Does the Parenting with Dignity Curriculum Actually Work?
I browsed your website with great interest after I saw you on a local television show recently. I am interested in your comments as to how your approach has changed the way parenting is done, and why you believe this helps kids. As a social worker, I would also like to know how your parenting approach might help at risk families. I appreciate any comments you have on these questions.
Thank You - Mom in South Carolina
Parents Must Have a Plan
These are big questions and they deserve big answers… but to give you a simple reply about how our program has changed the way parenting is done, I would simply say that PWD has caused people to try to develop a plan.
Parenting by Crisis Management!
The biggest problem we have found all across America is NOT that people no longer care, (like so many people try to say) but rather, the probelm is that people are parenting by crisis management. There is not one single one of those parents who would get in their car and start driving without a plan for where they were going to go and what route they were going to take to get there; but, they have taken on the task of parenting in just that manner. “We are going to have this kid and take off. We will decide what to do when we get there. We will deal with problems as they come up.”
This is what we see all too often as we travel the country. Parents wonder why they are in the “pickle” they are in and when you ask them how they got there they can’t tell you. Then when you ask them where they were trying to go they can’t seem to tell you. And that is the key… they were trying to guide their children without a plan! They had arrived at a place they did not want to be but they also could not tell you where it is that they actually wanted to be!
PWD Works in Diverse Settings
Our program works in lots of diverse settings. First of all, we have plenty of tips for getting reluctant (at risk) parents into classes. Read our handout from Tape 10, the Facilitators tape.
PWD Works with ALL Types of People and ALL Types of Problems
Next, the skills in the tapes are just people skills. Kids at risk get tons of help out of watching them. We have been very active in prisons. Many of the inmates watch them to improve their relationship with their kids and the first thing that changes is their own behavior! As a matter of fact most prisons are noticing that as the program gets going, many inmates without kids register to take the course because their cellmates are telling them of the positive changes in their own outlook.
Communities Have a Responsibility to Teach Their Children
Our society has the responsibility to teach our young people how to effectively, peacefully, and happily live in the world we have created for them. Genetic parenthood is not total qualification for ongoing custody and mistreatment of offspring. Now this gets dicey. Who decides when a parent is unfit? What standard is used to establish competence in parenting and who takes over when the biological family fails? Not easy questions and the answers are equally difficult. I believe that some of the Native American Tribes are coming to grips with this issue and I think that they are on the track to discovering some meaningful solutions. Their solution is for the tribe to take over where the family fails. I like their idea but it is hard to translate to modern America where there is no community identity like a tribal organization. It would be nice to think that we could get modern America to follow the lead of the Indian Nations, but that seems to be unfathomable to a society who has for centuries viewed the advanced culture of the Indians as somehow barbaric.
It would be nice to be able to roll back the clock to the days of the early settlement of North America and to have had the two cultures meet peacefully and discover the ways of each other and to adopt the best of both worlds. Nice to dream but we are in the real world.
Churches Could Form the Structure of a Logical Solution
So the next closest things that we have to the tribal structure are the local churches. I believe that churches pose the next best alternative to solving the dilemma of where do the kids go when the family breaks down.
"Why not the government?" you ask.
Well, I simply am a believer that government is too big and too encumbered to handle a task of this nature. Raising children is not what our govenrment was created to do. Government will become too tied down by the problems of legislating morality. Raising children is not an issue of Government. Raising children is first the responsibility of the family and next, it is a responsibility of community. I think that if local churches can stay away from arguments of doctrine and stick to the welfare of the kids, some very reasonable answers could appear.
Parent Education is Key!
I know that parent education is a huge part of the puzzle because I believe that parental love is a very naturally occurring drive. All parents love their children. What happens is that through sloppy personal habits (drugs, alcohol, violence, hygiene, mean or ineffective interpersonal skills, promiscuous sexual practices, etc.) many families fail to guide their children and at some point the kids become a part of the growing dysfunctional lifestyle. It is not that the parents do not love their children and want to care for them. The parents have simply not learned how to be effective parents. They raise their children by "Crisis Management" and try to teach their children by immitating what they remember of what was done to themselves when they were growing up.
Parenting Skills Can Be Learned!
The skills for effectively guiding kids are learnable! We know that because we are actually doing just that; we are teaching parents to be much more effective. We need to get an army of volunteers to get people (parents) together to meet in small groups and share some effective skills for raising kids who are capable of making good decisions for themselves!
Our Parenting with Dignity program is on a mission to do this. Our curriculum lends itself well to this solution of “community involvement” because it is structured precisely that way! Parenting with Dignity teaches communities and individuals how to sit down in those small groups and consider some workable and concrete techniques for teaching what THEY believe to their own children!
Community Discussions Are Essential to Effective Parenting
The Parenting with Dignity course is built around the discussions of those techniques as they are applied in the community where they are being used. At the bottom of the Parent's Workbook Handout for each lesson there is an assignment for parents to complete in their own homes with their own children. Then, by the second class the discussions are about their children, their homes, their schools, and their own successes and failures. The discussions change the communities!
Parenting with Dignity builds strong communities who work effectively together to raise their own children!