10/07/2013 04:54 pm ET Updated Dec 07, 2013

Parental Guidance

Written by Jan Cloninger

Parental Guidance with Billy Crystal and Bette Midler came out several months ago, however, I rarely see movies before they appear on cable, so I'm always lagging behind on any commentary of current theatrical releases. If you're actively parenting (especially young children), you may find that holds true for you, too. I don't know if it was a box office hit, but it was an amusing take on how the parenting pendulum swings from generation to generation.

When working with parents, we often find that they either parent the way they were parented or they choose to be the exact opposite. If raised in an authoritative home that didn't feel supportive, parents often swing to the permissive side. If their parents were extremely permissive and they wish they had been given more structure, then they tend to create a great deal of structure in their children's lives. If their parents were never there for them, they're probably always there for their children. If their parents never gave them a thing, they may give their children everything.

We also see parents, especially those who feel they didn't have an ideal role model growing up, doing a great number of Internet searches trying to determine the "right" way to parent. Unfortunately, they often end up frustrated, confused and even more anxious because of the conflicting studies and opinions they find online.

Then there are the parents who know, beyond a shadow of doubt that their regimen and/or extreme parenting (that has been carefully researched, thought out, and consistently implemented) will guarantee the ultimate results they want their children to achieve.

Parental Guidance humorously depicted what can happen when a combination of all those things collide with "but that's not the way we did it, and you turned out OK," when the grandparents are called to babysit while the parents are away.

If only those real-life dynamics ended with laughter and love in a neat, 90-minute plot.

  • Think about the way you were raised. How has that influenced the way you parent?
  • Where do you look for advice on how to parent? Do you follow what you read or hear because you think you should? Or because it resonates with what feels right to you?
  • Do you find yourself adhering to a rigid and/or extreme parenting practice you've started, even if your children are exhibiting behaviors you didn't expect or want to see?

Parenting is a process. As our children grow and evolve, sometimes we are called to do the same. It isn't easy when a friend, relative or teacher suggests you might consider some alternatives along the way. But rather than taking it as a personal failure or attack, perhaps just let it be a reminder that sometimes we need to step back, objectively look at the situation at hand, consider options that we may not have been aware of or that didn't seem appropriate in the past and determine if we are on track or if we want to consider some shifts in the way we are parenting our children.

After all, parenting is the one job that we never really know if we're doing right until we see the end results in about 20 or 30 years.

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