Interviewer: Hello, everyone, and welcome to our show, Families in Transition. We'd also like to welcome our guest today, Dr. Philip Monroe, director of the Family Relations Center here in our city. He is also the author of the book, Rearing Children for Success from the Front Lines.
Philip: Thank you. It is a pleasure to be here on your program today.
Interviewer: So, first of all, what inspired you to write your book and what is it all about?
Philip: Well, it is often said that becoming a parent is one job you can land without experience or credentials, and that is really true. I guess you could say that through trial and error . . . and a number of mistakes . . . I realized that I personally needed to figure out how to become a better parent, too. I mean, for myself. And before I got married, I had read numerous books on child rearing and child psychology to try to prepare myself for this transitional phase in my own life, but every family and situation is so unique, and the challenges of raising children are often so complex that not one guidebook can fully prepare you for what awaits you on the front lines.
Interviewer: Yeah, that's for sure. Um, Doctor. How many children do you have?
Philip: We have five. [Really? That's . . . that's quite a lot.] Well, yeah, and they're all unique, and there's never a dull moment around our house.
Interviewer: I bet there's not. That sounds like many houses, including my own. [Exactly.] And your book. What do you mean by successful children?
Philip: Well, I should first point out that I'm not thinking in terms of the most standard definition, one that associates success with financial or educational gains.
Interviewer: Well, what do you mean by success then?
Philip: Well, I'm referring to success in understanding and managing children's own emotional, moral, and even spiritual welfare. For example, people, umm . . . people get angry and depressed, and that's a part of life, and just telling kids not to be upset or frustrated denies the naturalness of these feelings, and it doesn't teach children how to cope with their feelings.
Interviewer: So, you're saying that it's okay to get angry?
Philip: We all do, I mean, are there times when you get angry?
Interviewer: Well, yeah. Of course.
Philip: Well, that's, I guess, what I'm trying to say . . . is that we all get angry, but learning how to express it appropriately is the key. Not to digress here, but if people are expecting a simple, textbook solution to raising and understanding their children, then they don't understand or underestimate the realities of rearing children.
Interviewer: I think I see your point. So, for all of us out there struggling to raise our children, what can we, as parents, do to better understand and relate to our children?
Philip: When you first get married and promise to love and cherish your spouse, few of us are contemplating, at that moment, the potential challenges we will face five, ten, or twenty years down the road. You don't look over at your spouse, or future spouse, and say, "Well, honey. There's a good chance we will get divorced in a few years." I don't think anyone was thinking that. "Uh. Isn't that any interesting fact?" Of course, this idea is the furthest from our minds, and it might be a blessing that we don't have crystal ball to look into the future.
Interviewer: I agree with you there. I think it's best not to know what's coming up.
Philip: I think in many cases.
Interviewer: I know in my own life. I don't know if I would dare to do the things that we've needed to do if I had known what was coming down the road.
Philip: Exactly. And I think that although we hear stories about the difficulties in raising children, that seems light years away, and we would rather not contemplate that on, well, I think on our wedding days. However, we must face the realities of life sooner or later, and having some skills in your, let's say, your emotional toolbox might provide us with the emotional, physical, and spiritual strength later on when we really need to drawn on it.
Interviewer: Like when, for example?
Philip: First of all, one should understand that there are many factors that influence how children grow up and develop including the environment around them, genetics, peers, school teachers, and education within the home.
Interviewer: Yeah, I can see that all of that really would affect kids.
Philip: Exactly. However, as parents, we have more control over some of these than others.
Interviewer: Can I just interject for a moment. [Sure.] I think we also have more control than we realize over some of these factors.
Philip: Right, it's just that I think there are variety of things---peers are one---but also, within ourselves, we have the the ability to influence, I think, children. However, I think parents often beat themselves up emotionally thinking that must bear all the blame for any of their children's failings. In other words, while parents perhaps have the most impact on our children's decisions and attitudes, we can't ignore the fact that children . . . uh, particularly teenagers . . . tend to follow the popular crowd, and their actions often mirror this.
Interviewer: So, what else?
Philip: Well, parents need to establish clear boundaries and expectations for your children, and be consistent on how you implement them. I mean, children often see rules as a way to limit their freedom when in fact we're just trying to protect them from often negative consequences of their actions. But when children feel that they're being treated fairly, and we validate their feelings, they'll respond . . . . at least we hope they will respond . . . better to our requests, and in return, they can earn greater latitude in what they are allowed to do, and they no longer see rules and barriers as things that stop them.
Interviewer: That makes a lot of sense.
Philip: And perhaps, finally, establish good lines of communication with your spouse and children. Being open to their ideas and lavishing them with specific praise often will build reserves in their emotional bank accounts. And doing this will foster perhaps positive relationships with them. And also telling them you know how they feel---and this is a common mistake that I often make--- "I know how you feel" . . .
Interviewer: Yeah, I can remember my mom saying that.
Philip: Right, and then we often say that well because we have a billion years of experience will often just sound condescending to them and perhaps push them away, even if teenagers are some of the hardest creatures on the planet to understand.
Interviewer: Yeah, I think mine is for sure. Okay, any closing remarks on this topic before we have to go? You make it sound so easy.
Philip: Well, there . . . I think there were a number of years I thought about this, but only recently I've decided to pen some of these ideas because there's never a point we, quote "arrive" close quote, at being the ideal parent. I mean it involves a lot of trial and error, missteps, and even pain along the way. And more often than not, valleys of heartache but that accompany peaks of joy. All I can say is that we can never give up on our children, even when they yell and scream in our faces. It's hard, but we just can't take it personally. And if there's one last thing I could say would be to have hope that things will work out.
Interviewer: Thank you so much. That sounds like a really important message and important book. Thank you for joining our show today.
Philip: Thank YOU. My pleasure.