caring

caring

Growing Trust

caring, child well-being, children, family, Uncategorized No comments

Recently, I led a group of young parents in a case study designed to teach them how to handle a three-year-old when he is throwing a temper tantrum.  The parents in the case study were dealing with their first child and made several typical mistakes: one parent spanked in anger and one parent denigrated the other in front of the child.

We dissected the case: what happened, what went wrong, what they needed to do in the future, and how to get there.  Towards the end of the session we gained a bird’s eye view when someone pointed out that the underlying issue was one of trust.  The whole episode came alive again with new energy as we analyzed the case from that perspective.

The case parents were trying to form a habit of restraint in their child so that they could trust him to practice restraint in the future.  When he demonstrates that he can restrain himself their trust in him will grow.  If he does not learn restraint, however, they will trust him less.

Ironically, to achieve this level of formation in their child, they need to be able to trust each other to “do the right thing” when disciplining their child.  Though they agree on what Johnny needs to do they do not yet agree on what each of them needs to do. In this situation they cannot trust each other yet.

This problem will be solved when they can agree: “You can rely on me to do this in this situation.  And I can rely on you to do that in this same situation.”  When they can both look each other in the eye and each say this to each other the ground beneath them has shifted. Not only has trust been restored, but the foundation of their marriage has grown and they have learned how to deepen it.  When they have solved a string of problems in this way they are well on their way to being great parents and a great couple because they have learned how to grow trust.

No matter what way they discipline their child he will turn out strong because they know it is all about trust. “Johnny, you can rely on me to do this for you.  Can I rely on you to do the same for me?”  Johnny learns many good habits but, more importantly, he learns the value of being trustworthy.

Given the massive disruption in trust that the US is experiencing in all its institutions (family, church, school, marketplace, and government) it seems that fellow citizens who are opponents on so many issues need to begin their discourse with: “You can rely on me to treat you with respect in our conversations.  Can I rely on the same from you?”   Without a “yes” there is no point in having the conversation. With a “yes” the ground has shifted— a brick has been laid in the infrastructure we need most: trust.

If we adopt this habit a lot will change. Is there anyone in your orbit with whom you need to practice this?  A spouse?  A child? A relative?  A co-worker? A neighbor?

 

With an eye to the child, the future of America,

Pat Fagan, Ph.D.
Director of the MARRI Project
Catholic University of America

“The Route to the Nasty, Fractured, Polarized and Uncivil”

caring, social science No comments

Professor Richard Weissbroud, Harvard faculty director of Human Development and Psychology in the School of Education, recently presented data on children and their parents which leaves him very disturbed about the culture we have built, including the culture at Harvard.  It is well worth watching.

When ranking personal achievement vs. personal happiness vs. being a caring person only 20 percent of our children rank ‘being a caring person’ as the highest goal — a drastic drop from prior generations.  But when their parents rank their goals for their children, being a caring person is ranked in first place by a significant majority.  However when their children are asked what they think their parents chief aspirations for them are most (60%) think their parents want them to be achieving rather than caring. Only 15 % think their parents rank ‘being a caring person’ as #1.  Finally most parents in ranking other parents think other parents rank achievement over caring.  That is most parents think other parents are the problem.  However their children see through that and most put their parents in the same place as all the other parents.

His conclusion: we no longer foster being caring.  This holds true even at Harvard for Harvard.  He concludes: “…it is one route [as to] why we are living in such a fractured, polarized and nasty and uncivil political and civil time in this country.”

Though professor Weissbroud sees the powerful and positive role of religion — which is great to see in an eminent academic — he very clearly does not want to advocate religious practice.  Instead he says we must seek a secular, non-religious way.

My conclusion:  He is a caring social scientist doing great diagnostic work who drops his science (and really becomes less caring) when it comes to intervention. Ironic.  But, as he said, Harvard has its shortcomings.  Sometimes caring takes courage.  However it would be tough, especially at Harvard.