Sampling parent behavior and attitudes is much the same as sampling Individual and Marriage Risk. Simply focus on one parent at a time and answer the questions from the Parent Risk list in Figure Four. This is how the sampling might go for Leroy as TJ’s parent:
Leroy was neither reasonable nor fair when disciplining TJ. From his behavior, it is fair to conclude he did not know what TJ needed from him or did not care. Either way, TJ was not getting his needs met. Physical punishment and fear tactics were Leroy’s only approach to getting TJ to cooperate. Spending time talking and playing with TJ were not activities Leroy valued; and he probably did not do them at all, and assuredly not every day. It was equally clear TJ did not like to spend time with Leroy. This was so much the case that TJ tried not to even be in the same house with his step-father.
As you see, the Parent Risk for Leroy keeps getting higher and higher. Completing the list of questions only serves to demonstrate how bad the parent disaster gets. The parent risk for Leroy was off the scale; and it was virtually inevitable the family could not survive the extreme risk.
It is also instructive to sample the Parent Risk for TJ’s mother. Was she responsible and fair when disciplining TJ? She certainly was not. Why? Much of the time, she was more concerned about not upsetting Leroy than about what was fair for TJ. Although it seems she knew what TJ needed, his needs were not a priority for her. Was she able to get TJ to cooperate without using physical punishment and other fear tactics? Sadly, she was not. One of her main techniques was to tell TJ that if he did not behave appropriately, Leroy would get upset. TJ was to try to get along. The threat, the element of fear was that Leroy would become violent. She used Leroy to threaten and control TJ.
Applying the rest of the Parent Risk questions to her paints a picture almost as dismal as painted for Leroy. The Parent Risk for her was very high. Given that level, it is not surprising things fell apart.
Now try this. Think about TJ’s parenting experience. Combine the behavior and attitudes of both parents and look at the combination as a single experience. It is this parenting experience that gets the job done or fails to get it done for a
child, if both parents are in the home. If there is one parent on a day-to-day basis, then the parent at home is the child’s parenting experience. But if there are two parents at home, the combination is the key to understanding.
You can think about it like this. If a child has one skilled parent at home and one who is functioning very badly, the Parent Risk is at the level of the behavior and attitudes of the worst parent. The youngster has a bad parenting experience and the Parent Risk is high. It is not enough to say, “But I am good to her.” Unless both of you are good to her, she suffers; and the risk to your family is high.