The Four What?
So, you are probably wondering what I mean by pillars. A pillar is a vital part of a structure – or, in our case, a person – that provides support and stability. Missing or weak pillars cause you to become unstable and eventually lead to a collapse.
In each area of life, there are pillars available to help you succeed if you commit to them and work hard to strengthen and balance each one.
Let me give you a few examples:
Think back to when you were in school. What did the best students always have in common? They usually sat in the front row of class, spent hours after school in the library and studied for tests a week in advance.
They didn’t try to just “get by”. Instead, they decided to be the best student they could be, were always the hardest workers and never took the easy way out.
How about the pillars of sports? You must practice and become extremely skilled physically, emotionally, and mentally. If an athlete has great physical skills but withers under the pressure they will never be great at their sport.
What makes Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan so good? It’s not just their physical talents. Instead, it’s the way they handle themselves mentally and emotionally in the tough situations. They have trained themselves for years because they decided to be the best athlete they could be, always worked the hardest and never took the easy way out.
The pillars of weight loss? Anyone who has tried a special diet knows that it won’t work long term – as much as all those “Diet and Fitness Experts” want you to believe otherwise. To permanently lose weight you must eat right, do cardiovascular exercise and strength training.
Missing any of these will cause you to fail. You can work out 8 hours a day, but if you are eating more calories than you burn you will not lose any weight. So you must make a decision once and for all that you will get and stay healthy, work hard and never take the easy way out.
Are you starting to see a pattern here? To be great at anything you must:
o Decide you want to be great
o Dedicate yourself to put in the time and effort
o Never cut corners or look for the easy way out
What Does This Have To Do With Parenting?
Parenting requires just as much work as anything else – and sometimes more. You have to work just as hard as the best golfer or smartest student would. You can’t expect it to be easy. You must continually learn and put in the time to strengthen and balance The Four Pillars of Parenting. Only then will you understand what great parenting really is.
So have I beat this into the ground enough? Have I made it clear that being great takes time and effort? That it won’t be easy?
Let me explain each of The Four Pillars so you know exactly what you need to be doing. All of these are equally important and it’s not until you have become balanced in all four areas that you will realize your potential because leaning too hard on one will cause you to collapse.
Pillar 1: Prevent the Pattern
This Pillar, also known as your “Family of Origin”, includes your family history, family traditions you want to carry on (or those that you don’t) and most importantly how your parents parented you.
In every aspect of life, you can only do the things that you know. You cannot be expected to do something that you’ve never learned, and this can be very dangerous if you had parents who were negative, didn’t love you or abandoned you. If most of what they taught you was negative, most of what you teach your kids will be negative as well – unless you make a change.
But don’t be too hard on your parents because odds are their parents acted the same way towards them and so did their parents’ parents and so on. This is the negative Pattern of Parenting that you must prevent from continuing. You do not want your children to have the same negative experiences that you did.
Divorce, alcoholism and different types of abuse are extreme examples of negative patterns that pass down through the generations. Yours may not be as extreme. Instead, maybe it was a lack of compassion, affection or love. It may be that your parents always expected too much out of you and nothing you ever did was good enough. Whatever it is – if it’s hurtful or negative – it needs to be stopped.
Most family issues I deal with on a daily basis are not problems with the children. Instead, the parents have unmet needs from their past that they project onto their kids either consciously (they know they are doing it) or unconsciously (they don’t realize they are doing it). So, how your parents parented you is something you must address because once you begin to make peace with your past you are then able to become emotionally available to your kids.
Most parents I’ve encountered skip this entirely. Why? Because these can be hard and sometimes very painful issues. If your parents hurt you physically or emotionally, if they got divorced when you were young or if you have different beliefs than them it may be very hard for you to go back and face that. That’s normal, but can also be very dangerous. So you must learn to accept your past and stop the negative parenting patterns before they damage your children.
Pillar 2: Conquer the Culture
Times continue to change rapidly and you need to understand what it is you are facing as a parent. There are more distractions, temptations and influences now than there were when you were a child and you need to be aware of them.
Here are a few easy questions for you about the culture your children live in right now to see how “in-the-know” you really are. (See the bottom of this section for the answers.)
1. Who is a normal teenager by day and a Pop Star by night?
2. What are you doing if someone “Pokes” you?
3. Who is Troy Bolton?
4. Who is Tom? And are you friends with him?
So how did you do? Did you get all or most of them right? Hopefully you did because these are questions you should be able to answer if your children are old enough to go to school, have access to a TV or a computer. Because I guarantee that even if you don’t know these answers – they do.
