Darren Sabuda 2017-02-03 08:53:04
Investigative Parenting When my wife and I had kids, I knew I’d be wearing many different hats to navigate the daily to-do list of family life. In addition to duties such as Catchand- Release Hunter of Wayward Spiders and Late-Night-Walker-of-Family Dog I’d become a Combat-Diaper Medic (“We have a man down!). The Teller-of-Lame-Dad- Jokes is in there as well—to the future eyerolling, teenage dismay of my kids. Over the last ten years I have embraced every one of these domestic hats and more. The one hat I did not anticipate wearing is a fedora—as in FBI fedora. Recently, a behavioral analyst with the National Security Behavioral Analysis Program tossed his hat into the crowded ring of parenting advice. Jack Schafer, Ph.D., is a former special agent for the FBI. He gives parents insight on how counterintelligence skills can be applied to raising children in the modern world. I have children. I also live in the modern world. This last one, to a degree, means I have a smartphone containing many factory- installed apps that I don’t use. I have read my fair share of books, magazine articles, and internet news feeds full of parenting advice. These are usually written by people with haughty academic resumes or a random parent (sometimes me) taking a swing at espousing (and sometimes missing in spectacular fashion) their “in-the-trenches” parenting advice. So, when a guy who studied human behavior all the way to the top of the academic food chain and dealt with the behaviors of those worthy of eliciting interest from the FBI offered a perspective on parenting, I read what he had to say. Schafer’s special-agent perspective consists of five main parenting principles. The first is creating an illusion of control. Who likes to be told what to do 24/7? “Eat your vegetables. Brush your teeth. Put on your pj’s.” Giving your kids the opportunity to choose between a few options that are satisfactory to everyone involved works out for parent and child. It also cultivates good gut instincts and a sense of independence. The second principle is to follow the scarcity principle. Communicating that you trust them to make good decisions is better than telling them not to do something (which increases interest in the questionable activity.) “I don’t want you to date that guy,” turns an apparent creep of a boyfriend into a bona fide Romeo. Letting them know you trust them to make the right decision changes a child’s rebellion-for-rebellion’s sake into a bond of trust. The third principle is to ask indirect questions. Interrogation sessions raise a kid’s suspicions about their parents’ motives. Asking them from a third-party point of view is a way to find out how your kid really feels. This especially applies to older kids. “My friend’s daughter is skipping school. What do you think her father should do?” This may not produce the answer you were hoping for, but it will give you the chance to know your son or daughter. The fourth principle is showing empathy. Using threats or demanding a response usually produces a defensive posture from kids. Instead, use statements like, “I can see that you are thinking about something that’s really important to you.” Or, “Looks like something is on your mind.” This gives teens the feeling that they are making the choice to open up and talk to you. Finally, working the case is an important step to connect with your kids. Just being present in their lives day after day sets the stage for parents to be able to influence kids in a positive way. Without this proximity, kids will take the lead from other kids. This is when the Darwinian aspect of playground socialization can influence kids in negative ways. Like any other parenting advice this FBIinspired angle needs to be taken contextually. While training to be a special education teacher (and then working in the profession) I learned every kid has their own story. Trying to force one teaching method onto each and every one of my past students didn’t always produce the desired results. I had to approach a challenging situation with a flexible mindset and let go of “textbook” teaching methods on occasion. This experience as an educator has shed some light on how to navigate parenthood. I understand that my kids’ unique personalities produce different responses to my efforts to coach them through life. A looming challenge sure to flex my mindset is the fast-approaching tween years. As far as I understand it (on advice from siblings who have already raised their kids into adulthood) the tween years are the minor leagues compared to the major leagues of the teen years. I hope my fedora fits nicely. Darren Sabuda, M.S. Ed., is a freelance writer.Buuda71@yahoo.com
Published by Families First . View All Articles.
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