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The WonderWise Parent
A Graduate Student Perspective

Stephanie Morris
Brigham Young University

...from her master's thesis on use of the World Wide Web:
Appendix B: Analysis of the WonderWise Parent Home Page Theoretical Issues

Deficit perspective (T2). The Wonder Wise Parent Home Page does not fall into a deficit mode. One quote states, "Parents are treated here as intelligent and caring human beings capable of making their own decisions" (wondhome.htm). Clearly, this is a positive view of parents. This site also does not focus on men (or women) in particular. The tools, exercises, and process themselves are the focus. Fathers and mothers are examples for different tools, but perhaps because of the lack of focus on men or women deficits of either sex are not mentioned.

Unique contexts (T4). This site does not have an explicit focus on the different situations that fathers are in, but it does indicate an awareness that there are no universal laws of parenting. One of the tips states, "There is no single right answer" (rd/rdcon4.htm). In other words, each skill will have to be adapted to an individual situation. Parents are urged to consider their situations and choose from the vast array of tools to meet their situation.

Instrumental-technical (T5). In beginning the course, the site combines exploring memories and experiences of discipline with teaching information. Later on in the course, information and skills become the center of the education. One of the skills taught is the discipline sequence: stop, look/listen, think, and act. Using the tools that the web site gives later, a host of possibilities are open to parents. These tools include prevention, guidance, and punishment tools. When choosing one course of action, the site suggests using fundamental values to guide the decision. Other skills taught are: establishing priorities and setting limits (rd/rdcon2.htm), figuring out why children misbehave (rd/rdcon3.htm), thirteen tips for managing discipline effectively (rd/rdcon4.htm), the first tool set (rd/rdcon5.htm), the second tool set (rd/rdcon6.htm), the third tool set (rd/rdcon7.htm), and thoughts about spanking (rd/spanking.htm). Each tool set is divided into groupings which are subdivided into three levels of skills (basic, intermediate, and advanced.) Also, there are suggested age levels given for the interventions. The skill levels are arbitrary, but the site suggests evaluating them according to your individual situation. There are at least two examples of every skill given which is also helpful. This site is very detailed and helpful.

Interpretive (T7). Although the WonderWise Parent Home Page is mainly instrumental-technical, it also has aspects that are interpretive, particularly the Reflecting Pool. The Reflecting Pool is divided into four areas: reminiscing about my childhood, defining myself as a parent, thinking about my children, and monitoring our relationships. Each of these has at least 3 if not more exercises for parents to do. One part of the Reflecting Pool asks parents to, "consider authority and influence in your relationship with your children and how your own childhood might influence your discipline style" (rd/rdover.htm). The belief here is that by looking at your own experiences, you can learn and change and become a better parent. Exploring one's own experiences and meanings is interpretive. Another part of this site states, "What kind of memories does the word ‘discipline' trigger in you? Recall your childhood. If that was a painful time, you might ask a close friend to be with you while you reflect on this memory" (reflect.htm). Again, this site asks parents to reflect on the meaning of a word and tie this into past experiences.

In addition, this site asks parents to journal about their experiences. "These reflections are intended to serve an educational function in helping you apply the information presented in these pages. Recording your observations and ideas in a journal may help you make connections as you proceed" (reflect.htm). The site also recommends putting a bookmark on the site and going slowly through it—like a workshop.

Ethical Issues

Individualism, agency, & responsibility (T1/T3/E8). Although WonderWise Parent focuses on parents, the whole intent of the site is to care for children by caring about their parents (wondhome.htm). Even though there is a big focus on parents, it is for the purpose of becoming better parents for children. The activities at the Reflecting Pool combine exploration of personal meanings with references to the present. One quote states, "Every time we use some form of discipline, we should ask ourselves, ‘What will my child learn from my response?'" (rd/rdover.htm). Also, when discipline techniques are taught, parents are told, "Parents show their concern and love their children when they set reasonable limits. Setting limits tells a child, ‘I care about you; I want you to be safe. I want you to be considerate. By acting responsibly you will learn to get along with others.' Children need limits" (rd/rdcon2.htm) This quote is child-centered. Another quote states, "Parents want their children's affection. Remaining firm with an important decision despite a child's anger can be difficult. ‘I hate you, mother!' ‘You [obscenity] father!' can be like daggers thrust into a loving parent's heart. But parents cannot wilt before the heat of their children's anger. They must stand firm where firmness is necessary. Parents who act in good faith, in the best interests of their children, will ultimately earn the love they deserve" (rd/rdcon4.htm). One other quote states, "Love sometimes means overcoming this adversity [constant pressure of parenting] to provide what our children need. They may not be pleased with our choices. Love is better expressed by acting out of conviction, never through indulgence" (rd/rdover.htm). There are many other quotes which demonstrate that this site is really about meeting children's needs and not exclusively about the individual experiences of parents.

