Collier and Lee Counties Edition

Transforming Ourselves to Empower Our Children

Our society has historically taken for granted that parenting comes naturally. Today, the number of parenting classes offered online, classroom-style or even in high school on everything from birthing and breastfeeding to raising a teenager suggests something different. Parenting may not be an inherent talent, and the skills to do it well can be acquired.

While parenting may spark a sense of wanting the best for our children, not every parent knows how to lead, motivate or inspire their child in this direction. This was one of the reasons that University of Washington researchers evaluated approximately 20 parenting programs and found five that are especially effective at helping parents and children at all risk levels. The criteria for selecting evidence-based, relevant “Promising Parenting Programs for Reducing Adolescent Problem Behaviors,” as well as the results, are explained in detail in the Journal of Children’s Services.

All five programs identified by researchers—Nurse-Family Partnership, Positive Parenting Program, The Incredible Years, Strengthening Families and Staying Connected—are consistent with a social development model that focuses on fostering opportunities, skills, rewards for positive social behaviors, bonding and clear expectations for behavior.

Positive Parenting is a flexible system of programs that focuses on five main goals: promoting safe and engaging environments, creating positive learning environments, using effective discipline creating clear and reasonable expectations and self-care for parents.

Active Parenting Publishing, which has been helping families find their way for 30 years, notes that raising children in today's uncertain world can be a daunting task. Children are susceptible to many forces around them and can become lost in the chaos without a strong set of parents to guide them. In Southwest Florida, TMC Productions, Monarch Therapy and House of Gaia offer several classes for healthy parenting. The latter two offer Positive Parenting, a flexible system of programs that focuses on five main goals: promoting safe and engaging environments, creating positive learning environments, using effective discipline, creating clear and reasonable expectations, and self-care for parents.

Kimberly Rogers, owner of Monarch Therapy, in Naples, believes that the popularity of parenting classes reflects the many discoveries in neuroscience that are proving how the brain is influenced by the environment and our reaction to the environment, with a direct link to physical and emotional responses. “I’ve been particularly impressed with how eloquently Daniel Siegel, a neuropsychiatrist, explains this in Parenting from the Inside Out: How a Deeper Self-Understanding Can Help You Raise Children Who Thrive, as well as in The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind, Survive Everyday Parenting Struggles, and Help Your Family Thrive. I highly recommend this reading to all of the parents who bring me their children and those who enroll in our classes, as well. It’s easy to learn about what Daniel teaches in his YouTube videos on the subject,” says Rogers.

There is also more research identifying the impact of different parenting styles on children. The good news is that neuroscience now proves that previous ideas of the brain being fully developed and not changing past our early 20s is not accurate; we can actually rewire or restructure past patterns of unhealthy functioning in our brains in order to function in a healthier manner if we choose to do so. This is a trickle-down benefit for moms and dads. When they re-parent themselves and rewire their brains, their children reap the benefits. This concept is the focus of Dr. Shefali Tsabary’s book Conscious Parenting: Transforming Ourselves, Empowering Our Children.

Tsabary consistently brings up poignant and thought-provoking aspects such as learning to appreciate with great humility the power parents have to lay the first layer of cement in the foundation of a child’s mind. “Are you living mindfully and consciously, transforming paradigms, or are you stagnantly regurgitating patterns of your past parenting simply because that’s the way it was done to you?” she asks.

The concepts of neuroplasticity, mindfulness and transforming paradigms are what inspired Rodgers to create Mindful Expressions, Mindful Parents and Peaceful Mind classes for adults. “It helps parents to focus on themselves, self-regulate and become better and more consistent role models for their children, who learn well from example. Adults who are in touch with their inner child tend to better express themselves and their needs. They are clearer about who they are, and thus better parents. If we aren’t fully connected with our self, we can’t fully connect with others, including our children,” advises Rogers.

Now 3,500 square feet of user-friendly kid and adult space, House of Gaia Community Learning Center, in Naples, has grown to accommodate events, workshops and classes focused on parents and kids. The recent Journey Into Self-Discovery and Transformation was aimed at adults looking to shift self-sabotage into clarity and freedom, giving them strategies for positive change. In addition to Positive Parents Training, House of Gaia offers an important ongoing support group, provided in collaboration with Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida, which is part of the Lee Memorial Health System. “We are a nonprofit caring community, here for the long run to support children and families. From our original Outside the Box concept housed in 1,200 square feet, we’ve continued to answer a demand for programs that benefit children, who are our future, and the people who nurture their growth,” advises Lulu Carter, House of Gaia founder.

TMC Productions, in Fort Myers, offers a series of courses and is a source of learning and growing. One that particularly appeals to parents is Creating Cooperative, Responsible Children (CCRC) that occurs for three hours on six consecutive Tuesday nights. “We give parents tools to raise their children in the most healthy loving and functional way. One of the traditional behavioral modification systems of reward and punishment that parents have used is basically a system that nurtures addictions later in life. This system generates kids that become adolescents looking for instant gratification and living in fear of punishment. Kids don’t want gold stars. They want to be acknowledged, recognized and seen for who they are,” explains Tina Crumpacker, TMC Productions founder and creator of the parenting course.

CCRC also teaches parents learning tools that acknowledge and encourage their children. Rather than rescuing children, their understanding of the relationships between cause and effect is their best opportunity for learning important lessons. “Natural consequence is the best teacher for character building and behavior modification in children. We teach parents about a child’s internal motivation, which is a better acknowledgement of their successes. For example, a child who didn’t keep his or her agreement to contribute by taking out the trash would get to do one of the parent’s chores. The consequences of, “I did this for you, now you do this for me,” is a better internal motivator for the child than the punishment of no television,” remarks the author of The Journey to You, who notes that there are a total of six modes of behavior modification covered in the classes.

One very important thing to keep in mind when parenting is that there is no such thing as perfection. “Relax and enjoy parenting. You can correct mistakes and still raise an awesome child who is empowered to thrive in the world,” advises Rogers.

Local Resources

Monarch Therapy, 843 Myrtle Terr., Naples; 239-325-9210. MonarchTherapy.com.

House of Gaia, 1660 Trade Center Way, Naples; 239-272-6152. HouseOfGaia.org.

TMC Productions, 8359 Beacon Blvd., Ste. 402, Fort Myers; 239-939-4769.

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