Parenting’s A Tough Job,
Helen Neville Believes
Helen Neville started her career as a nurse but she found her niche in parent education. It was, as she says, “The most difficult job I’d ever undertaken!”
Being a parent is tough, Neville explains, because it’s never what you expect. In addition, your job description is constantly changing: as soon as you learn how to handle a certain stage, your child has progressed to something new. Moreover, every child is different, so you can’t expect to apply what you learned with one child to the next.
Neville, who has spent years as a parent educator, also believes that parenting is a challenge because you must “re-process” all the issues of your own childhood. Your kids aren’t part of your family of origin—something overlooked by many parents. Nor do your kids necessarily need and want what you needed and wanted as a child.
Finally, Neville cites the issue of temperament. As the author of Temperament Tools points out, having the same parents doesn’t mean that each child in the family has the same temperament. Each child brings a different temperament into the family circle—and that family is different for each child. Obviously, there’s only one first child and only one baby—but other family circumstances may change with each additional member: the time period in which the child is born, where the family lives, the family’s income level, who cares for the kids, the family’s emotional stability.
What concerns Neville about parenting today? For a start, schools. She sees increasing pressure on very young children to perform academically; in her home state of California, kids are expected to read by the end of kindergarten. She also worries about how regimented and preplanned recreation is: because there are so few children in so many neighborhoods and because parents worry about kids walking or biking to friends’ homes, children have few opportunities for pick-up games or casual, spur-of-the-moment play. Play dates require appointments and commuting. And Neville worries that kids are being denied the freedom to wander their neighborhoods because of risks that are more perceived than real. The mass media, especially television news, has such a focus on violence that parents assume there are problems in every community.
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