Catholic Free Press

Catholic Free Press Digital Edition

  • Oct
  • 24

Dr. Ray gives parents pointers

Posted By October 24, 2013 | 12:45 pm | Lead Story #2
Dr. Ray G IMG_4653WEB

By Tanya Connor

WORCESTER – “Love without discipline is child abuse,” according to clinical psychologist Ray Guarendi.
“If we don’t do it now, because you’re tired or you feel guilty … If we don’t do it, they will  – a judge … an army sergeant … an employer … a wife,” he said in a talk titled: “Raising Your Kids Catholic and Parenting 101.” He got listeners laughing with humor and stories, while giving parenting tips.
Dr. Guarendi co-hosts “The Doctor is In” on EWTN Radio, which Emmanuel Radio (WNEB 1230) broadcasts locally. He spoke Oct. 17  at Assumption College for the kick-off for Emmanuel Radio’s radiothon. The radiothon is scheduled for broadcast from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Oct. 30 and 31 and Nov. 1 from the studio in St. Paul Cathedral’s old school building. The goal is $40,000.
Sherry Brownrigg is the radiothon host. Teresa Tomeo, host of EWTN Radio’s “Catholic Connections,” is to broadcast her program live from the studio from 9-10 a.m. Nov. 1.
Dr. Guarendi said discipline is a common concern of those who come to talk to him.
“That girl’s mouth …” he imitated a frustrated parent’s complaint. “And the school people – they don’t help. They closed it in June, July and August.”
Dr. Guarendi said those who raised children some years ago didn’t have to contend with a present-day factor.
“That factor is me” – the “shrinks,” he said. The message is: “What do you know? You’re just a mother.” The expectation is that “experts” should be followed, but parents are the best teachers, he said.
So how should parents discipline their children?
“Lower your standards,” Dr. Guarendi joked. If they’re low enough, discipline won’t be needed.
“You discipline because you love,” he said, on a serious note. Today’s approaches, from positive listening to rewards of stickers, are no replacement for love.
He said if one of his 10 adopted children, now teenagers and young adults, says, “I don’t like you,” there are still five or six who do. So he has a 50 percent approval rating. He pointed out his son Andrew, who was in the audience with his wife, Melissa.
Dr. Guarendi gave an example of how a parent might discipline a child, and how that might be perceived. Someone gives your child a cookie. You repeatedly try to get her to say, “Thank you.” She acts like you’ve never asked that of her. Finally you dig your fingernails into her skin.
“Ow!” she complains. “You’re hurting me.”
So you return what’s left of the cookie, telling the benefactor she knows she needs to say, “Thank you,” and now it’s too late.
“Oh, no, that’s OK,” Dr. Guarendi said, imitating a response of benefactor to child. “I have four more bags – because you live with the wicked witch.”
Frustrated parents give a litany of what a teenager does wrong, then they say, “I think I’m giving you the wrong impression; he’s basically a good kid,” Dr. Guarendi said. He said one of the new moral high bars is: “He’s not on drugs.”
He suggested instead that parents should want to be able to say about their 22-year-old: “He’s got morals and character and seeks God.”
Observers sometimes don’t credit parents, saying things like, “You’ve got great kids; you are so lucky,” he said.
Dr. Guarendi warned about a culture that replaces moral correctness with psychological correctness, and asks, “Is it normal,” not, “Is it right?” But, he said, “Sin is normal.”
He said “psychological correctness is a quagmire; you’ll over-parent; you’ll under-enjoy.”
He joked that he’d like to go to confession like a politician: “Bless me, Father. Mistakes were made. I’d like to apologize if God misunderstood my motives.”
Dr. Guarendi asked where his father got his success at parenting.
“He loved me desperately,” the psychologist answered. As a boy he knew that. He also knew his father meant what he said.
“When Pop said, ‘Raymond, have a seat,’ I couldn’t conceive of getting up.”
Now, Dr. Guarendi said, a parent will say about a child, “I’d like to use time out; he won’t stay.”
“How old is he?” he asks the parent.
“How big is he?”
The message: Which of the two has the age and strength to control the behavior?
For disciplining teenagers, Dr. Guarendi suggested saying: “I owe you an apology. I’ve been allowing you to talk to me in ways that are not good for you. I am the parent, not you. If you show disrespect, I’m going to have you write a 400-word essay about respect. If you argue with me, I’m not going to argue.”
As the disrespect continues, the number of words required for the essay rise. Until the essay is turned in, the parent can deprive the teenager of all but love, “some kinds of food and maybe the bathroom,” he said. “Laundry service” and the use of computer, telephone and money can cease. If the family goes out for pizza, the offender brings a sandwich.
“Is this cruel?” he asked. “Is this smashing a gnat with a sledgehammer?” He said it is not. Most American families today can’t say, “That is disrespectful; go to your room,” and get cooperation.
Dr. Guarendi said some of his adopted children have a difficult history, which sometimes started before birth. But he said he doesn’t consider any of them strong-willed.
“Difficult child is redundant,” he said. An explanation for the perception that there are many “strong-willed” children today is that parents’ wills aren’t strong.
Today’s “microwave culture” seeking instant results has affected parenting, he said. He asked how many adults mention the same sins repeatedly in confession, then wonder why a child doesn’t “get” the message they’re trying to impart.
“I always tell my clients the easiest part of my job is to give you ideas,” he said. “I cannot give you the will to do it.”
He spoke of a treacherous culture and said, “What amazes me is how many of you have children still in the faith.”