Tag Archives: parenting toddlers

3 Steps to Parent-Child Harmony

3 Steps to Parent-Child Harmony graphic

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 40-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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.”
  3. 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.


eBOOK, PRICE:   $9.95
192 pages
Downloadable as pdf file
Read the book from your computer screen or print all of it or specific pages on your printer.


How to Parent Toddlers and Youngsters

How to Parent Toddlers and Youngsters

Isn’t it amazing how toddlers can be so strong-willed? The “terrible twos” are not so named without good reason. And parents are almost universally challenged when it comes to how to parent a toddler who already seems naturally bent on resisting orders, commands, and even less harsh forms of guidance. But  that’s the way it is, and once the child learns to say “No” the battle of wills is underway.

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Old School to New School Shift, b

Old School to New School Shift, b

Parents wishing to change some of their Old School parenting habits to New School practices can get an overview of some of the main practices that characterize each of the two approaches to parenting by studying this one-page chart.

It shows the main day-to-day things that parents in each school do, and how they think, in each approach to how they parent. While it does not show all aspects of how to parent differently in the New School approach, it gives a clear idea of what the parent needs to do  in making the shift from Old School to New School ways of parenting, as well as some of “mid-level” techniques an Old School parent might use in order to make the chonscious shift away from Old School methods and toward New School methodsl..

Please click on the following link to view the chart.

                       Old School to New School Shift b

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   

Old School to New School Shift, a

Old School to New School Shift, a

Parents wishing to change some of their Old School parenting habits to New School practices can get an overview of the main priciples that characterize each of the two approaches by looking at this chart. It shows the four functional principles that guide parents’ behavior almost all the time in each system. While it does not show all aspects of how to parent differently in the New School approach, it gives a clear idea of what needs to be done in making the shift from Old School to New School ways of parenting.

Please click on the  following link to view the chart.

Old School to New School Shift a


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

Thoughts About Love & Logic: Limitations of the Choices Technique

Thoughts About Love & Logic:
Limitations of the Choices Technique

In another article I described what I like about Love and Logic’s technique for offering a child choices that allow the parent to essentially give a command and/or pose the threat of a punishment in such a way that the child actually is responsible for making the choice, rather than the parent being responsible for imposing a command and a threat of punishment.

I like this technique a lot, and many parents in my classes have found it to be very useful, especially with younger children. It does provide children with a certain amount of “say” in the little everyday things that affect their lives (such as whether to eat what served or go to bed without eating till breakfast). Here I will describe the limitations of this technique. (See “Thoughts About Love & Logic: The Choices Technique” for a description of this technique.)

The First Limitation
First, the technique is, in a sense, a sleight-of-hand maneuver. It provides the parent with a tool for limiting the child’s behavioral options to those that are acceptable to the parent–including the use of punishment if the child makes a choice that is disagreeable to the parent (say, NOT picking up his toys, and then suffering the negative consequence of that choice). This is a not bad thing. It is an Old School power-and-control technique to get a child to do what the parent wants, and it can be effective and relatively painless for both parent and child.

However, if the child is able to see that in fact he has other choices available than what the parent offers, the technique can just as easily lead to a power struggle. Continue reading

A New School Approach to Family Rules

A New School Approach to Family Rules

What is discipline? In Latin, it means “teaching” and also “learning.” In the “Old School” style of parenting, it was commonplace for parents to teach by making up the rules of the house, and “laying down the law.” Kids were expected to obey, to conform, to learn by doing what they were told. And when they disobeyed, children were “disciplined”–they were punished. Discipline meant punishment. By and large, that discipline system worked pretty well in our families, didn’t it?

New School Approach to “How to Be a Parent”

What I call my “New School” approach to discipline in the family might at first sound too lenient, but it is not. That is the idea of “agreements” replacing the idea of “rules.” Agreements are bilateral–that is, both or all the parties involved make it understood to each other that they are knowingly accepting an expectation, an action, or a limit. Rules, on the other hand, are more like laws that are handed down by a governing body for the common good of the community, and there’s usually a law enforcement system in operation to make it all work. It’s not founded on love, but the power of law and order and obedience.

However, in my “New School” approach to discipline, where we replace “rules” with “agreements,” parents still hold the authority, power, and responsibility of having the last word regarding values, standards, and acceptable child behavior. Paradoxically, parents earn children’s respect and go a long way toward getting their cooperation by listening to them, and sharing decision-making power with them whenever that makes sense. Another paradox: when parents do this consistently, they tend to start learning early on how truly responsible, cooperative, and respectful their children can be. When children are listened to and have a voice in the decisions that affect them, they are more likely to enter agreements with parents about expectations, limits, and consequences. When they agree with parents on these things, they are more likely to cooperate, follow through on what they agreed to.

When people reach an agreement about expected behavior, limits, consequences, etc., they then have a basis for discipline–cooperation, accountability, integrity, and responsibility. If the child breaks an agreement, the parent holds them accountable–not for disobeying a rule, but for breaking an agreement they have made.


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

Parent Responses to Out-of-Control Kids

Parent Responses to Out-of-Control Kids

There is no way a parent can control any child, even less, one who is “out of control.”

See my Volcano Theory for more detail. In short, it states that all behavior in all people at all times is motivated by a) thoughts, or b) feelings (emotions), or both. Only the child can control his behavior, just as only you can control yours. So don’t try to control, or “take charge of,” your out-of-control child’s behavior. It’ll cause more anger and resentment, and just make things worse.

As the parent, you must work at being the child’s ally, not her persecutor or drill sargent or boss. You can be her ally by understanding what thoughts and feelings motivate her behavior, and then by negotiating agreements with her, and then by holding her accountable for her agreements. Believe it or not, you can do this with two-year-olds. In fact, the younger the child is (as long as he can communicate verbally), the better is the time to start this.

