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Relationship: Do our children feel loved?  Are they experiencing our love?  Are our parent/child relationships helping or undermining our parenting efforts?

Family structure and culture: Has our family structure established understanding, and hopefully agreement, on all the important issues as well as any new issues?  

Development & Discipline: Is our child outmaneuvering us?  Are we in control of our own behavior?  Do we know which methods and techniques to use and when?  Do we have enough mastery of those techniques to be loving AND effective?

Once we get these three categories comfortably settled in our minds, they can help us identity and understand where and why our parenting efforts are breaking down.  We can use them to effectively sort through any parenting challenges that are giving us trouble.

       Is it a relationship issue?
       Is it a family structure and culture issue?
       Is it a development & discipline issue?

Some parenting challenges can be a combination of issues from two or three of the categories all at the same time.  Significant difficulties disciplining a child successfully could possibly point to a relationship issue (Is the relationship too weak?), a family structure issue (Does our family structure adequately address this situation?), and/or a development & discipline issue (Is our child outsmarting us?  Do we know an appropriate and effective way to handle this situation?).

Finding answers to these questions is the key to improving and moving forward as a parent.  We will know specifically what we need to work on.  On the other hand, asking these questions will also reveal what we are already doing well.  The goal is to start automatically seeing all of our parenting in terms of relationship, family structure and culture, development & discipline.  That will give us a better sense of what is actually going on.  It makes it much easier to see the big picture and keep things in proper perspective.