Thursday, December 23, 2010

"Good Enough" Marriages Suit Children Just Fine

What is a "good-enough" marriage?
And why is Booth and Amato's 1997 finding, that 2/3 of divorces end "good-enough" not high-conflict marriages, so significant?

Elizabeth Marquardt wrote an excellent piece for the Huffington Post. Here are some excerpts:

"We disagree about a lot of things. Sometimes I think our kids would be better off if we both moved on."

"I've been researching and writing about children of divorce for a decade and I've heard these sentiments over and over. These parents not divorced yet, but they're thinking about it. They're raising children, struggling to make the mortgage payment and pay the babysitter, hoping to get ahead. Meanwhile, their marriage isn't what it used to be. Those pre-kid days of hanging out with friends seem the stuff of dreams now. Talking is mainly about negotiating schedules and money. Weekends are busy getting caught up from weekdays. Is this what marriage is all about? Do the kids really need this?

In a word, yes. Some marriages are plagued by such serious problems -- such as addiction, chronic infidelity, or violence -- that divorce might well be warranted. But social science research shows that about two-thirds of marriages that end in divorce are low conflict. These marriages may feel troubled to the one or both of the spouses, but they are not struggling with the kinds of serious or frequent conflict many imagine when they picture a marriage on the rocks.

It is these marriages -- what some call "good enough" marriages -- that matter so much. To any still-married parent who is considering divorce who may be reading this, I want to affirm that your "good enough" marriage is doing a world of good for your kids. By sticking with -- and working on and believing in -- your "good enough" marriage, you are sustaining one world for your child. You are affirming that the rough and sometimes not-pretty job of holding together one family belongs to you and your spouse, not your child."

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

The Parenting Hall of Shame

Children are special treasures that are entrusted to us to protect. Particularly in the summer, I spot safety risks for children that land parents in the Hall of Shame.
Here is my monthly parenting column from the Home News Tribune.

Each summer I inevitably observe parenting behavior that appalls but not necessarily surprises me. I often say, if there were such a thing as a parenting license, these folks should have theirs revoked.

The first incident took place on my own street, when an SUV driven by an adult cruised by with his sun-roof wide open. An 8 or 9 year old boy was standing up in the sunroof, and waving to passers-by. I cringed and hoped that an Edison patrol car would soon be turning our corner and issue a summons to this driver.

The second incident took place on the West-bound train platform at Metropark. I looked across the tracks to see a little two-year-old girl running back and forth between what appeared to be her parents, standing several yards apart from each other. It appeared that she was enjoying her freedom as she ran back and forth with Amtrak Acela trains speeding by at 100 mph. Having grown up with a mother that had a “death grip” on my hand when crossing busy streets, again I cringed at this irresponsible behavior.

The third incident took place on a recent trip to Florida and although it did not involve safety, it tops my list of bad parenting behavior nonetheless. Near Boca Raton there is a water park named SKIRIXEN. The brochure states: direct from Europe to Florida comes one of America’s first cable water-ski resorts. Imagine waterskiing and wake-boarding with no boat, just an overhead cable to pull you. When the advertisement says, no boat hassles, I can personally vouch for the fact that there is no family recreational activity that is more stressful and has more yelling than renting a boat, equipment, and waterskiing.

I watched the safety video and got the explanation of rules with a group of youths who were all 1/4 my age. A young girl of about 13 years old was standing on the line in front of me, ready to go into the lake but looking hesitant and her father was standing nearby not going in himself. He was yelling at her, “You better go in after all the driving I did to get you here.” Her red face revealed not only embarrassment at her father’s tirade but the fear of a child who clearly did not want to do this activity.

After a lifetime of waterskiing experience, even I was feeling a bit uneasy, since this cable system involves being yanked onto the lake at 18 miles an hour, as opposed to a boat’s pull which gradually increases. It was reasonable for her to be nervous. Incidentally, safety rule #1 at SKIRIXEN: if you fall, look behind you fast to make sure the next skier sees you and avoids running you over.

The father then berated his fear-stricken teen-ager, “I paid $25 damn bucks (expletive toned down by author) for you to try this sport so you better get the hell out there and do it right now!” Although I was disgusted, I have been told on more than one occasion to mind my own business, so I write about incidents in my column rather than confront the guilty party face-to-face. Here are the four violations I would give this dad if I could suspend his parenting license:

#1 – Use of foul language in the presence of a minor
#2 – Speaking in a demeaning and angry tone in public
#3 – Forcing a child to do something she fears
#4 – Making $25 more valuable than his child’s emotional well-being

If I would have spoken to this man, I would have suggested that he forfeit the $25 and thereby gain his child’s respect and trust. He would have then topped the list of his daughter’s role models, rather than the Parenting Hall of Shame.

Be Counted columnist Dr. Alan Singer is a marriage therapist in Highland Park. Respond to this column via his website