Being A Parent Sends Some Back To School

January 31, 1993|By Lan Nguyen | Lan Nguyen,Staff Writer

Tracy Gauthier, mother of two, returned to elementary school last week to learn.

The topic: parenting.

"There are things that you always have to remind yourself," she said. "And no matter how many times you remind yourself, you always have to work on it."

She was one of about 150 parents with children in tow who attended Clarksville Elementary School's first Parenting Fair, held last week. The fair offered a wide array of seminars and a talk by Jacqueline Brown, human relations director for the school system.

In different workshops, parents learned about disciplining their children, teaching them self-esteem and helping them deal with bereavement, as well as planning for college in the '90s and talking about sexuality and AIDS.

Children, meanwhile, had their own mini-workshops and learned about making and keeping friends, baby-sitting and controlling stress, among other topics.

The fair was the result of a parent survey, said Nancy Draughon, president of the PTA, which sponsored the event.

"Parents always are struggling with how to raise their kids," she said. "There are so many more avenues open to our parents now for them to learn things."

The fair was such a success that a follow-up one has been scheduled for March 1, she said.

During the parenting fair, Ms. Brown talked about how children learn and on how to become a better parent.

"There are kids we get along with really easy, and then there are others who if we weren't connected by an umbilical cord, we're not so sure," Ms. Brown said. "The sad truth is, the child that you have the most problems with is the child that's most like you."

Sometimes, parents should put their feet in their children's shoes, Ms. Brown said. "It's really rough being Joey's mom, or Joey's dad, but I would have to say that being Ester's son, or Henry's son, is also rough."

Parents have to learn to be responsible, raising their children "as if one day, they won't be children anymore, but parents of children themselves," Ms. Brown said.

Parents who tend to be dominant and in control of their children usually have a negative effect on them. "Parents who are in control of their kids do so to discipline, but the kid feels, if someone does it for me, I don't have to," she said.

Instead, let kids make their own decisions. "Life is a matter of decision-making," Ms. Brown said. "I want parents to encourage that survival skill."

And when parents express their love to their children, they should do it when their children have not done anything extraordinary. If parents don't, "what kids will say is, 'only I if do well will you love me.' Then kids get scared that one day, they won't do well, and their parents won't love them anymore," Ms. Brown said. "Kids have come up with a marvelous, brilliant logic. They say, 'If I don't try, then you can't say I can fail.' "

Other tips:

* Talk to children at eye level, and keep your voice calm and warm when speaking to your child. "Don't [yell] at children or in front of them," she said. "It really scares them, and it causes them to have poor self-image. It makes them disrespect you because you act like them."

* Always encourage your kids. "Encouragement is recommended for children who are in the face of failure so they have courage to try again," she said.

"A child who is praised tends to be more fragile." A child who is encouraged, keeps on trying. "That's the courage that children have to have -- how to get up after they've messed up."

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