3 Steps to Parent-Child Harmony:
A New School Approach to Relationship Skills for Parents
A downloadable ebook by
Chuck Adam, MSW
In this book, I present a comprehensive approach to parenting from the perspective of empathy, dialogue, agreements, and accountability as a radical departure from the Old School perspective of power, control, punishments, and more punishments that often don’t work.
Based on my forty-plus years of work with parents, children, and families, first as therapist then as educator and coach, this volume breaks new ground in the area of strengthening families through enhanced relationship skills for parents.
As one of my colleagues told me, I’m “turning parenting on its head.”
Incidentally, everything presented in this book is applicable not just to parents, but also to teachers and other adults who work with children, as well as to adults in their relationships with each other.
Here’s what the book is about.
The three steps, or strategies, that parents can take in developing more harmonious relationships with their children are:
- Listening. This is the foundation of any relationship, and the single most important action a parent (or anyone else) can take in relation to another person. I am convinced that listening constitutes 90% of conmunication, and is the single best thing one can do to build trust, provide support, and resolve tension and conflict. I find that effective listening is also the single hardest activity for parents to master in relation to their children. But learning to “listen first and talk second” will do wonders for securing a child’s cooperation, and it’s by far the best way to teach a child to listen to you.
- Illustrating. Of course, as a parent you also speak, and have much to say and much to teach your children. You do this both verbally and non-verbally, and in this way you pass along your values, attitudes, and skills to your children, for better or worse. An attitude of respect is essential to good communication, as is the ability to use effective, methods of self-expression. The techniques I present here require a little self-awareness and self-discipline on your part. But they will put an end to yelling, threats, and many other forms of talk (“invitations to trouble”) that can cause hurt feelings and invite a child’s stubbornness and “payback.”
- Disciplining. If you can effectively practice the first two steps or strategies (listening and illustrating), then you can engage in effective dialogue as the primary means of helping your child to change unacceptable behaviors. Dialogue is the heart of my New School approach to disciplining. And here I present a radical departure from the use of ineffective punishments, which can often make things worse. Rather than punishment, “discipline” means teaching. The techniques I present are intended to teach children cooperation, accountability, integrity, respect, and empathy. One technique is the Behavior Dialogue, aimed at securing the child’s commitment to acceptable behaviors. Another is the Accountability Dialogue, which replaces punishment with emotional learning experiences. This is discipline at its best.
In each of the three steps, or strategies (listening, illustrating, and disciplining), I present three specific techniques that can be used spontaneously everyday. With practice, anyone can become quite skilled at using them. They are actually relationship skills that can literally transform conflict and tension into harmony and cooperation in any relationship, including one between adults. The tenth technique or skill, the family meeting, gives parents a chance to periodically put them all together in a more structured setting.
As noted author and teacher Marianne Williamson has said, There is no single effort more radical in its potential for changing the world than a transformation of the way we raise our children. This book, I hope, is a step in that direction.
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