An Iiterview with Doug Peine, Author of It's Not That Complicated"
What is the logic, if any, of a lawyer writing a parenting
I was in line at the checkout at Kmart when I had one of those sudden
flashes of insight, one of those moments we see connections between things we'd
never noticed before. I had spent most of that afternoon trying unsuccessfully
to help an estranged couple resolve their disputes so that they could avoid the
trauma and expense of a divorce trial. Now, in Kmart, I watched as the toddler
in a cart ahead of me absolutely refused to put back the candy bar she had
grabbed from a box by the checkout. There in that child's body language, tone of
voice, and insistence upon irrationality did I see the very same patterns played
out in my conference room that afternoon. And so it dawned on me: It's Not That
Do you honestly believe good
parenting is "not that complicated"?
I absolutely believe it. And the supporting evidence is abundant. Think, for
example, of the times you yourself have been held hostage to one of those
public, pitched battles between parent and child. Do you see an endless variety
of parental mistakes? Or the same one or two over and over? And why is it that
unsophisticated parents who take the job seriously have just as much success
raising happy, well-adjusted children as, say, child psychologists? There has to
be at work among those who parent well, not a specialized knowledge, but a
fundamental common sense. It is that common sense my book seeks to rediscover.
How, exactly, do you define a "happy, self-reliant" child?
In the book our aim is to nurture children who:
- Have the ability not only to fully enjoy the pleasures of life but also to
gracefully bear their sorrows;
- Are self-disciplined;
- Are compassionate toward, and respectful of others.
Thumbing through your book I noticed several references to Kmart. What's
that all about?
One of the early titles for the book was Parenting Lessons From the Checkout
Line at Kmart. That's because we spend a lot of time looking at those public
parent/child struggles that seem to take place in that particular store as
nowhere else on the planet.
If parenting "is not that complicated," then why do so many seem
to do such a poor job of it?
While good parenting isn't complicated, it isn't necessarily easy. To parent
well means committing time and effort. It also means establishing in our
children the same self-discipline which, let's be honest, many of us haven't
quite figured out yet how to develop in ourselves.
There are thousands of parenting books on the bookstore shelves. What
makes yours different?
Among other things, it is brief and to the point. When I myself went looking
for advice on parenting, I became convinced that many books on the subject are
padded so as to fill out a certain standard length. There may have been some
nuggets of wisdom in there some place, but they were nearly impossible to locate
among the irrelevancies and redundancies. And the fact is, new parents never
have had less time in their lives to spend prospecting for those nuggets.
They're after crisp, confident information now. Please cut the crap.
Do you believe in spanking or any other form of corporal punishment?
Absolutely, positively, categorically, unequivocally not. The reasons are
several and obvious:
- We don't allow corporal punishment of our worst criminals. Why should we
do it to our children?
- Nineteen times out of twenty, physical punishment is inflicted not as the
result of a parent's calm and rational assessment that it is needed. It is
done for no other reason than the parent is angry and wants to vent. Thus,
the line between corporal punishment and abuse is very, very thin.
- There is nothing positive spanking can achieve that non-corporal
disciplinary measures cannot.
Bottom line, unless you want to teach your child that it is appropriate for
the stronger to physically hurt the weaker, there is no legitimate reason to
ever strike your child.
Are the twelve rules in your book the only rules that apply to parenting?
Of course not. But the reasonable goal is not to acquire all knowledge, only
enough to work with and not feel overwhelmed by. I firmly believe that if a
parent follows my twelve rules consistently, he or she will have a very good
chance of turning out to be a very good parent.
What is the most common mistake parents make?
It occurs when they say "no" to their child and then do not enforce
it. If your child learns early on and consistently thereafter that you will not
brook disobedience, you will not only have few behavioral problems you will also
be nurturing a happier child who understands her limits and is able to trust her
Is any one of the twelve rules in your book more important than the others
in developing happy, self-reliant children?
I'm convinced that the most crucial feature of parenting is making sure that
your child has absolutely no doubt that you love her unconditionally. Such
confidence seems to provide the rock solid foundation that is essential if we
are to be able to accept our sorrows in life and to enjoy our pleasures. Those
of us who don't have that foundation, spend the rest of existence looking for it
in one usually self-destructive way or another. The rest of us can get on with