Robin Booth
Robin Booth

The cost of not learning new parenting skills

“There is much more flow at home. Children seem happier, it takes half the time to have supper, get them bathed and ready for bed. Surprisingly my wife and I now have a more relaxed evening after the children have gone to bed, whereas before we both were exhausted and irritable by the daily evening routines.”

At one of my recent parent communication workshops, the parents were sharing how their new communication skills were making a marked difference in the peace and cooperation at home. Learning simple communication skills, coupled with a certain degree of awareness, led to a home environment where there was a greater sense of team work opposed to a battle field.

This led the conversation to the cost of not learning new skills. Often parents say they don’t have the time or the money to do workshops or further their skill development. It is perceived that learning new skills is more costly than the perceived benefits. And on the surface this may seem so because no-one has really tangibly documented the cost of not being skilled. We took the example of a parent (mother or father) getting home, tired after a long business day. He has to bath the children, get them to eat supper and get them to bed. This process doesn’t go quickly or as smoothly as he would like and leaves him feeling more drained and less focused.

The next day, he is slightly tired and not as effective as he knows he could be. His temper is slighter shorter and this also strains the relationship with his wife. Over the following weeks he still experiences the same situation. Although he is still coping, he thinks the amount of time and energy he spends on getting his children to cooperate with him is normal, though he wishes it could be different.

Every family has the same problems with children right? And he probably also feels that his decreased efficiency and effectiveness at work is also pretty normal. In fact he is probably so used to this pattern he doesn’t even realise it. But he hasn’t yet realised the cost implications of him not being as effective as he could be (which also translates into monetary terms). He still argues that he doesn’t have time or the money to go on communication workshops to improve his skills.

It reminds me of the car driver on a long two-week journey who says he can’t sleep or stop to fill his petrol tank because he has to get to his destination quickly. The irony is that one workshop probably costs him two hours of his income. Yet learning new skills could increase his income effectiveness in exponential ways. His argument about “time” is the same. A workshop series totalling eight hours would give him back that time within three weeks.

Knowing how to engage cooperation, how to support children to be autonomous, how to resolve conflict or find alternatives to punishment take up most of our time and energy. And so far this argument is about time and money, not about the long-term benefits of respectful communication that builds self-esteem and effective relationship-building.

The challenge is that this “cost” of not learning new skills is not documented in ways that clearly demonstrate this impact. Some companies have cottoned on though. They have realised that by supporting their employees in their communication and parenting skills, they have directly increased their employees’ efficiency and effectiveness. This in turn translates to increased productivity and happier employees.

These companies say this has increased communication skills at work (how to engage cooperation, conflict-resolution skills, integrity and responsibility are no different within a family than in an organisation). Some companies even say this was their motivation to run these workshops. If they ran workshops on organisational communication there would be resistance. But run a workshop on parenting communication and employees would be open and receptive. It seems like a win-win solution that benefits productivity, happier family life and empowered children.

  • Hugh Robinson

    Oh what total Twaddle. Any excuse to not being a real father and family provider. What an excuse for parenting.

    Consider, The reason for your lack of parenting skills lies directly on the shoulders of your parents because of their lack of real role models in your life.

    Consider that the reason for your lack of comunication with your kids is that they do not know you or your wife and what values and life skills you bring into their lives.

    What little they know is what they glean from those kids around them and the few rules applied by others.

    Why did you have children if you could not afford to support a family? If you both want a carreer do not have kids.

    Children should be nurtured and taught by a mother 16 hrs a day. They learn respect, affection and whole bunch of other stuff that strangers cannot teach them. Mother are the moral compass of a nation once the mother is missing from a childs hourly living that child is lost.

    Look around and you should see the result of this in SA.

    In effect kids today remind me of those brought up in an orphanage were the damage is only apparent later in life.

    Cut the BS and get down to real parenting and see the difference.

  • Soweto by Starlight

    As a father myself, who enjoys his kids very much, and rarely has conflict with them, I understand the point about continuous self improvement.

    Its hard to agree on common practices with other parents, however, keeping an open mind seems to help. Its also an idea to have uninterrupted time with each child regularly, whether through play, work or chat to strengthen bonds.

    Happy parenting!

  • mundundu

    i agree with most of that hugh, except, where is it written that it’s the mother that should be giving 16 hours a day to the kids?

    my stepdad gave me so much time that being a stepfather in my own right has been a piece of cake. so much so that i rarely use the word step when referring to my son these days, especiall now that i have sole custody.

    most of my friends, by the way, were brought up by single fathers who prioritised their children. almost all of them, to a wo/man, are either very involved parents — or got fixed the moment they realised that they didn’t think they could hack parenthood.

  • Themba Tantrum

    Hugh, get over yourself mate! Your condesending arrogance is just rude and smacks of ignorance. Your “version” of parenting most certainly is not achievable by most peoples standards..16 hours of parenting from a mother…what planet do you live on bra? My wife and I both work to make ends meet, neither of us can spend 16 hours a day with the kids. Knowledge is never wasted and in a society that is developing faster and faster than ever before, generational gaps are becoming more profound as kids are brought up in a world very different from their parents. Communication issues do arise and any information, ideas or tools to aid this is a good thing. I hope you dont role model your arrogance for your kids. In fact you probably dont even have any.

