their parents that their needs are going to be met. Tons of research has shown this. A quick and warm response to a baby’s cries promotes a healthy, secure attachment to the parents, and has positive effects on later mental health. And vice versa!

Which brings us to…

3.  Your children will love you no matter what you do.

This, my friends, is a double-edged sword.

Children bond to their parents during the first year of life and it is, by far, the strongest emotional bond on the planet. This means, unfortunately, that seriously flawed parenting can do a lot of harm, and it’s very hard, even for grown children, to distance themselves emotionally from harmful parents.

But there’s another implication here as well. Parents need not be afraid to discipline their kids appropriately. They will not end up hating you. While harsh parenting is obviously harmful, too permissive parenting does its own kind of damage. It’s okay to step up to the plate and be the ‘mean’ parent as needed. No matter how much your kids scowl or scream at the time, they really won’t stop loving you.

He’s pissed because his parents wouldn’t give him candy. I doubt he’ll hate them when he’s grown.
He’s pissed because his parents wouldn’t give him candy. I doubt he’ll hate them when he’s grown.

Which brings us to…

4.  Your children will NOT know that you love them unless you tell them so.

Despite this automatic bonding that happens between children and their parents, kids don’t assume that their parents love them. Seriously, they don’t.

I learned this when I was 13. I got my first pony, a dream come true. I was so excited, and so was my mother. Which surprised me because she had initially been resistant to the idea of housing a large-four-legged creature in our backyard.

“What, you don’t think parents want their kids to be happy?” she had asked. Actually no, I’d never thought that before that moment. Because my mother’s generation didn’t say “I love you” very much. They assumed that we assumed that we were loved.

So yeah, we need to say it out loud, and when we’re disciplining their behavior, we need to make it very clear that we still love them, it’s just their behavior we’re unhappy with. Even though it sounds quite silly to our adult ears, we need to say, “I love you, but it’s not okay to try to flush your baby brother down the toilet.”

And finally, if your kids are still under eighteen, brace yourselves…

5.  Being a parent doesn’t end when they’re grown.

I called an older friend of mine the day I realized this. Her kids had been grown for years. “I thought I could stop worrying about him [my son] when he turned eighteen,” I lamented.

When she finally got her guffawing under control, she said, “Welcome to the real world of adult parenting.”

You still worry about them, what’s happening to them and what they’re doing. But you have NO control anymore. It takes some getting used to. If you’re lucky they’ll move about an hour and a half away. Close enough for visiting but far enough that you don’t know what they’re doing most of the time. Trust me, ignorance is bliss!

There are tons of important things parents need to know, but these are five biggies in my opinion. I’m going to stick around for awhile today, so if you have comments or questions about parenting, please do share. I’ll do my best to answer the questions.

And if you would take a moment to check out my book, I’d greatly appreciate it.

COLLATERAL CASUALTIES_Thumbnail BLURB:

When a former client reaches out to psychotherapist Kate Huntington and reveals a foreign diplomat’s dark secret, then dies of ‘natural causes’ just days later, Kate isn’t sure what to think. Was the man delusional or is she now privy to dangerous information? 

Soon she discovers her client was totally sane… and he was murdered. Someone is now trying to eliminate her, and anyone and everyone she might have told. Forced into hiding, she and her husband, Skip, along with the operatives of his private investigating agency, struggle to stay one step ahead of a ruthless killer. Skip and his P.I. partner are good investigators, but this time they may be in over their heads… and they could all end up drowning in a sea of international intrigue.

(This book is part of a series but is designed to work quite well as a stand-alone.)

