Before you read this post, I must confess that I have not read a parenting book for seven years: since my son was three and my daughter one. Up to that point, I averaged one a month. Some were helpful, but I was such an insecure parent, that the majority of these well-intentioned references made me like a horrible mother who was incapable of raising good kids.
I then decided to “pick my battles,” and work on my self-esteem rather than perfecting my parenting skills. So I tossed any parenting books that came my way into the Goodwill pile. Whenever the topic of expert parenting advice or philosophies came up at play dates, I walked away and participated in another conversation… like about which kind of chocolate to buy.
I must have evolved in these seven years because I was unafraid to read Amy McCready’s book, If I Have to Tell You One More Time: The Revolutionary Program That Gets Your Kids To Listen Without Nagging, Reminding, or Yelling, which is full of useful nuggets. Still squinting a tad at the subtitle, because I have so much nagging, reminding, whining, and yelling going on at our house that I just can’t fathom an afternoon without it.
I still falter on most of the building blocks for good parenting: consistency, structure, confidence, and firmness.
McCready, a parenting expert and founder of Positive Parenting Solutions, operates with the philosophy that it is better to control our kids’ behavior by EMPOWERING them, versus taking the power from them. She draws on Adlerian psychology — which maintains that every human being has a basic need to feel powerful. In her book, McCready includes twenty-three tools with insightful explanations, useful tips on when to use, and other information like frequently asked questions.
Because she offers so many tools, parents are free to take the ones that work for them, and leave the rest. I highlight below some that work well for me—methods which I sort of figured out on my own, after some trial and error. I was glad to see them endorsed by a parenting expert!
1. Mind, Body, and Soul Time
I know, I know, some of you are saying, “What in the …??” Another way of saying this is “Give the kid attention.” I totally agree with McCready that sometimes all our little guys want is a little of our time (without our fussing with phones or reading something). If you sit down with them for ten minutes and do whatever they want, it sometimes saves you an hour of nagging and whining. A pretty good investment, really. McCready recommends that we aim for ten minutes of mind, body, soul time twice a day. She describes it as a way of “filling your child’s attention basket throughout the day – even when he’s not asking for your time – proactively and positively. When his attention basket is full to the brim, he won’t seek attention with negative and undesirable behaviors.”
Choices have worked well in our house. For example, let’s say my daughter doesn’t want to go to school. Without getting into the “Are you really sick?” argument, we will simply say, “That’s fine. But you will have to stay in your room until 3:00 and there will be no TV.” That usually gives us the answer right there. If she is truly sick, she won’t care if there is no TV. However, if she’s merely trying to weasel her way out of a spelling test, seven hours in her room isn’t worth it.
3. Control the Environment
This one isn’t always possible, of course; however, whenever are able to do just that – control the environment – it always pays off. For my son, this means protecting him from loud and stimulating environments like movies, fireworks, Chuck E Cheeses, because he is a highly sensitive boy who just can’t handle too much sensory stuff going on. Whenever possible, we try to squeeze in “decompression time” into a weekend full of out of town guests, etc. If he has a sleepover, we try to make sure nothing too exciting is scheduled for the next day, because we know he’ll need that down time.
4. Natural Consequences
I like this one because it basically requires that you do nothing. For example (I know some will vehemently disapprove of this), my son refuses to wear his winter jacket in the blustering cold. Every morning before school, it’s a fight. So, tired of waging that war, I simply said, “Go ahead without one. If you freeze at recess, then maybe you’ll wear one tomorrow.” The teachers were not all too happy with me. I got reprimanded when I picked him up. However, the fact that they did not allow him to play outside because he wasn’t dressed appropriately meant that he was learning the lesson from a source other than me. When that happens, the lesson tends to stick.
5. Withdraw from Conflict
Like natural consequences, this one demands no action on your part, which is why I like it. Say my son and daughter are going at it over some stupid balloon one of them got at a restaurant or any other useless item that they don’t care about until one of them does. I could interfere in the fight and send them to their rooms. Sometimes I do that if the violence is escalating. However, if it’s the end of the summer and I have absolutely had it with their squabbling, I let them duke it out. Someone may emerge with blood … again, natural consequences … but this teaches them the lesson without my having to get involved.
I encourage you to check out the other seventeen tools in McCready’s resourceful book. Especially before next summer.