Family Scientist Debunks Child-Rearing Traditions

PULLMAN, Wash. — Self esteem is a crock and Pollyanna was right, says H. Wallace Goddard, an Auburn University professor of human development and family studies.

Goddard is one of two featured speakers on the agenda for Washington State University’s Fall Parenting Conference, Parenting for Change, in Shoreline, Sept. 30- Oct. 1. He is the author of “The Frightful and Joyous Journey of Family Life,” and is on leave from Auburn University to work with the Covey Institute, which promotes seven habits of highly effective families.

Goddard says parents and parent educators are held hostage by traditions. He hopes to expose some traditions as unhealthy.

“The ways we’ve taught self esteem are wrong headed and counter productive,” Goddard says, to name just one unhealthy child-rearing tradition. “You can feel good about being a gang leader. Abraham Lincoln had bone-numbing self doubt, but he had a purpose outside himself and was committed to it.”

Another traditional wisdom that needs to be put out to pasture is the notion that children need to be realistic. “Research says the most realistic people are the most depressed,” Goddard says. “The people who are somewhat or slightly unrealistically optimistic are most healthy. Pollyanna was right.”

More than 300 parent educators are expected to attend the conference. Besides keynoting, Goddard will present two workshops. The other featured speaker is Jean Illsley Clarke. Her topic is “Surviving and Embracing Life’s Transitions.”

Some of the topics treated at the two-day conference will include:

  • Teenage sexuality.
  • Parenting sexually abused children.
  • Teen parenting.
  • Building character in children.
  • Helping children cope with grief.
  • Children caught in the middle of divorce.
  • Working with parents who are recovering from substance abuse.
  • Learning effective parenting skills such as giving up guilt and shame, practicing non-punitive parenting, learning healthy communication skills, empowering children, talking with kids about alcohol and drugs, creating structure and routine, and setting limits, and following through.
  • Tantrums and temperament.
  • From conflict to cooperation – making peace at home.
  • Parenting under pressure.
  • Parent education for grandparents.
  • Self care for the care giver.

Margaret Ray, WSU family scientist, says the purpose of the conference is to train a broad range of people who deliver parenting education, including teachers, public health and welfare workers, drug and alcohol abuse counselors, and others.

For more information about the program, call Ray at (509) 335-3811 or e-mail her at For registration information, call Chris Eder at (509) 335- 2954 or e-mail her at

– 30 –