You can find COLLATERAL CASUALTIES at:
AMAZON US     AMAZON UK     BARNES & NOBLE

~~~

Thank you, Kassandra! Those are some great tips. And even if some people might think “Duh!” at times, I know from experience working with families that not everyone received these things as a child themselves — so they don’t just automatically know something. I think sometimes the best thing we can do is keep it simple so everyone has a chance to be a great parent. And even though mistakes will be made in every household, tips like these can prevent some of them. Hopefully more often than not. So I really appreciate you sharing your knowledge and expertise with my readers.

And I want to say a big congrats on your latest Kate Huntington novel! This is a great mystery series and I can’t wait to read this one. If you guys haven’t check out Kass’s books, I highly recommend them.

And here are two other stops in Kassandra’s tour – both of these women have awesome blogs as well. So I hope you’ll join Kass there, too.

Wednesday 6/19 at Myndi Shafer’s —  http://myndishafer.wordpress.com/ — 5
Things My Mother Said (That I Didn’t Get at the Time)

Next Tuesday 6/25 at Kathy Owen’s place — http://kbowenmysteries.com/
— 5 Reasons I’ve Come to Appreciate History

If you want to know more about Kassandra, you can find her here:

Kassandra’s website and she blogs at misterio press.

She also hangs out on Facebook and Twitter.

And Kassandra has been a guest here a couple of times in the past. The first time was in 2012 to talk about alcoholism and domestic violence in the post, Why Do We Hurt The Ones We Love? The second, earlier this year, as an Authors Give Back guest giving a shoutout to one of her favorite non-profits, Autism Speaks. They both have great info and are worth the time to read.

Thanks again, Kassandra and good luck with your latest book!

And to my readers – as always, thank you for reading. Before you go though, why not say hello to Kassandra. You can ask questions or tell us about a funny parenting story of your own.

I don’t have kids, but I have nieces and nephews. And I can tell you – it’s not an easy job.

I swore when I was a kid that I would NEVER EVER under any circumstances, tell a child “Because I said so.”  I would be reasonable and explain things and you know those kids would be so grateful that I took that time. (Cue the dancing bears.)

Yeah. After 30 minutes and a bazillion and  one (it was that one that did it, I’m sure) “But whys?” — what do you think popped out of my mouth? Umm yeah. *Hangs head in shame*. I had to go lie down. LOL

Surely I’m not alone. Please tell us something you’ve done that you just knew you’d never do. 🙂

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Follow Rhonda Hopkins:

The award-winning author of THE CONSUMING, and the zombie apocalypse series, SURVIVAL. She writes horror/sci-fi, paranormal, YA urban fantasy, suspense, and middle grade.

30 Responses

  1. Kassandra Lamb

    LOL Trust me, Rhonda, even with my professional training, I made my share of mistakes as a parent. And the dreaded “because I said so” popped out at least two or three times along the way. Sometimes, when you’re in the trenches, training and good intentions go out the window. 🙂

    Thanks so much for having me over to your place today!

  2. Patricia Yager Delagrange

    Thank you so much for these five real-life truths about parenting. I thought that when my son graduated high school he’d move out like I did and be on his own, going to college or have a full-time job and my “mothering” him would be sort of over. I dreaded that day. Well, it didn’t come. He’s 19 and probably won’t move out for another two years and although he can pretty much come and go as he pleases, the worrying hasn’t stopped and I’m still “mothering”. I’m not complaining, mind you, but my expectations didn’t turn out to be true in any way. I love being a mom, though, and it’s all worth it.

    • Kassandra Lamb

      Those few months or years after they’ve matured into an adult but are still at home can be fun, Patricia. Our son came back after college and lived at home for a year, working and saving money for grad school. It was neat to get to know him as an adult. But I tried real hard not to pay too close attention to his comings and goings, so I wouldn’t worry too much.

      And don’t dread the empty nest. It’s a mixed blessing. Yes, you miss having the child/children around all the time but the relief that you don’t have the day-to-day parenting responsibilities anymore usually outweighs that. I know you won’t believe that now, but it’s true.

      And most definitely it’s all worth it!!

  3. Stacey Joy Netzel

    Loved these tips and your post will be extremely helpful as I’m just about to start writing a story with a newborn in it. Thanks! 🙂

    Best of luck with the new release!

  4. Dana Delamar

    Great post! I wish I’d known #2 when my step-grandbaby was visiting earlier this year. We had a bit of a debate with her mother about whether to attend to her every cry or not. I was on the side of not “spoiling” her, but now I know that she was still young enough that it wouldn’t have hurt to respond right away. Thanks!

    • Kassandra Lamb

      I hate it when I see somebody (from my own field, who should know better) resurrecting that old theory. Being a new parent or negotiating the tricky relationship of grandparent to grown child and spouse is hard enough without confusing advice from the “experts.”

      Glad I was able to help there, Dana. Aren’t grandbabies the coolest little creatures ever?

  5. PJ Sharon