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A child throwing a tantrum is certainly one of the most trying episodes for most parents. The patience and understanding required of a parent while the little (or big!) volcano erupts can be nothing short of heroic.

The truth is, while the child (volcano) is erupting, there’s not much a parent can do to stop it. That behavior is motivated by the child’s intense anger or rage, and the child is the only one who can control it. So, what is a parent to do? Here are seven suggestions.

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When Rules Are Broken

When Rules Are Broken

Every organization or group, including the family, has certain standards of acceptable behavior. These are usually called rules, guidelines or standards. They are usually established by the administration, which, in the family, is the parents. They may be very clear, black and white, or they may be quite fuzzy and unclear. They may be specific or general, and they may be written, spoken, or even unspoken.

But every family has them, and it’s the parents’ responsibility to make sure they are known by the kids. Rules, or standards of acceptable behavior, are necessary for everybody, and especially for younger children, such as “No hitting,” “No playing in the street,” “No jumping on furniture,” “No snacks before meals,” “In bed by 8:00,” “Home by curfew” (for teens), etc.

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Anger = Expectation + Interpretation (ver. 2)

Anger = Expectation + Interpretation
(ver. 2)

Do find yourself getting angry at what someone else says or does? Their offensive behavior (such as someone insulting you, or your child disobeying you) is referred to as a “trigger event” for your anger.

In reality, you don’t need to pull that trigger! You really CAN manage your anger better. By that I mean you can reduce its intensity, or even eliminate the angry feeling altogether, in any specific situation.


Recognize the importance of expectations and interpretations.

The plain and simple truth is this: Your anger is the result of your own thoughts about the “trigger event” and not the trigger event itself. It’s not your child, or your child’s behavior that make you angry. It’s your own thoughts about it that make you angry. You probably are familiar with the much-discussed medical phenomenon that a “stressful” event may or may not result in a person experiencing a stress reaction. It all depends on the person’s state of mind, and her thought process, in dealing with an event that could easily be seen as “highly stressful.“

The same is true for a person’s response to a ‘trigger event.” The response depends entirely on the person’s state of mind (mind-set, thought process).

Consider, for example, a typical trigger event that appears to set parents off: unacceptable child behavior, like backtalk or disobedience. (This analysis applies equally to any event that anyone can experience at any time–for example, being delayed in the check-out lane at the grocery store, or hearing someone call you an insulting, vulgar, or belittling name.)

Let’s say you have just said “No” to your son’s request to stay overnight at a friend’s house. He says, “You’re really stupid! Everyone else gets to go! Why do I have to have such dumb mother?”

That would get most parents’ blood boiling. But think about it. Who is making you mad in this case? Your angry, frustrated, and disrespectful child? Or is it your own mental process that gets you going? Admittedly, the child’s verbal blast is disrespectful. And it’s also wrong. You are not stupid, you are not dumb, and not everybody else gets to go to events like this.

So your emotional response as a parent depends entirely on your state of mind, that is, your mind-set, or your own thoughts about this trigger event. And you don’t have to pull the trigger! Instead of taking the insult personally, you can just as easily:

1. Expect your child to act that way because he’s immature and self-centered, and he has acted this way a thousand times before; and

2. Interpret what he said as an angry, primitive, disrespectful outburst by an immature, self-centered child who has been snubbed and is intensely disappointed and upset with you. So he lashes out by calling you stupid and dumb.

What he says about you does not define who you are! As I said, you are not stupid or dumb. Those are just your son’s words, and you don’t have to take them personally. Furthermore, the fact that he’s being disrespectful is absolutely no reflection on you. It’s his own anger and disappointment talking, and you have the power to see it as such–and nothing more.

This is a very empowering insight about anger, and it can radically change your life for the better–both in relation to managing your angry feelings, and in relation to your son. The simple truth is that your anger is the result of your own thoughts about the “trigger event” (that offensive thing someone else did or said). And you–not anyone else–can control your thoughts!

Your best response in any situation like this is to remain calm, cool, and collected, and realize that his offensive behavior is a “trigger” for your anger, but you don’t have to pull it. If you are sensitive to being disrespected by your son, you might say that “He’s pushing my buttons.” But please realize: it’s you who are placing that button on your chest as something that’s available and begging to be pushed! You can just as surely take it down and not make it available. How?

  1. By changing your expectations (make them more realistic, based on what you know about whom you are dealing with). And
  2. By doing some mental gymnastics (self-talk) to change your negative interpretation to a more positive one (by “giving him/her a pass,” telling yourself you are going to withhold judgment, telling yourself you are not going to take it personally, and telling yourself that getting angry isn’t worth it). These kinds of thoughts will reduce or eliminate your angry feelings.

Your expectations set you up.

Here are some ways to apply this to our example.

  1. Did you really expect him to do or say something different? Or did you just hope for it?
  2. Was your expectation realistic, given what you know about your son?
  3. Might it be helpful to change your expectation of your son based on his previous reactions?

Your interpretations bring you down.

Here’s how your interpretation can affect your response in our example.

  1. Do you really think his/her offensive behavior reflects on you, or defines who you are?
  2. Do you take his insult personally? You don’t have to!
  3. It’s your own behavior (not his) that reflects on you–unless you expect to be the perfect parent, and have kids who never do things wrong.

When you can regularly change your expectations and interpretations of other people’s offensive behavior in the heat of the moment, you will reduce your stress, quiet your anger, improve your relationships, and change your life for the better. Believe it! And try it! It works!


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