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Urban Affairs and New Nontraditional
|Volume 2 Number 1
||October - December
A Few Discoveries in Family Life
|Dr. Wally Goddard, family life specialist
at the University of Arkansas Extension Service and keynote speaker
for the 4th Annual Family Conference, offers some insights
into family life.
by H. Wallace Goddard, Ph.D.
There have been many discoveries that have changed our lives.
Think of the influence of penicillin, Teflon, electricity, and
wireless communication. The discoveries are innumerable. Yet,
in the vital area of close relationships, we often operate under
badly outdated assumptions. For example, many people in the 1960s
and 1970s promoted a medical model of marriage, i.e., notice
anything that is wrong with your partner, think about it, talk
about it, and invite your partner to fix it. It seems so reasonable.
Many marriage programs have been based on skillful communication
of discontents, but there is a new approach to marriage that
is emerging from remarkable research.
Dr. John Gottman, University of Washington psychology professor
and founder of the Gottman Institute, conducted a detailed study
of marriage dynamics and offers some helpful hints for marriage
couples. For example, he recommends editing what you say (some
things don't need to be said), using positives (kindness), and
self-soothing techniques (calmness and gentleness). In successful
marriages, partners value the relationship over being right (repair
attempts). Happy couples make the creative use of differences,
work to build their relationship, and actively invest in their
love. It makes sense that a focus on problems only binds up the
mechanisms of marriage. In fact, in some studies the best predictor
of positive family relationships is simply the level of kindness.
On Raising Children
When it comes to raising children, many people are looking for
some magical combination of rules, consequences, timeouts, and
rewards that will teach their children to be good citizens. Decades
of parenting research confirm that nothing matters more than
love. Urie Bronfenbrenner, Jacob Gould Sherman Professor of Human
Development and Family Studies and of Psychology at Cornell University,
eloquently stated, "Every child should spend a substantial
amount of time with somebody who's crazy about him or her . .
. There has to be at least one person who has an irrational involvement
with that child, someone who's in love with him or her, and whom
he or she loves in return."
Timeout, for example, is less important than loving and teaching
a child. In fact timeout has often been misused as a means for
punishing children. The assumption was that parents must make
children suffer for their misdeeds. The fact is that the best
use of timeout is for soothing or helping people to calm down.
Timeout is as effective for parents as it is for children. When
we feel calm, we are better able to solve problems.
In recent years there has been a renewed cry in some circles
for toughness in dealing with children. Ironically, the recommended
actions will probably help some children while harming others.
If parents are always trying to appease their children, they
may need greater toughness, clearer rules, and more reliable
enforcement. Yet, for parents who are not good at listening to
their children and understanding their world, more toughness
is the wrong answer. Some parenting programs recommend that parents
figure out the child's motive for misbehavior from the options
of attention, power, revenge, and inadequacy.
New research suggests that the best parents minimize blaming
of children or of themselves. In the most effective methods of
problem solving, parents invite their children to explore their
own meanings rather than try to analyze their psychological motives.
For example, a traditional parent's response to a child who
got in trouble on the bus was to load them with trouble at home.
In contrast, a parent can use compassion and understanding to
invite the child to explore the experience by possible saying,
"You probably felt very humiliated when the bus driver chewed
you out." When the child feels peaceful, the parent can
invite the child to find solutions and might consider asking,
"What can you do to avoid such painful experiences on the
bus?" Blame is not necessary to problem-solving strategies.
Some of these recent discoveries probably agree with our own
good sense. Some of them challenge us to think in different ways.
When we use the best ideas in our family relationships, they
can make us more effective and more contented.
Defining Nontraditional Families
Germ City: Clean Hands and Healthy People
Grading the Graders
Integrating Social Work Practice
With Ecosystem Management
Safe Holiday Shopping
Teaching Wise Holiday Spending to
Children & Teens
The Demographics of Living Single
Travel Tips for the Holidays
Trees are Your Friends
Editorial Staff & Content Areas
If you have any questions, please contact
the appropriate editorial staff member by content area. When
in doubt, contact the editor.
Wendi Williams (Editor/National-International
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Kevin Crenshaw, Esq. (Legal Issues)
Jean Hall-Dwyer (Print/Electronic Design,
Erica James (Administrative News/Distribution)
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Jeanetta Anderson, Administrative
Jannie Carter, Ph.D.,
State Program Leader, UANNP
Donnie Cook, Ph.D.,
Health & Nutrition Specialist
Julio Correa, Ph.D.,
Kevin Crenshaw, Esq.,
Marilyn Simpson-Johnson, Family Welfare Specialist
Assistant to the 1890 Administrator
Bernice Wilson, Resource