    Sage advice on the parenting tips, Kassandra. I agree wholeheartedly on all counts. I think one of the biggest mistakes I see with parents is trying to “control” everything in their children’s lives. Micromanaging a toddler is one thing, and mostly necessary, but once kids hit puberty, it’s time to start letting them make some hard decisions for themselves and allowing them to face consequences. If you start when they are young, giving them small responsibilities and letting them “take charge” of some decisions–like assigned chores, allowing them to choose (within reason) what clothes to wear, how they like to wear their hair, etc. you allow them some individuality and some freedom, which goes a long way in earning their respect. Too many parents try to hold on too tightly and end up forcing their will on their kids, who will ultimately end up resentful and rebellious–not to mention stunted in their maturity. It’s a natural part of growing up to make mistakes and the only way they can learn from them is for parents to allow their kids to fail. I think parents take their children’s failures personally, and therefore intervene too much–expecting perfection so they themselves don’t look like “bad parents”. It’s way too much pressure on kids to expect them to be perfect and undermines their self-esteem when parents hover and won’t allow them to fail at anything. Experiencing failure is the best learning tool we have as humans–along with accepting consequences for our choices. My “boys” are now 25 and 32, and the best thing I did for them as a parent was know when to hold on and when to let go.

    Thanks for the great post and best of luck with your books!

    • Kassandra Lamb

      Thanks, PJ. There was a big shift in parenting styles in the 1980’s and since then. And part of the new style (called “authoritative” parenting) was this gradual letting go that you describe. It also includes conveying unconditional love for the child’s being and clarifying that it is their behavior you are disciplining.

      Authoritative parents can be quite strict but it’s more balanced with warmth and better communication than the old-school parenting of my parents’ generation and before. And it includes a loosening of the reins as the child exhibits more maturity.

      I’m glad you brought this up, PJ. Unfortunately not all parents are following this new model. Some are still too old-school and some have become too permissive. It’s a tricky balance to find and maintain.

      • Natalie G. Owens

        Love your input and makes me feel good that I didn’t get it all wrong. Sometimes my parents think I’m either too strict or too loving… I don’t believe a parent can be “too loving”, and if I say no to something it has to mean no. I think discipline and authority are important, but always balanced and followed with a show of love. Balance is key in everything I suppose.

    • Natalie G. Owens

      Totally agree, PJ. For Cole, even choosing his outfit for the day or one dish over another gives him a sense of empowerment.

      • Kassandra Lamb

        I wholeheartedly agree, Natalie. Balance is key. And giving a child age-appropriate choices gives him/her a sense of autonomy, and often make the child more cooperative.

  6. Marcy Kennedy

    Great post! I’m wondering what your best piece of advice for adoptive parents would be (since they usually don’t have their children for the first year of life). My husband was adopted and so we’re looking into doing the same thing, but everyone I tell that to is scaring the pants off me by telling me if we do, my adopted child will never bond to me and love me like they would a natural parent.

    • Kassandra Lamb

      That is absolutely NOT true, Marcy! First if you adopt a child who is under one year old, the bond will be exactly the same as it would be for biological parents. There is no natural preference built into babies’ psyches for the biological parents.

      Up until age 5 or 6, the bonding may take a little longer but again can equal the strength of that first-year bonding eventually. The key is in the quality of caregiving. Parents who are consistent, warm and responsive and interact with their kids regularly have healthy attachments.

      After 5 or 6, and to some extent before that you have two issues to contend with. First, if the quality of caregiving before that was poor (as it often is or the child wouldn’t be up for adoption) the child will have some trust and maybe other kinds of issues. Find out as much as you can about the child’s history, how they were treated, etc. And plan to spend some money when they are older on therapy (tell the therapist everything you know about their history).

      Two, the child may consciously remember their biological parents or may have bonded to earlier foster parents so they may feel a bit conflicted, maybe that they are being disloyal if they view you as their “true parents.” If you are understanding about this and give them some time, this will probably cease to be an issue after awhile. Also it would be good to be open to talking about their earlier parenting experiences, without judging those earlier parents. The flip side with older kids is the child may understand that you are rescuing them from a life in foster care and offering a normal family life, something they may very well have daydreamed about every waking minute.

      We have friends who have four kids, two biological and two adopted. The oldest and youngest were adopted out of abusive situations, one at 14 months and one at 3 years old. The loving family they provided has helped those kids grow up to be fine young people. And they were/are every bit as attached to Mom and Dad as the biological kids were/are.

      • Marcy Kennedy

