This activity is intended for parents and may be used either as an outline for single presentations to groups or as a topic guide for parenting classes. In addition, it may be used as an adjunct to counseling situations with parents and families. The goal of the activity is first to introduce the idea of the multidimensionality of children and the importance of understanding and relating to the whole child. The second goal is to encourage an orientation to the needs and interests of the growing and developing child and away from seeing parenting as something one correctly or incorrectly does to children. The third goal is to encourage an approach that emphasizes the relational, interpersonal basis of parent/child interaction and discourages any emphasis on direct control or use of direct power within the parent/child interaction.
The Multidimensional Child
1. You child is a physical/doing person. What do you do to facilitate and encourage his/her healthy physical growth and development?
2. Your child is an emotional/feeling person. What do you do to facilitate and encourage his/her healthy emotional growth and development?
3. Your child is a moral/spiritual person. What do you do to facilitate and encourage his/her healthy moral growth and development?
4. Your child is a social/interpersonal person. What do you do to facilitate and encourage his/her healthy social growth and development, healthy interpersonal involvements and activities?
5. Your child is a sexual person. What do you do to facilitate and encourage his/her healthy sexual experience?
6. Your child is a cognitive/thinking person. What do you do to facilitate and encourage his/her healthy and ongoing cognitive growth and development?
7. Your child is part of his/her environment. What do you do to facilitate and encourage a positive environment for your child at home, at school, in your community?
Being Parents and Children Together
The key to being the parent the child needs comes in terms of understanding and responding to the unique child while maintaining the balance between overinvolvement and underinvolvement, exercising too much control and providing adequate structure and guidance, influencing too much and not enough, overparenting and underparenting. The next key comes in terms of modifying and adjusting one’s parental behavior and parenting style in ways that are responsive to the development and changing interests of the child from infancy into adulthood.
8. How do you manage your child’s environment in ways that take into consideration where he/she is developmentally? What did you do differently when the child was younger? What will you do differently when he/she is older?
9. In what ways does your approach emphasize controlling the child and in what ways does it emphasize controlling the child’s environment, the child’s opportunities?
10. (Including verbal techniques) How do you maximize the use of positive physical techniques – reinforcement – and minimize or eliminate the use of negative physical techniques – punishment – as you influence and manage the child? How do you adjust these techniques to take into account the age of the child?
11. How do you relate to your child emotionally and use his/her sense of attachment to you as you influence and manage the child? To what extent is the appeal in terms of doing it for you or because you asked? To what extent is your approach based on your being happy or upset and to what extent is it based on what the child sees as being or not being in his/her self-interest?
12. In what ways does your approach to the moral development of your child emphasize rewards and punishment – conditioning – and in what ways does it emphasize simple reasoning, judgment, and an internalized sense of right and wrong, good and bad? In what ways is your approach different for preschool-aged children, grade school-aged children, adolescents, adult children?
13. As your child relates to peers and is involved in other social relationships, how do you use permission and restriction as a way of influencing those involvements? In what ways do you encourage positive involvements and discourage negative involvements? How does your approach take into consideration the age of the child, where the child is developmentally?
14. In what ways does your approach encourage and facilitate the blending of physical, emotional, moral, and social development into the developing sexual interests and involvements of the young person? To what extent does your approach emphasize controlling the sexual activities and involvements of the young person and to what extent does it emphasize faith in the child and in his/her judgment, discrimination, and ability to manage himself/herself?
15. How do you facilitate and encourage the cognitive development of the child? To what extent does your approach emphasize the child’s adopting your values, beliefs, and ways of thinking about things and to what extent does it emphasize his/her independent and developing judgment, reasoning, decision making, and thinking? How do you assure congruence between your approach and the developmental level of the child?
16. As the child moves from childhood into adolescence, how does your parenting approach take into consideration: your increasing inability to physically control the young person, the increasing reality that limit-setting only works if the young person consents to the limits, the continuing need to influence the behavior and actions of the young person, the decreasing appeal to the young person of doing things for you and the increasing need for him/her to do things for himself/herself, the increasing moral and value-related influence of peers and society, and the young person’s growing autonomy?
17. How do you use discussion and informational support within your relationship with the young person, knowing that receptivity to these techniques is at the young person’s discretion?
18. What do you do to maintain a position where you may provide the young person consultation, advice, and guidance on an as needed basis while maximizing the likelihood that the young person will take advantage of these resources available from you?
19. What are you doing now to encourage and facilitate your adult children to maintain a relationship with you within which you may: extend physical support and advice, provide emotional nurturance and understanding, convey moral respect, be involved both as parent and friend, demonstrate acceptance of who they are sexually, and serve as consultant and sounding board?