Chapter 24 (complete chapter)
THE SUPPORT GROUP
THE SUPPORT GROUP -- 199
core of Christian people who are aspiring to be fair and reasonable parents, because the core you start with will chart your course.
So, you should start small and grow slowly. Invite a select group of parents to your meeting place and begin with them. As you start the group, you and your new companions will hear about others who are having misbehavior problems with their children. Ask them to join you. But try your best to invite only people who have the capacity to be consistent and who will not use the group as a tool for oppressing their children or who will not conflict with your group's moral standard.
For example, I went to observe another parent support group in Houston while doing research for developing our own. A set of parents there were trying to decide the stand they would take with their two teenage daughters. The mother told the group, "We've decided that our girls can spend the night with their boyfriends on weekends but not on school nights, and this seems to be working out pretty well."
The father objected mildly, "I don't think that I'm all that in favor of them having sex with their boyfriends all weekend like that."
The mother laughingly said, "You weren't against it when we were doing it!" The whole group laughed with her.
If you want to grow faster than you are growing, go to your school counselors, principals, and ministers and explain that you are looking for new participants for your group; ask them for referrals. Be open and tell them that you are looking for members who have the capacity to be consistent and who have the ability to receive new information without distorting it.
Once you get your core established, you have charted your course. If someone joins who doesn't agree with the values of your group, he or she will usually leave, and your group will be self-cleansing. If not, you must sharpen your diplomacy skills without compromising your values or purpose.
If you decide to start a new group without carefully selecting its charter members, you will likely have to be prepared for the trauma of requiring people to leave your group. Be prepared to see the group's quality degenerate before your very eyes and be prepared for your group to get a bad reputation with your allies due to the outlandish things being said and done by those erratic ones among you who distort your output.
Here's another story that illustrates the problems this can cause. A juvenile probation officer called me from the courthouse and asked, "Do you tell people to quit feeding their children if they're misbehaving? We have a teenage girl here who hasn't had anything to eat for twenty-four hours. The parents say that they are taking your advice by not feeding their daughter."
I assured the officer that I've never advised starvation. I say that between-meal snacks and desserts are family privileges and that if kids don't do their part in the family, they shouldn't expect to get all family privileges. But I've never advised parents to withhold adequate nourishment.
The point is this: The group is hurt in one way or another by people who can't seem to get their own acts together or who can't reproduce something without distorting it. Be careful. Work with people who can be worked with. Let the others get their help somewhere else. They need intensive individual counseling so that they can be encouraged at their own pace and monitored more intricately. This outcome cannot be achieved in a group like Parenting Within Reason.