The Stress of Parenting

From Teaching with Poverty in Mind by Eric Jensen:
"Socioeconomic status correlates positively with good parenting, which, research has found, improves academic achievement (DeGarmo, Forgatch, & Martinex, 1999). Unfortunately, the converse is also true: the chronic stress of poverty impairs parenting skills, and disengaged or negative parenting in turn impairs children's school performance. 
Parents who are struggling just to stay afloat tend to work extra hours, odd shifts, or multiple jobs and are less able to provide attention and affection and to devote their time, energy, and resources to their children. These deficits have been associated with higher levels of externalizing behaviors and poor academic performance on children's part (Hsuch & Yoshikawa, 2007)."

Jensen's book focuses on the effects of poverty on a child's brain. Since I'm writing about poverty-related topics on my other blog (such as Poverty, Stress, and the Brain), what I want to point out here is how stress can lead to negative parenting.

When I have a bad day (or week), I am not focused on loving my kids. I want to be left alone, and not engagiing with my children. Are you with me?

We all have stresses in life (though those in poverty tend to live with more chronic stressors). The issue is how do you cope with them.

Because whether it comes to our child's "bad behavior," or our own negative parenting, we need to recognize that those are merely symptoms of a heart issue. What should you do? First, recognize that your behaviors are not the main issue. Second, know that your external actions are a result of internal beliefs. Third, admit that you are not properly dealing with the stressors in your life.

Will doing these three things cure your stress? Probably not. But it puts you on the right path. If you want to lead your children, you first have to lead yourself.

Let's look at the opposite case. A study from the University of Iowa reports that "infants who have a close, intimate relationship with a parent are less likely to be troubled, aggressive or experience other emotional and behavioral problems when they reach school age."

So to put it all together. . . . Stressed parents do not make great parents. Deal with that stress in a healthy way, and you will be freed to engage your child in an intimate relationship.

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