Tag Archives: parent-child



How to Talk Respectfully
(And Invite Respectful Responses)
Illustrating Skill #3 

An I-message is a message in which I tell you something about myself, like “I thought it was best for me to leave when I did.” Or, “I left when I did because I didn’t want to be late for my appointment.” Or, “I left when I did because I was feeling uncomfortable.” It amounts to a bit of self-disclosure. The subject of the sentence is always “I.”

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Dialogue: The Heart of New School Parenting

Dialogue: The Heart of New School Parenting

Parent-child dialogue is the heart and soul of my New School approach to how to be a parent. The love a parent has for a child is expressed and embodied in how the parent communicates with the child, even when the child is a newborn. Obviously, dialogue entails listening as well as talking, and it includes all non-verbal communication as well. There are many skills involved in having a good dialogue, and as parents we are illustrating and teaching them to our children in everything we say and do.

In the New School approach to parenting, we recognize and accept the fact that control of children’s behavior is a delusion. We cannot control our children’s behavior. (See my “Volcano Theory.”) They have free will. We do not have a remote control to their brain. They are not robots or slaves. They talk to us when they want to talk, not necessarily when we want them to talk.

Consequently we are convinced that we are better off not even trying to control their behavior through the Old School use of power and control tactics, like our parents used (yelling, ordering, bossing, threatening, punishing, spanking, hitting, grounding, etc). We recognize these as invitations to trouble. We acknowledge that the best we can get from our children, and what we really want from them, is their cooperation, based on dialogue and agreements, rather than their obedience to rules that we impose. If they don’t want to talk, we realize we cannot force them to.

Influence Does Not Equal Control

In the New School approach to parenting, we acknowledge that while we have absolutely no control over our children’s behavior, but only over our own, we also acknowledge that we have tremendous influence on our children’s thoughts, feelings, and behavior. We acknowledge that influence does not equal control. Continue reading

Justifications for Punishment

Justifications for Punishment

Punishment of child misbehavior is and Old School approach to “how to parent,” and it’s as old as the hills. It just comes naturally. Almost all parents use it as a means of correcting the wrongdoing of their children for a couple of reasons. One is that children clearly need to learn that doing wrong, like being disrespectful, or stealing, or hurting someone, needs to stop. We would all agree that misbehavior needs to be corrected.

Another justification parents give for using punishment is to teach their children about life–specifically, that wrongdoing usually invites negative consequences, especially if you are caught. It often happens that even if you are not caught, wrongdoing has a way of coming back to “bite you,” and you end up getting what you deserve. So punishment is often used as a means of teaching children about, and preparing them for, the harsh realities of life.

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Parent Power: The Issue of Control

Parent Power:
The Issue of Control

In 1991 Thomas Gordon published a wonderful book, Discipline That Works: Promoting Self-Discipline in Children. It’s full of wisdom and sound advice about the futility of parental power and control methods.

Twenty-one years earlier, 1970, he had published his excellent book, Parent Effectiveness Training. The only people who have been listening to him, apparently, are parents. (I have rarely seen him quoted or referred to by experts.) Thank goodness parents have been listening though! Many thousands have attended his parent effectiveness training workshops.He must be doing something right, even if very few experts quote him or appear to subscribe to his ideas.

Gordon clearly spells out the many problems associated with parental use of power and control methods to get children to behave. In this excerpt from PET, he talks about adolescents, but the point he is making is applicable to pre-teens and toddlers too.

Gordon says:

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Parent-Child Harmony: Influencing the Child to Change

Parent-Child Harmony:
Influencing the Child to Change

How the Parent Influences the Child to Change

In a different article I described the dynamics of harmony in music as an example of why the parent must be the first to change when parent and child are in conflict, or discord. In another article, I explained why the parent — not the child — must be the one to change first in these conflictual situations.

This is a radical departure from normal parenting behavior (yelling, demanding, arguing) because it constitutes a “backing off” by the parent from the discord and conflict of the moment. Rather than giving a misbehaving or angry child a “time out” or a tongue lashing, the parent gets “in harmony” with the child’s upset feelings and desires at the moment not by getting angry or yelling, but by empathically moving into harmony with child by being aware that “there’s disharmony here.” Thus the parent elevates the interaction to a higher level by backing off from the war of wills through empathic attention. Then the parent takes the time-out to think things over and plan the next steps, and what s/he is going to do and say.

Now I want to describe the next steps a parent can take to influence the child to make a change.

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Parent-Child Harmony

Parent-Child Harmony

 In music, harmony is a major factor. Two or more different notes are heard at the same time, and together they produce a pleasing sound. That’s harmony.

A chord consists of at least three different notes heard simultaneously. If two or more notes are not in harmony with each other, the notes are considered “discordant,” and are usually heard as a sound that is stressed. It might be tolerable, even a pleasant sounding stress, or it might be intolerable, and quite unpleasant.

The point is that each of the notes retains its own distinct and individual sound. It is different from all the others. And it either fits nicely with the others, or causes a stressed, discordant sound. Often, all it takes is for one note to change slightly and the discordant sound instantly becomes pleasingly harmonious.

I speak of harmony in relationships in much the same way. Two or more persons in relationship to each other are distinct individuals, and retain their individuality no matter what. If they get along well with the others, they are “in harmony,” and if they don’t, they are stressed or discordant.

Like the individual notes in pleasing harmony, the individual persons in harmonious relationships blend together and create beautiful sounds that no one of them could make alone. In stressed or discordant relationships, the individual persons retain their individuality, but they are fighting each other instead of blending together in harmony. Often, all it takes is for one person to change slightly and the discord instantly becomes pleasingly harmonious.

No matter who it is in your family that you are not in harmony with, you can make that relationship harmonious by changing yourself in a specific–-but significant-–way. In that moment you consciously exercise your personal power by transforming a relationship of two discordant “notes” into one of pleasing harmony.

In a stressed or discordant parent-child relationship, the parent must be the one to make the change and get “in harmony” with the child. This doesn’t mean you start acting like the child. Please see my other articles in this section to get the details.


3 Steps to Parent-Child Harmony is my book  that describes in detail the differences between the Old School Parenting model and the New School Parenting model.  Please see these links if you are interested in more information or wish to purchase.

     Learn more.    Buy Now.   Table of Contents & Intro

The Volcano Theory


What is it that motivates the unacceptable behavior we see in children? In any given situation, there may be many things that play into it. Still, there is one simple and really obvious explanation for all unacceptable child behavior–and indeed, for all behavior in all people at all times.

The Motivations for All Behavior

Think about your own reason for doing the last thing you did or said. Why did you do or say it? You might come up with any number of reasons, all of which are valid answers to the question. However, I propose that when you think about your reasons, there will be one inescapable conclusion. No matter what your various reasons are for doing or saying what you last did, we can classify all of them under one or both of two headings: 1) what you were thinking at the time, and/or 2) how you were feeling at the time.

I’m saying that no matter what you did or said, two minutes ago or two years ago, in any situation, your motivation can always be attributed to your thoughts and/or feelings at the moment. Although the specific thoughts you may have at any moment are infinite in variety, and your feelings (emotions) can be many and complex, the truth remains: you do what you do because of your thoughts and feelings at the moment you act.

This is true for all people, at all times, in all situations.

By “thoughts” I mean any cognitive or mental processes that take place upstairs, in the brain. This includes ideas, mental images, Continue reading