  • Gareth Leonard

    With all due respect Hugh, I believe what you wrote was complete and utter “twaddle”.

    Did you even bother to read the article? It frustrates me when people like yourself (who believe they are the sole moral authority on child rearing), aspire to enforce your own indoctrinated strategies regarding parenting on the rest of us, ultimately failing to register that there may be other alternatives to raising a child.

    While I agree with you that a child needs constant care and support, it is not solely the role of the mother! What a ridiculous, antiquated statement. Families are no longer by necessity the traditional nucleus of mother-father-child. And your statement that the apparent lack of mother’s influence being responsible for our country’s lack of a moral compass is simplified and unrealistic. Our problems in this country are far more complex and intertwined, requiring a lot more than just good parenting.

    What’s worse than you blatant knee jerk reaction to this article is that you fail to see that the author is essentially aspiring to become a better parent, using time more efficiently and effectively to create a more sincere and relaxed home environment. How on earth can that be a bad thing? And how is striving to be a better parent not “get(ting) down to real parenting?” What is real parenting, by your knowledgeable definition?

    Consider being less judgmental and please refrain from lecturing others on communication skills until you yourself are more open-minded.

  • Kerry

    How about putting up posts with case studies that have shown the effectiveness of your parenting communication solutions? You don’t need to give your whole courses away… but some insights into the skills you offer, and the successes you’ve had, would be great.

  • Kit

    When was this time when kids over young preschool age got 16/7 support from the female parent? It must be before my time. I missed it. It must be before the time of my parents and grandparents; they certainly missed it.

    By the time my parents and grandparents were about six, they were either at school, running about outside in a glorious unattended whirl of tree-climbing and wandering, eating or sleeping. So it must have been before that. Although I seem to remember that my great-grandparents were working from the age of about 13 so can safely assume it was probably even before their time. Can’t be as far back as the caveman surely? I’d have expected the rot to be worse by now. :)

    On the other hand, if Hugh is talking about very early childhood, well, I’d back him up on that but just not quite in that particular voice. Attachment parenting in its various guises is a strong support base for a young child if parents are able to go there, and it’s a good springboard for them to secure their independence later in life.

  • Phillipa Lipinsky

    I have two daughters, one is twelve and the youngest is just over three and she’s so smart (really, I’m not just saying that just because she’s my baby) and we want to instill in both of them that they shouldn’t expect to stay at home while men go and persue their careers. I think one can always learn new parenting skills. There are a lot of messed up people out there and I think the world would be a better place if more people spent more time with their kids and learned to communicate.

    This is an interesting article. I must admitt that I have always been rather skeptical when it comes to “personal development” coaches or “motivational speakers” but once I went to a workshop in London (presented by an American metaphysicist) and when I came out it was as if I was in a dream for the two or so weeks that followed; everything was perfect. Life was even more beutiful than it was before I went in and I saw that even negative things have a good side and that ALL good things have a negative side. So, having kids is both bad and good. Like all parents, I love my kids but sometimes I can’t stand them. Thankfully my husband is very hands on.

    This is a really good article. Thanks for writing it. I will certainly look into coming to one of your workshops when you in CT.

  • Robin Booth

    As the author of the article, here are some of the ‘skills’ which support parents in communicating with their children.
    In the nurturing of Self Esteem workshops:
    How to engage cooperation (instead of bullying, bribing or threatening)
    How to praise (our praise is often seen as manipulative)
    How to engage autonomy (we want our children to become independent)
    What other ways to engage instead of punishment (from Punishment to discipline to Guidance)
    Conflict resolution (how to get your children to find the solutions to their own problems)

    The alternatives to saying no ! This workshop revolves around getting what you need as a parent without having to say the negative and forceful No! There are many useful ways of putting boundaries in place without “NO!”

    The setting of boundaries workshop is how to put YOUR (yes YOURS, not someone else’s)boundaries in place in such a way that are firm yet respectful and with out undermining the dignity of your child.

    The Siblings with Success is exactly that. How to avoid the competition, the conflict and the hectic rivalry when it gets too much

    ‘Saying sorry is not enough’ is about standing in being fully responsible for the impact our actions have on others.

    there is more detail on

  • Hugh Robinson

    Oh come on. It is quite evident that there is a severe lack of imagination and understanding when some attack one phrase on motherly time spent.

    If I had written 11 or seven hours would it have made a difference? Your reinforceing your guilt with excuses, nit picking and post modern thinking that children are little adults who are not in dire need of parental role models.

    By own admission these working parents are tired. Come home bath the kids, Mom cooks and likely cleans. Child misbehaves so parents ignore it or get cross. Then Kiss, Kiss off to bed. Now I / WE CAN RELAX.

    I dare you to time the amount of time you spend actually teaching your children what real affection is about. Time your nurturing. Write down what you taught your kid today. Children are not little robots that need to manipulate into boxes to fit YOUR lifestyle. It is the other way round. Teachers and that school your child attends is not too blame for your lack of parenting.

    Simplistic Gareth, I think not. It takes a lot of courage, sacrifice and more than a few measly hours a day. It is bloody hard work.

    We have Mundundu who understands what it is to be a Stepfather and responsible Dad because of his role model. Okay both are forced to work. Totally different from a defined choice to maintain careers,and have children.