"Parent University"
By Darol Wagstaff
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Congratulations!  It is with great pleasure that I extend our offer to be part of the student body of PARENT UNIVERSITY. We had a record number of applicants this year, so yours is an accomplishment in which you should take special pride. Parent Universities faculty and our president join me extending best wishes. Well done!

I look forward to welcoming you personally during New Student Orientation. Let us know as soon as possible that you'll be joining what I'm sure will be our most distinguished class ever. In the meantime, please don't hesitate to contact me or any member of the admissions staff if we

can be of assistance to you as you make your plans...

Darol Wagstaff, Dean of Admissions

Parent University

Wouldn’t it be nice if at the time of the arrival of your first child, you also received an acceptance letter from the Dean of Admissions at “Parent University”?  This acceptance letter would include a commitment from Parent U’s administration and faculty to assist you with every aspect of your parenting experience? 

Many parents underestimate themselves and their capacity to manage family life.  When an issue arises, a natural instinct is to scramble for the nearest parenting book or to seek counsel from an outside source.  Although these resources can be very helpful, focus first on the fact that You can solve most problems by generating the solutions for yourself.  A very important step in this process however, is to allow enough time to develop and work your solutions through.

A parents role includes presiding, protecting, and providing, for the family.  Parent University assists parents by offering courses in Human and Child Development, Elementary and Secondary Education, Nursing, Mathematics, English, Organizational Communication, Sociology, Psychology, Medicine, Economics, Engineering, Business, Corrections, and Law,  just to name a few.  Many parents earn Masters and Doctorate degrees.  Master’s degrees that are awarded on the way to the doctorate and  Doctoral programs that are designed to create scholars capable of independent research that will add new and significant knowledge to the parenting field. We're talking about a multi-year program typically taking anywhere from fourteen to twenty years to complete--and sometimes more!

Parenting is not a short-term project.  It is a life time journey.  Avoid thinking that some day you will get it right and then all of your problems will be over.  Rather, measure what you get right on a daily basis.  Dr. Denis E. Waitley wrote:


There is an Island fantasy

A “Someday I’ll,” we’ll never see

When recession stops, inflation ceases

Our mortgage is paid, our pay increases

That Someday I’ll where problems end

Where every piece of mail is from a friend

Where the children are sweet and already grown

Where all the other nations can go it alone

Where we all retire at forty-one

Playing backgammon in [or golf] in the island sun

Most unhappy people look to tomorrow

To erase this day’s hardship and sorrow

They put happiness on “lay away”

And struggle through a [self-inflicted] blue today

But happiness cannot be sought

It can’t be earned, it can’t be bought

Happiness is where you are right now

Pushing a pencil or pushing a plow

Going to school or standing in line

Watching and waiting, [enjoying your time]

If you live in the past you become senile

If you live in the future you’re on Someday I’ll

The fear of results is procrastination

The joy of today is a celebration

Life’s most important revelation

Is that the journey [becomes the destination]

You can save, you can slave, trudging mile after mile

But you’ll never set foot on your someday I’ll

When you’ve paid all your dues and put in your time

Out of nowhere comes another Mt. Everest to climb

From this day forward make it your vow

Take Someday I’ll and make it your now! 

(Italics added)

Four important Parent University lessons that can be applied on a day-to-day basis are:

Lesson Number One:  Lead your children. 

W. Scott Whipple, Executive Director of the Granite Education Foundation in Salt Lake City, indicates that parents must lead their children to have self-esteem.  Self-esteem is the worth or value that we give to ourselves.  If self-esteem is positive then we do positive good things, if self-esteem is negative then we struggle and life becomes more difficult. Scott suggests that to build self-esteem each child needs to feel unique, be connected, have power, and be influenced by positive role models.  Positive self-esteem is developed over time and is directly associated with the choices that are made.  Self-perception,  that is,  who we are, can be,  and want to be, is at the heart of this decision making.  Self-perception and self-esteem go hand-in-hand.  When faced with a decision to drink, smoke, do illegal drugs, or have pre-marital sex, the youth with positive self-perception and self-esteem would never consider doing any of those things because their life has been planned and mapped out under the direction of parental leadership. If however, a youth makes a wrong choice and falls into a pattern of negative behavior, then is the time when the responsible parent steps in.

Lesson Number Two:  Eliminate distractions, obstacles and detours. 