WonderWise Parent also does not encourage unbounded tolerance. Although parents are told that they are ultimately responsible for how they implement ideas given on the site, not much is discussed about how discipline is different in a blended family compared to a traditional family. Because this site focuses on skills and information, it does not run into the problem of endorsing relativism.

Finally, parents' agency is important to this site. "Parents are treated here as intelligent and caring human beings capable of making their own decisions" (wondhome.htm). Being capable of making decisions is related to agency. Also, "The course emphasizes discipline as making informed decisions rather than finding the ‘one right way.' At every step you will be encouraged to make your own choices about discipline" (rd/rdover.htm). Here, choice and responsibility are linked. Parents are encouraged to choose for themselves. Another quote also shows how agency and responsibility are a part of this site, "Responsive discipline emphasizes teaching . . . Responsive discipline emphasizes decision making . . .Responsive discipline emphasizes alternatives . . . Responsive discipline nurtures responsibility in children . . . Responsive discipline means accepting responsibility" (rd/rdover.htm). All of these phrases are tied to agency and responsibility. Children are taught instead of ruling them (destroying their agency). Thoughtful decision-making through considering the many alternatives given is also a part of responsibility. Parents are taught to encourage children's responsibility through teaching children to reason—not simply providing reinforcement and punishment. Finally parents are invited to accept responsibility for parenting wisely and not crushing children's independence nor allowing children to be undisciplined.

Parents themselves are encouraged to take responsibility for their own lives. "Parents can make their own choices regardless of the treatment they received as children . . . Making a deliberate choice from alternatives is the key to breaking from the past. There is power in having options" (rd/rdcon4.htm). From this site's perspective, parents can change and should change. This site does assume that parents (fathers included) are agents and are responsible for their choices.

Level of intervention (E9). The WonderWise Parent Home Page intervenes at level 3. Level 3 begins to explore awareness of one's own feelings. This site asks parents to journal, talk with a friend or spouse, and make changes in parenting. These all seem like ways that this site gets beyond level 2. Because there are some interventions given, the site states, "Neither of these resources should be viewed as a substitute for professional assistance. If your child has severe or continuing emotional problems, contact your local mental health center for a referral. Some problems require professional help" (wwparent/rd/rdhome.htm). The web site is not intended to relieve problems or do direct interventions in order to change lasting patterns of problems.

Definition of good fathering (E10). There are many statements about what it means to be a good parent. One quote states, "Being WonderWise means being open to learning about the humanity of children--what they bring into the world and how they grow--as well as becoming more trusting of one's intuition as a parent and accepting the uncertainty and magic in all relationships" (wondhome.htm). This site's definition of being a good father (parent) is composed of three things: awareness/openness to children, trusting oneself, and accepting uncertainty and magic in relationships. Another quote states, "The responsive discipline approach expects much from parents. Instead of advocating a specific, ‘canned' response to misbehavior, responsive discipline emphasizes making choices. There is no magic formula, regardless of what some experts may say, other than love, understanding and commitment. Responsive discipline challenges parents to think quickly under pressure, to maintain their composure in the heat of conflict, and to act decisively with purpose. With responsive discipline, the mind and heart are both engaged. This is the real challenge of being a parent" (rd/rdcon1.htm). This quote shows the expectations that this web site holds for parents and the implied capabilities that parents have.

