Do you ever feel you need a compass or a set of tools to help you navigate through the issues that arise every day as a parent? If so, you are not alone. Parents worry, they fret, they despair, they cry, scream, and yell loudly. Most parents feel alone when it comes to knowing what the right thing is to do.Just how do we come to know what is right? Does choosing right mean something else is wrong? We do best when we don’t divide the world or our thinking into good or bad, right or wrong, or any other human maneuver that separates us from others and creates a state of Us versus Them. This type of thinking accounts for wars and creates excuses for violence.
In order to guide children parents need to have a working compass of their own. They need to have navigation tools that work. Most of the parents I have known in my clinical practice struggle with the compass and the tools. They get lost and try something new. The may re-invent their parenting style on a weekly basis. Their children get confused. Matters are not remedied by the host of parenting books out there that would guide you this way or that way. The problem with most parenting books is that they espouse one way of parenting. How absurd. There are dozens of ways to parent and parent well.
Psychologists, counselors, social workers, psychological researchers, professors, and many others who work in the field of psychology are familiar with the American Psychological Association’s Code of Ethics. The APA Code of Ethics is the compass for mental health professionals. Within this very long code of ethics are contained five main principles and many dozens of principles. I teach ethics at a university and I found myself wondering about applying the code of ethics psychologists use every day to parenting.
Here are my thoughts on this.
The five main principles in the APA Code of Ethics address the general behavior and expectations of the professional in the field of psychology. This includes the psychologist in clinical practice, as a researcher, as a professor, a consultant, or as a mentor of students in the field.
The first Principle is known as Principle A: Beneficence and Nonmaleficence. This principle speaks to the concept of doing no harm and always attempting to do the right thing. It means that we search for the right thing in the situation at hand and avoid any harmful choices or behaviors where others who are in our care are concerned.
In parenting I propose we look at Principle A as an opportunity and as permission to choose the right thing. This may not always be the trendy thing or the thing that your mother, friend, neighbor, or your children’s parents are doing. The right thing often requires taking a little time and avoiding impulsive, reactive, or angry choices. With Principle A we settle down and make a decision to do the right thing and the right thing is that which avoids harm coming to your child.
How do we know when we have harmed a child or our children? There are many signs of harm being done. A child who cries, cannot sleep, has trouble concentrating, is overly anxious, or appears disinterested or depressed may have been harmed. We may not have done things that make a child show these signs, but our parenting does effect our children. At the very least we can show a child that we will do the best thing. The best thing is to come to fully understand the conflict that has been presented.
We will look at all of the principles in this blog series and we will also look at the steps involved in solving a conflict with a child. The problem-solving process does work and it does create a sense of well-being in the parent when a parent know they are doing something correct and based on being mindful.
I advocate keeping your parenting style and adopting a code of ethics for your style and your beliefs. You don’t need to follow another’s style, but a compass may help you feel more confident.
More on the principles in the next blog.
Thank you all and be well!
Nanette Burton Mongelluzzo, PhD
American Psychological Association Code of Ethics, www.apa.org/ethics/code/principles….