From a parents point of view, peers are the single most powerful source of outside influence in a young persons life.  For good or for bad.  Somewhere between the ages of eleven and fifteen, parents seem to lose some of their credibility and kids seek other sources for validation. That validation mostly comes from their peers.  It is natural for teenage boys and girls to expand their boundaries, but when those boundaries go beyond what is acceptable,  parents need to step in and intervene.  One young man in ninth grade had a history of smoking tobacco and marijuana, drinking alcohol and, trying to take the virtue from any young woman that would give in to him.  He was loosely supervised at home.  When his parents were confronted with objections to his behavior, they would deny that he was doing anything wrong and defend him to the end.  This young man targeted a girl his same age.  Her parents became concerned when her grades started to suffer and they received reports from school that she and this boy were showing public displays of affection (kissing, hugging, holding hands etc.) in the halls at school.  She told her parents that he was going to quit smoking and drinking for her.  Her parents contacted his parents and suggested that ninth grade wasn’t the time for these two to pursue a relationship.  His parents didn’t think it was a big deal and became antagonistic toward them.  The mixed message that came from the different homes became confusing to the girl.  For the next four months she wasn’t allowed to associated with anyone that they didn’t first approve of.  The school administrator helped to keep them apart during school hours and one or both of her parents were with her all of the rest of the time.  This was very difficult because when a youth is grounded and restricted, the parents becomes the enforcers.  The cops.  Everything rotates around the restricted youth:  home life, work, and relationships across the board.  After four months of the girls restriction,  the young man went after another girl, he was subsequently caught with drugs on school property and expelled.  The girl then realized that he wasn’t what she thought he was but by that time her peer group and her values had changed from what she had formerly committed to.  For the next two years her social life was of highest priority.  She struggled in school, and was in constant dispute with her parents.  It wasn’t until the middle of her junior year in high school that she realized that her life needed to change.  The train had passed her by and in order for her to graduate with her class and have the regular freedoms that most teenagers have she would have to do what seemed impossible.  If her parents hadn’t eliminated many of the distractions and obstacles, she would have been even worse off  than she was.  Now she had to catch the moving train.

Lesson Number Three:  Assist and support your children so they can achieve. 

Remember possible lies straight through the middle of impossible.  Champion parents go beyond exhaustion.  When they feel like giving up and giving in,  they find it in within themselves to reach a little higher and dig a little deeper.   In the case of the distracted girl, her parents helped her to structure her personal, home/family, school, church, and social life with balance and discipline.  The girl saw that if she was going to succeed in life, it was up to her.  Her parents could assist her but ultimately she had to do the work. 

Dr. Ronald J. Hermansen, Associate Director of Granite School District’s Adult And Community Education counsels us to remember that “children are not property that we own but human beings deserving of our best efforts to help them mature and become productive citizens and future responsible parents.”  Then he suggests some do’s and don’ts  that we should apply when we assist our children.  “We should not hit, abuse, hurt, yell, get angry, lose patience, use sarcasm, smother, frown, indulge, spoil, put down, ignore, play favorites, compare, forget, or give up.  We should: love, praise, sing, play, encourage, joke, smile, laugh, cry, vacation, visit relatives, hug, listen, respect, and keep trying.”

Lesson Number Four:  Persist.  Press-on and never give up.

Barry Richards, Director of High School Services for the Granite School District says: “A common sense approach to raising good kids so that they can become accountable and responsible adults,  is to love them unconditionally, and to never give up, no matter what.”

Additionally, Barry suggests that there are many things that you can do to strengthen your role as a parent.  Children need to feel that they are loved in their home.  As a parent, do you express your love frequently,  and do you spend time with each child individually?  Do you listen to the concerns of your children and initiate action to help them?  Are you available and approachable when your children have serious issues?  Is here a comfortable place in or around your home to do this?

Do you celebrate your student’s success in school?  Never compare one of your child’s successes to another.  As a parent, you need to provide a quiet place for your students to study.  You also need to set up a mutually agreeable time schedule for homework (about six hours per week).  Homework is practice time for school success.  It is important to establish a regular habit of doing homework.

It is important that parents regularly talk to children about their hopes and plans for education and their careers.  Parents need to be a role model in taking classes and courses from colleges or community education.  If learning is important to parents, it will generally be important to your child.  Keep in touch with your child’s school and his/her teachers.  Don’t expect perfection from your child but encourage them to do their best.

Involve your children in community activities.  Meet with your children and help them choose activities matching their interests.  When possible,  as a parent, volunteer your time, material, and resources to these activities.

See that your children have the religious affiliation with the church your choice.  Attend at least one service per month together.

Set rules for your child.  Enforce consequences when rules are broken.  Set limits on the number of nights including weekends when your child can spend time out of your home. Check whenever your child goes out as to where he/she is going and with whom you child is spending time.  A precise time should be given for their return.  A mutual effort to communicate is key to your success.

Finally, take courage from this quote from President Calvin Coolege:  “Press On, Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; Nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent.  Genius will not; Unrewarded genius Is almost a proverb.  Education alone will not; The world is full of educated derelicts.  Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. 

Darol Wagstaff is President of Youth Motivation Institute and Champions For Life Speakers Bureau.  He serves as the at-risk youth committee chairman for the Granite Education Foundation.  For a free parents guide contact the Granite Education Foundation at: (801) 268-8590.

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