by Doone Estey, Beverley Cathcart-Ross and Martin Nash, M.D.
Toronto: BPS Books, 2014
July has been our learning at home month, but, of course, not all learning is for the kids. Parents are also always learning, and to recognize that learning process as on-going and ever-lasting is one of the most important tools in our parenting tool kit.
I learned a lot about myself reading this book. I am, by nature, exactly the kind of controlling parent at whom this book is aimed. “Step away from the rule book a minute and listen. Attend. Observe. Relax.” That’s what this book taught me to remember.
The authors of Raising Great Parents introduce the book by saying,
We realized that, to end the stressful conflicts with our kids, we had to start with ourselves. We adopted a different form of parental leadership as it finally dawned on us that our challenge was not to raise great kids but to become great parents. (2)
I love how such a simple phrase turns the table: do not aim to raise great kids, aim to be a great parent.
How do you do that?
Begin by recognizing that the only behaviour you can actually control is your own. Here is a great example: the kids are acting up at bedtime, arguing and disrupting book time. Instead of barking orders to control them (“Stop fighting!”) or feeling powerless in the face of their behaviour (“Why are you ruining my special time?”), simply close the book and tell them, “I will read when the room is quiet.”
Now you have control–over yourself. In effect, your words mean, “I can’t make you do it, so I will decide for myself what I will do in this situation. I’m going to … decide what’s going to happen next — to me. (33)
The book is full of ideas and exercises to practice how to convert a dynamic of control into co-operation. The vocabulary the authors use for modeling an exchange may not feel natural to you, but the exercises are useful for thinking outside of the usual box. The tips for taking the yelling out of the morning routine were life-changing! There is also a fabulous chart of age-appropriate chores for kids to do at home that will encourage you to give your kids a bit more responsibility and a lot more independence.
The book begins with asking parents to examine their own behaviours. (Helpful. Humbling.) It then goes on to examine why kids misbehave and provides tools to guide families to a more co-operative dynamic. It covers the greatest hits: misbehaving, punishment, the link between praise and self-esteem, and co-operative problem-solving.
If you are familiar with Adlerian approaches to parenting, this book will cover familiar ground. The authors are all affiliated with The Parenting Network, an organization that promotes parenting through cooperation and guiding our kids’ intrinsic motivation.
Full disclosure: I know one of the authors of this book, Beverley Cathcart-Ross, very well. She’s family! I’ve seen her in action hosting Thanksgiving dinner for 40 people without breaking a sweat. She is grace in motion, and mostly unflappable. If she says, “I will read when the room is quiet,” she means it, but in the nicest way possible.