Questions posted here are just a few of the more frequently asked questions that come from parents I work with in my parenting classes and parent coaching. I will be posting more questions as time allows, and in resonse to questions asked in the “Reply” section following each of my posts on this site.
- Why do you say that listening is the parent’s magic wand?
Listening is something we all do, all the time. Some parents listen quite naturally, easily, and attentively to their children. Many others find it difficult to do, especially when they hear things they do not want to hear, like arguments, insults, resistance, or open defiance, or when kids get physical and/or violent with each other or with parents. This kind of child communication and behavior is, quite naturally, unacceptable and intolerable for most parents. But it means that the child is distressed and in need of the best help the parent can give.When the parent becomes angry and distressed along with the child, the parent functions on the child’s level and loses a golden opportunity to understand the child, empathize with his or her feelings, and provide guidance and support. By far the best way to that is by listening. This is the key to helping the child calm down and to empowering the parent to come to a mutually acceptable agreement with the child. Parents consistently report that when they start making a real effort to listen first and talk second, they notice their child becomes calmer and more cooperative — almost immediately. But listening to an upset child is so hard, while it is also so effective, that I say that listening is 90% of communication. When done well it truly does work wonders.
- How do I not take personally the nasty things my kids say?
There are many reasons why kids say “nasty” or hurtful things to their parents. It is not helpful for the parent to take them personally, feel hurt, and respond angrily or defensively. But it’s hard not to do these things! I have posted an article on this website that lays out how a parent in one of my classes learned to do it. You might find it helpful. Please see “How to Not Take It Personally.”
- What do I do when punishments don’t work?
Please see these two articles, The Problems with Punishments and Justifications for Punishments, for an explanation of why punishments so often do not work well. When they don’t, it doesn’t pay to just “parent harder” by doing more of the same (punishing). A more sophisticated approach is called for. Whereas punishments are Old School attempts at trying to force compliance, a more sophisticated and effective approach is to “parent smarter” by using what I call New School techniques. These are the key parenting skills I teach in my classes and coaching. They are aimed at empowering parents to engage in real dialogue with their children that results in reaching agreements and cooperation rather than compliance with parental demands that are backed up by useless threats and unhelpful punishments.
- How do I teach my child self-control?
I have posted an article on this topic called “Teaching Kids Self-Control.” If contains seven specific things parents can do every day to help their children (of all ages) learn this critically important relationship skill.
- What’s the difference between Old School and New School parenting?
I started using this terminology in 2005 to distinuish between the way most of us were raised and the way I recommend that parents change those parenting methods or techniques — especially with strong-willed, resistant, or defiant children. The age-old methods that parents have used forever often don’t work well with kids today and we need to learn to parent smarter, not harder. This whole website and my book 3 Steps to Parent-Child Harmony are devoted to helping parents learn the skills and attitudes that can transform stressed relationships with bright, strong-willed children. There are so many differences between Old and New School parenting that I wont even try to provide a satisfactory answer to your question here. Instead, I suggest that, for starters, you please see my overview article “Two Approaches to Parenting: Old School and New School.” Then, check out the articles under the “Old School and New School” category in the sidebar on the home page of this site.
- How can I get time-outs to work better?
Time-out is a very popular technique that many parents use with younger children as a means of helping them calm down, or as a brief punishment for some misbehavior. However, it all too often is extremely difficult to implement with angry and/or strong-willed children. Consequently, and consistent with my New School approach to parenting, I am finding that parents who use my approach are having very positive results, even to the point where before long their child is appropriately giving himself a time-out without being told to take one. Sound like magic? Read this and experiment with it: “How to Use Time-Out.”