Children have so many influences in today’s culture. Sex, drugs and violence are everywhere – on the Internet, TV, movies and video games – and they all are incredibly influential on young minds.
Do you allow your children on the Internet without supervision? When should they be allowed to start watching PG-13 or R-rated movies? What TV channels are ok and which ones need to be monitored or banned? These are a few of the issues that you need to address.
There will always be a new influence out there – so you need to keep up with the culture so you can stay prepared.
1. Miley Cyrus/Hannah Montana 2. You are on Facebook. (What is Facebook? You need more help than I thought.) 3. He is the star of Disney’s High School Musical. 4. Tom is one of the founders of Myspace.com and he currently has 225,916,857 online friends – yes that is more than 225 Million people and counting.
Pillar 3: Teach the Tools
This is what you are constantly searching for – something that you can use to fix your parenting problems. These tools are important and you need to learn as many as you can so that you’re prepared for any situation you may face. But more importantly, you need to learn WHEN and HOW to use these tools properly because good parenting tools are worthless if used incorrectly.
For instance, different actions work in different situations. Timeouts may work for a specific child in a specific situation but not for other children or situations. Taking privileges away can work great for one child but not the other. And how long do you take them away? A day? A week? All these actions have been shown to work if used correctly.
So you need to learn WHEN to use WHAT to get the best response from your child. You need a whole bag of parenting tricks. You can’t just be a one-trick pony parent. Sometimes you need to know whether to trick or treat your children. Too much? Yeah, I thought so, but you get my point.
These tools should center around three key areas: Empowerment, Discipline and Punishment. (Discipline and punishment are NOT the same thing)
Empowerment: Tools to raise children that can take care of themselves – physically, spiritually, emotionally, mentally, sexually, economically, socially and any other word ending in -ally.
Discipline: Tools to reinforce good behaviors, stop bad behaviors and teach your child how to be honest and respectful.
Punishment: This is part of discipline, but it is an area that can be extremely confusing. So extra detail on effective punishment techniques used to stop bad behaviors is essential. Pay attention to the word “effective” because many of the punishment techniques you may use can be ineffective and even reinforce the bad behavior.
Pillar 4: Cultivate the Character
You have an obligation to your children and society in general to raise kids with good character and values. It’s your responsibility to raise them to be positive, happy and caring. The world is filled with so much anger, hate and negativity now that this will be hard, but you must do it. Because, as cliché as this may sound, we need to make the world a better place – one generation at a time.
So how do you do this? You must set a good example and teach your children how to act properly. Some examples are:
o Teach your boys how to respect girls.
o Teach your girls how to value their bodies.
o Volunteer time and money to the less fortunate.
o Grow spiritually or religiously.
Creating a child of character is more important now than ever before. The good news, though, is that if you lead they will follow.
Why Aren’t You A Great Parent?
“I would be better but I just don’t have the time.”
“I would learn everything to do but I don’t have the money to buy all those books.”
“I would try harder, but my kids won’t listen to me anyways.”
You can come up with every excuse you want, but the only reason why you’re not the parent you have always dreamed of being is that:
You’ve chosen not to be.
It’s that simple. It doesn’t matter what the people around you are doing or the situation you are in – you can become a great parent if you want to be. It’s completely up to you.
You must commit to building and balancing The Four Pillars of Parenting so that you can grow as a parent. Don’t keep searching for new “revolutionary” ideas because without solid supports around you the “amazing” new tool or technique will never succeed long term.
They may not be as fancy or interesting as some of the ideas out there, but they work. You should never feel “lost” as a parent. You should always have an option and these pillars give you that.
So Are You Ready?
It’s time that you make a change – a real, lasting change in your parenting. You need to decide right now that you will never again look for an easy way out and dedicate yourself to working hard, learning and perfecting The Four Pillars of Parenting.
You must be 100% committed because it will take time and effort. It won’t be easy – but nothing worthwhile ever is. This is not a quick fix for your problems, but it is the only way to make a lasting change.
Dr. Ray Hawkins, a nationally recognized parenting expert, is a Licensed Professional Counselor and an AAMFT (American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy) Approved Supervisor that has been helping parents since 1982.
To learn more about The Four Pillars of Parenting go to Dr. Ray On Parenting and we will immediately mail you your copy of The Four Pillars of Parenting Newsletter and the Bonus CD: “Balanced Parenting”.