Daring to Be a Different Kind of Parent

Can you dare to be different?


Dr. Brené Brown is a very popular “researcher/storyteller,” as seen millions of times on YouTube in her TED Conference talks. Her research on vulnerability and shame have led to several books, with her newest, “Daring Greatly,” published just last month.

She’s also a mother—and as a speaker, offers interesting insight from her research on families and parenting.

Stop comparing.

A lot of lip service is paid to new educational and parenting paradigms. It’s easy to have that “ah-ha” moment and then fall back into old behaviors. For example, a parenting expert may tell a roomful of parents that tutoring for the ACT is really unnecessary, leading everyone to swear off tutors—only to be on the phone the next day hiring one, to make sure your kid has that leg up on the neighbors. Her advice? Back off on the comparisons.

“When we hear something that is right and true, I think the biggest thing that gets in the way is comparison,” Dr. Brown says.

Instead of comparing your kids and your families to the neighbors, Brown says to recognize there’s not one right way. “There are a million ways to be a great parent…there’s so many different ways to do what we try to do …(comparing) takes us away from the bigger questions—Is there joy in our family? Is there laughter?”

Own it and be thankful for it.

Dr. Brown acknowledges that in affluent communities, there’s a tendency to be overly concerned about how much our children have and how that impacts their development.

“(Parents are) so worried about entitlement,” she says. “We have to own the fact we’re raising kids that have much more privilege then we had growing up.” The key, she says, is in how we approach the good fortune we have.

“I think we concentrate too much on huge changes. There are small things parents can do every day. Things like practicing gratitude in our families, and understanding the connection between hard work and privilege—that fast and easy is not a smart ethic.”

Know the difference between praise and being resilient to shame.

It seems like the rules for parenting are constantly changing. First, we don’t praise enough. Then we praise too much. This summer’s “You Are Not Special” commencement speech from Wellesley High School was a YouTube sensation. So if we’re not supposed to praise our kids, how do we instill them with the sense of worthiness that Dr. Brown promotes?

“The issue is not the amount of praise,” she says. “It is the intention. If (the praise) is to lessen our guilt for not being present, that’s a problem.”

Brown suggests that instead of focusing on praise, parents can focus on how to raise kids that can cope with the inevitable shame that comes from, for example, flunking a test.

“If you want to raise shame-resilient kids, live yourself and make mistakes.” She also believes that there are no guarantees about success, but who parents are as adults can be an accurate predictor of how children will be when they grow up.

Dr. Brene Brown is a Family Action Network (FAN) featured speaker—you can see her two different times: “Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead” October 10 at 7 p.m., at  New Trier High School, Northfield Campus at 7 Happ Rd. in Northfield. The next morning, October 11 she’ll speak on “The Wholehearted Child: Guideposts for Helping Children Cultivate a Resilient and Hopeful Spirit.” It’s 8:30-10:30 a.m. also at Cornog Auditorium on New Trier’s Northfield campus. (www.familyactionnetwork.net)