        Thank you so much 🙂 I’m pasting your comment into an email to send my husband as soon as I finish this comment. We’re ideally going to be looking for a child in the 3-5 age range (because the child protective services people I’ve talked to said everyone wants infants and so we wanted to go a little older but still wanted to get them before they hit school age). We don’t have any problems with being patient and investing in therapy down the road if that’s what it takes!

        • Kassandra Lamb

          That is fabulous, Marcy. Excuse me while I find a tissue.

          You are going to be giving love and a nurturing home to a child who would otherwise not get those vital ingredients to good mental health. Not only will that child benefit as will you and your husband, but society will benefit also. One more healthy productive adult rather than another screwed-up one! Win-win-win!!!

          My friends’ youngest was 3 when they got her, btw.

        • Rhonda Hopkins

          That is so awesome, Marcy! I worked for CPS for nearly 10 years and those kids really need and deserve to find good homes, like yours. Their number one wish is to find their “forever family”. Good luck and many blessings.

  7. August McLaughlin

    Such an insightful post, Kassandra. I particularly appreciate #s 4 and 5. Coming from a family that isn’t particularly verbally expressive (with the exception of me and my equally blurty mom ;)), I’ve tried to vocalize love more often as an adult. We all need to hear that we’re loved, even as grownups!

    • Kassandra Lamb

      Amen, August! We never outgrow that need.

      I can’t say that I had a great relationship with my mother as a child, mainly because she was following the parenting style that was prevalent at the time. But as an adult, she and I were great friends. She really regretted not knowing any better as we were growing up, because she actually was a naturally demonstrative person. But she thought she had to be stern so we would take her discipline seriously. I’m glad we had so many years to be close, and blurty together, before she passed on.

    • Rhonda Hopkins

      My dad’s twin sister is not very verbal about the mushy stuff. Our family always says “I love you” before we leave or even hang up the phone. LOL I say that to my aunt too and of course she just changes the subject or says goodbye. I know she loves me, but it got to be sort of a challenge. I decided I would keep saying it every time. And wouldn’t you know I nearly hit the floor the first time she said it back. I think my mom must have told her I considered it a challenge. 🙂 Anyway, she doesn’t always say it now, but for the most part she does – with emphasis. LOL Gotta love my family. 🙂

  8. Karen McFarland

    *sniff* Marcy, you and hubby just touched my heart girl. You are seeking to bring a special little person into your arms and give them love and a home. That’s huge. That’s bigger than giving birth, IMHO. Sorry Kassandra and Rhonda, I just felt I had to make a reply to Marcy’s comment. That’s just special. I don’t think I have anything to add to this conversation now. Except that I love being a mom. I loved raising our two boys. They’ve turned out to be true gentlemen in the kindest sense of the word. But parenting is a rough job. And sometimes there is no glory in it. Yes, as you say Kassandra, there are times you need to be a mean parent. But I don’t think you can’t love ’em too much. Nope, not possible. That’s why #4 is so important. Thanks for sharing this information girls. It’s as good as gold. 🙂

    • Kassandra Lamb

      No problem, Karen. I love that Marcy and her husband are considering giving a child a “forever family.” (Rhonda, I couldn’t remember the term yesterday; thanks for the reminder.)

      And yes, parenting is a rough job, but it’s also the most rewarding job on this planet! Thanks so much for your testimonial to this. I think it definitely added to the conversation.

  9. Natalie G. Owens

    Totally agree with everything you said. Once I had an argument with my biological father because he told me to let my son cry when upset. Well, my response was to that I had my way of doing things and it included showing my son love every time he cried. In fact, when I did that, he’d calm quicker. We also practiced co-sleeping in the first years, and now again because of a space issue until we move to a new place next year. I agree this is not for everyone but we find he’s well adjusted and secure because of this. Eg, he never cried the first day of school (only one in his class that didn’t), and never made a fuss about trying something new. Also, just for the record, my relationship with my dad is not the best probably because he’s always held himself back with showing affection and pride in my little successes… I also agree with sensible discipline (esp. as regards manners and too much candy, lol), saying “I love you” and “I’m proud of you” as much as possible, and being careful what to say in front of Cole, who is almost 4 going on 30. When he misbehaves or I deny him something, I try to explain why. It’s great to see all my thoughts validated here. I’m so sharing this!

    • Kassandra Lamb

      It amazes me, Natalie, how those old ideas about parenting hang on so, and it also frustrates me when people have knee-jerk reactions to people’s parenting decisions without looking at the scientific data (or looking at it and then denying it). What you are describing is exactly the ‘authoritative’ parenting I was talking about. And research supports the validity of everything you are doing (including the co-sleepng).

      And boy do I get “4 going on 30.” My son was that way too, so serious and too smart for OUR good!