All the examples in this book are true stories from actual parents with real problems. The ideas in this book are simple and practical. Everything is explained in down-to-earth language.
There are a number of theories about parent and child behavior. Most authors accept one theory. They try to convince you that their ideas work for every parent and every child. After trying this approach, I decided it was insufficient. Since every parent and child is unique, why not use a variety of methods? Use the best from every theory. This book provides hundreds of ideas. Not all of them will work all the time. You need to select the ideas that make sense to you.
How We Learn Parenting Behavior
We learned most of our parenting behavior from our parents. Have you ever said something to your children and then realized you heard these same words - "Be careful or you'll break your neck," "Be quiet and eat" - when you were a child? We parent the way we were parented. We discipline as we were disciplined. Most ideas that we learned from our parents are helpful, but some are not. We pick and choose from these methods. Things we like, we use. Things we do not like, we don't.
We also learn by watching other parents for good ideas and by talking with friends. We learn from their experiences, they learn from ours, and we share techniques that work.
We also learn by trial and error. Much of what we do with our children is based on our best guess at the time. Some things work; some fail. This happens to us all. Every firstborn child is a test; we begin using trial and error the moment we get home from the hospital. I remember feeling confused and helpless. The baby is crying - what does it mean? Hungry? Lonely? Wet? Too warm? Too cold? Trial and error also applies to discipline: if sending your child to bed early works once, you will probably do it again.
The beliefs that you already have about parenting and discipline are fine. Learning from your parents and friends and learning by trial and error is normal. Add judgment and common sense, and you have a solid foundation. This book will build on that foundation.
Love Does Not Always Light the Way
Too many parents have the false belief that if they love their children as much as possible, their misbehavior will someday improve. Love, warmth, and affection are essential. They are fundamentals. But you also need knowledge.
Imagine you needed an operation. As you were about to be put under, your physician whispered in your ear, "I want you to know that I am not a surgeon. I'm not a doctor at all. Please don't worry. My parents are both doctors. I have a lot of friends who are doctors. I've asked a lot of questions about surgery. Just relax! I have a lot of common sense, and I love my patients very much." Would you let this person use a scalpel on you?
Parents need training just as professionals need training. Children need trained parents as much as they need loving parents. Training pulls together all the good ideas you already have, provides structure and direction, and gives you confidence. You learn that what you are doing is right. More confidence means more self-control, less anger, less guilt, and less frustration. More confidence means more respect from your children. Without confidence, many parents are afraid to correct or punish their children. Some worry that their children will not like them or are afraid they might harm their children emotionally, so they let their children misbehave.
It Wasn't Like That When I Was Growing Up
Why doesn't discipline work the way it did twenty or thirty years ago? Why don't the old-fashioned methods work? Why is being a parent so demanding and confusing? Parenting is more difficult because childhood is more difficult. Children are under pressure - pressure to make adult decisions with the experience and emotions of a child; pressure from peers; pressure from school; pressure from the media; pressure that seeps down from pressures on the parents. Pressure on our children translates into problems for us.
Reprinted from How to Behave so Your Children Will, Too! by Sal Severe by permission of Viking Books, a member of Penguin Putnam Inc. Copyright (c) 2000 by Sal Severe. All rights reserved. This excerpt, or any parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.
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