Practical Issues

Fathers' motivations for close relationships (P11), individual focus (P12), & openness to fathers' uniqueness (P13). This site does not focus on fathers specifically and so it does not build on fathers' motivations to have better relationships with children or try to reach fathers specifically. Although the site has not specifically stated that it is open to fathers' unique strengths, stories, and needs, at the bottom of every page Dr. Smith asks for feedback. "Your opinions and reactions to this web site are important to me. The WonderWise Parent was a considerable undertaking. Since I am committed to providing you with the best site possible, I need your insights in order to improve. I would love to hear from you, so please take a moment to sign our Guestbook" (wwparent/rd/rdhome.htm). This quote does reflect an openness to parents' feedback.

Atmosphere (P14). This site has a calming atmosphere. The logo for the site is a hand reaching for a butterfly which brings to mind the notion of wonder. The background is almost like an opal texture with random patterns of blues and turquoises. Awards are included, but are not a focus of the site. This site is also not commercial. Dr. Smith does not try to push people into buying his books. He also makes the point that it is free. The color scheme is relaxing and the graphics are useful and interesting.

Scholarliness (P15). Dr. Smith gives some of his professional references on the home page—stating that he is a professor and extension specialist at KSU. He also gives that he has 26 years of experience as a parent educator. On the program designer page (chuck/design.htm), Dr. Smith talks about the four different education programs he has helped to create. The Responsive Discipline program is part of the WonderWise Parent Home Page, but the others are off-line.

Structure (P16). The WonderWise site begins with a "front door" which quotes a poem on the wonder of the earth. From there, users are directed to a menu page which has different parts of the site in icon form. The wondhome.htm page has a few paragraphs briefly orienting the reader and then uses graphics to direct one to other parts of the site. I found it difficult to find what I needed until I saw the Responsive Discipline Menu and the Content pages. This site has areas on who the author of the site is, courses that are offered on-line, programs at KSU, the Reflecting Pool, projects, humor, children in the news, links, and Butterberry Hill. I analyzed only the information on the author, Responsive Discipline course, and the Reflecting Pool. Another example of how this site is structured is the use of icons. Dr. Smith includes a little note about the water icon which is a link to the Reflecting Pool page. He explains how "an open book icon will bring you back to the location in the course where you left off" (rd/rdover.htm). For the reader unfamiliar with the site, this explanation would help greatly.

Development (P17). Dr. Smith includes a page (new.htm) where he lists some of the major additions/changes he has made to the site over the last few months. It seems that he is continually updating, adding new sections, and expanding the web site. One of the problems Dr. Smith mentions facing in the beginning was that the text for the front door was a "vivid pink" for some computers. This common problem was resolved by changing it to grey. The time line of changes demonstrates that Dr. Smith is constantly involved in updating and expanding his site. One of Dr. Smith's current projects is a reference engine for the site.

Number of users (P18). After e-mailing Dr. Smith, I received a note in response. He referred me to the counter on the site which registered 1,651 hits since about February 1, 1996. This means that on average, there were about 250 hits per month. Dr. Smith also said that the Guestbook was deleted by the Guestbook service without warning. He was not able to make a copy of the feedback he had gotten (about 12 or so messages.) He also said that, "Visitors rarely provide feedback when they visit, if they even bother to fill in the Guestbook. What incentive do they have to take the time to respond. Not much, if any" (personal communication, September 21, 1996). This seems to be pretty common for all of the web sites.

Relationship to the larger internet (P19). The WonderWise Parent Home Page has links to information on the creator (Dr. Charles A. Smith), KSU, the School of Family Studies and Human Services, and the Kansas Cooperative Extension Service. The site also has links to Magellan and other services. The main page has a graphical link to a page with links of interest. This site lists a set of sites related to parenting (links.htm) including: The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Positive Parenting, National Parent Information Network, The Father's Resource center, Dauphin Ochre Psychologists Parenting Page, Parent's Place, the Family Resiliency Home Page, A great list of official site related to families, and a great list of early childhood sites at Gryphon House Publishers. This page also has a link to Magellan's search script. For this site, connectivity to the Internet is valued.

contact Dr. David C. Dollahite or
Dr. Alan J. Hawkins

Used with permission.

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