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Balance pro advice with what works for you

by Dr. Gregory Ramey New York Times News Service on November 23, 2013 10:45 AM

DAYTON, Ohio — When it comes to raising your children, how do you balance your own perspective with those professionals who have specialized knowledge and training?

A mom once asked me if it was wrong for her 11-year-old daughter to sleep in the same bed with her and her husband. I immediately began thinking about a variety of reasons about why that arrangement was undesirable. This mom was rather convincing that my concerns did not apply to her family. What may be true for most, she carefully explained, just didn’t apply to her situation.

A few days after his 2-year-old son was viciously beaten and killed, NFL star Adrian Peterson said he was “ready to roll” and played football for the Minnesota Vikings. His behavior defied the conventional wisdom that it was critical to suspend normal activities to work through the grieving process. Was Peterson the role model of resiliency, or an example of a selfish athlete who put his professional aspirations ahead of his family responsibilities and personal mental health? The mom of a high school freshman works with her daughter three hours every night on homework to help maintain her 4.0 grade point average. When I challenged how this prepares her daughter for the independence she’ll need to function effectively in college, mom dismissed my concerns with a simple, “My daughter. My family. My rules.”

There’s the dilemma. Professionals like myself need to be respectful of different perspectives, and recognize that what works for most doesn’t apply to all.

We interact with families with diverse backgrounds, skills, and values. While parents have a responsibility within limits to do what they feel is right, therapists are also bound by their own moral codes and professional ethics.

Some parents enter my office with strong views on a variety of issues. I’d like to think that my skills allow me to educate and even confront practices that I know are generally related to bad outcomes for kids.

For example, I won’t work with any family that routinely uses spanking as a way to control their young children. For parents who are having discipline issues with their youngsters, I ask them to suspend spankings while they work with me. If they refuse, I refer them elsewhere.

Parents are accountable for raising their kids, and thus they have the ultimate authority and responsibility for any decisions. Do what you feel is best, but don’t fail to consider other perspectives that can help you raise happy and responsible children.

Dr. Gregory Ramey is a child psychologist at Dayton Children’s Hospital. Email: Rameyg(at)childrensdayton.org. This article appeared in the Dayton Daily News.

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