Parent Power II
In past articles I have mentioned a book, Parent Power by Dr. Logan Wright. Logan was the president of the American Psychological Association at the time he wrote Parent Power and he summarized or condensed what we knew at that time empirically regarding parenting. I am going to apply some of this information to young adults as they transition from parents guiding them to guiding themselves through life.
The first chapter in the book is titled “Who’s in Charge Here”, for parents that means you. Power abhors a vacuum and if parents don’t take charge of the family then children or chaos will. As a young adult you can begin to take charge of your life or someone or something such as “social media” can take charge of your life, or you can have chaos. A healthy adult knows who they are, what they value, what they prioritize, and what their boundaries are. If you are not sure what you value look at your average month and see where you spend your time. Time is our most valuable possession. How you spend your time speaks volumes. Adults seek input from people they trust but they decide for themselves what direction they want to take in their life.
The second chapter is “Focus on Behavior”. With people in general listen to their words, but trust their behavior. What you do is who you are. People love to talk/complain about things but this changes nothing. Only action can make the dreams you dream become the reality you live. Learning to set goals and identifying the action steps you need to engage in, and then acting on them is an essential skill for young adults. Focusing on behavior is also helpful in evaluating yourself as an individual. When people confront you or call you out ask yourself is there any truth to what they are saying. If there is truth to their confrontations you may want to review your behavior and make changes. If you can confidently say I do not act that way, then their confrontation is likely unfounded.
The third chapter is “Reward Virtue”. If you want your children to be honest with you then you need to reward/reinforce honesty. As an adult you can set goals for yourself and reward yourself for meeting them. Time spent exercising, learning to cook, or keeping a budget can be rewarding in itself. Our time and attention is our most valuable asset and the list for virtuous behavior is endless. Of course you can also reward yourself with tangible goods like a good dinner or new shoes.
The next several chapters deal with extinction and punishment. Extinction is simply, “behavior that consistently goes unrewarded will disappear”. Punishment is a negative consequence connected to a behavior. If you drive faster than the speed limit you may be fined. If you drink too much you may feel ill the next day. Punishment and extinction together might look like credit card debt. A person who carries a balance on their credit card is punished by paying interest. This individual then achieves the goal of paying off their credit card and cuts it up; this is extinction.
This book continues with information on modeling. What you do speaks louder than what you say. There are also chapters on communication. When you say communication, think listening. Even the chapters on enabling children applies to all ages. Taking responsibility for your actions makes you a more attractive adult. One might sum up what I am saying is, being an adult is having your own internal parent. The book is an easy read and can be found at the library or used book store. You might even share it with your parents.
(John Goetz M. Ed LPC-S, is the Clinical Director of Edmond Family Counseling and Staff Therapist).