When asked to author a chapter about improving one’s life, I immediately thought of improving the lives of children. Most parents would agree that when their children are happy, they themselves are happy. Therefore when parents improve the lives of their children, their lives also improve. The following are stories of two families, amalgamations of families with whom I have worked, which illustrate my point.

There once were two families, the Bienvilles and the Ibervilles, from a small town named Vieux Carré. These families were very much alike. They were both two-parent households. The mothers and fathers of both families worked outside the home. They both had two children, a daughter and a son. They were both middle class and lived in the same neighborhood. Last, both families wanted the best for their children. Unfortunately, here is where the similarities ended and the differences began.

John and Marie Bienville’s children were named Wendy and Tanner. The Bienvilles believed that they were a typical family, but anyone on the outside looking in would adamantly disagree. John and Marie fought over parenting decisions regularly. Wendy and Tanner disregarded their parents’ rules habitually. John and Marie overindulged their children, and Wendy and Tanner manipulated their parents. They were not a happy family.

John and Marie did not understand that overindulgence and ineffective discipline were counterproductive to teaching their children respect. Therefore they continued to parent their children in the same way throughout their lives. Unfortunately, this story ends with Wendy and Tanner still living at home when they are in their forties.

John and Marie did not understand why they needed help with their parenting styles. They had been told many times that their children lacked discipline. Their family members and friends were willing to offer advice in response to John and Marie’s numerous complaints about their lack of control over their children’s behavior. However, John and Marie did not ask for help. They compared their children to others and were certain that their children were very special. Clearly, everyone else must be wrong!

Wendy and Tanner knew how to get what they wanted from their parents. Wendy would refuse to clean her room, preferring to talk on the phone. She knew that her father would not give her an allowance if her room was messy. Nevertheless, she also knew that her mother would increase her allowance as a bribe to do chores. Tanner would not do his homework, preferring to play video games. He knew that his father would take the video games away as soon as the report card came in the mail. However, he also knew that his mother would buy him two new games if he promised to raise his grades. John and Marie used ineffective methods of parenting, and their children did not take responsibility for their actions.

John and Marie did not attempt to work together in the best interest of their children, so they and their children continued to suffer!

Mitchell and Jane Iberville’s children were named Trisha and William. Although the Ibervilles believed that they had a great family, they also believed that there was always room for improvement. When Mitchell and Jane saw their children behave in ways that were inappropriate, they evaluated their parenting styles and decided that since they had both been reared differently, they needed to coordinate their beliefs and actions. They sought advice from family members and friends, heeding suggestions that were in sync with their value system. And most importantly, they worked together as a team.

Trisha and William thought that they were the unluckiest children in the world. Trisha would sneak and watch television at night when she was supposed to be in bed. She did not think that it was right that she had to be in bed a whole hour before all her friends. However, Trisha had trouble waking up every morning for school and missed her school bus regularly. Mitchell and Jane agreed that Trisha could stay up later on weekends, but only if she went to bed on time every night during the week. They also agreed that if Trisha did not wake up early and was not ready for school on time, she would have to go to bed an hour earlier than usual.

As typical with older brothers, William would tease and pick on Trisha, making her cry. He did not think it was fair that he had to play with her when his best friends lived around the corner. However, when William went over to his friends’ homes, he would repeat the curse words he heard them say. Mitchell and Jane agreed that William could invite friends over on the weekends, but only if he stopped taunting Trisha. They also agreed that if William said another curse word, he would not be allowed to play with anyone. Trisha and William followed the established rules, and Mitchell and Jane stuck to the agreed upon rewards and consequences.

Mitchell and Jane sought the assistance of a parenting coach. The coach supported them as they set parenting goals with attainable outcomes. The coach encouraged them as they assessed current parenting challenges and as they identified their priorities for future goals. Mitchell and Jane actively participated in coaching sessions and used the recommended resources. They read parenting books, watched documentaries featuring child specialists and childhood development experts, and attended parenting skills and education classes. Mitchell and Jane noticed huge improvements in their parenting styles and in their children’s behavior. Amazingly, so did everyone else!

Children are happiest when they grow up in a home where their needs are met and where they are shown love and respect. Children prosper in homes where both parents are consistent and dependable. Children flourish in homes where age appropriate rules, rewards, and consequences are spelled out for them. Parents improve the lives of their children by demonstrating effective communication and conflict resolution skills and by implementing successful, positive discipline techniques. Parents also improve their children’s lives by teaching them to accept responsibility for their actions or inactions.
Some parents may not know how to effectively parent their children, and they may not be aware that they are causing harm. Most parents learn how to parent from their own parents, repeating a lot of the same mistakes. With the assistance of a parenting coach, parents can set their goals, expected outcomes, and preferred behavior changes. Coaches support parents, guide them to stay on track, help them to work together, and provide them with resources to improve their skills. The parenting coach’s qualifications should include education and training in coaching, childhood development, parenting styles, parenting plans, family dynamics, positive discipline techniques, and childhood health and mental health issues. The parenting coach should also have experience working with children, adolescents, and families.

Parenting coaches can help parents who are married, divorced, or never married to coparent their children in ways that are in the best interest of the children. Moreover, coaches can show parents how to be more involved in the different areas of their children’s lives.

Parents improve their lives by being invested in improving the lives of their children!

** This article is one of 101 great articles that were published in 101 Great Ways to Improve Your Life. To get complete details on “101 Great Ways to Improve Your Life”, visit http://www.selfgrowth.com/greatways2.html.

Author's Bio: 

Kathleen McGraw is the founding partner of Kathleen McGraw, LCSW & Associates, LLC, a mental health, mediation, facilitation, and coaching firm. Kathleen is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and has both a master of social work and public health from Tulane University. She is a psychotherapist and family mediator. She is a life, relationship, communication, and parenting coach. She is also a professional trainer, speaker, writer, and facilitator. Kathleen coauthored a book to be released soon, A Guide to Getting It: Vibrant and Lasting Relationships. Contact her at Kathleen McGraw, LCSW & Associates, LLC, 3350 Ridgelake Drive, Suite 287, Metairie, LA 70002, USA, (504) 836–3883, http://www.McGrawandAssociates.com,