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Archives for : consensual living

Scream Free Parenting

I read Hal Edward Runkel’s book, Scream Free Parenting, Sunday afternoon. I’ve heard the title bandied about on AP sites and wanted to check it out. I’m always on the look out for new consensual living books. I feel like I’m a better mother when I actively try to grow as a person and parent. My hold came in at the library last week, and so I picked it up on our weekly library run on Friday. Sunday afternoon was a lazy afternoon and a perfect time to catch up on some reading while watching the kids play.

I think the title could be a little off-putting, but I reserved any judgement on the book based on this. In all honestly, it’s a catchy title and therefore sets up a good marketing plan. I started off reading with high hopes, as I am getting ready to start our local NCP/CL book club back up after taking a break from it for a while. I was hoping that I could add this book into our discussions.

The book started out well. While there were a few references that had me stop in my tracks, I quickly realized they were there to appeal to a wider audience and that they weren’t actually part of the content of the book. Runkel makes a lot of good points. He mentions that the only person you can really control is yourself, and that by focusing on yourself and your words and actions, rather than on being reactive to situations, you can improve your communication and reltionship with your child.  He stresses that parenting itself is a way in which we can grow as people.  Runkel also discusses the difference between having a responsibility to our children rather than being responsible for our children. Children are people and need to be allowed to be their own persons. We have to remove ourselves from viewing them as an extension of ourselves. He has a lot of nice catch phrases in the book which are certain to appeal to many parents along with some genuinely good advice thrown in.

About 1/3 of the way through the book, as I was sending messages with a friend about restarting the book club, I mentioned that this might be a good book for us to discuss. At the end of each chapter, Runkel has even included reflection questions – perfect for a discussion group. And if I could package the first half of the book and market it by itself, I would recommend the book to every parent.

Unfortunately, half-way through the book Runkel changes course. He switches from the great advice and reminders he was giving parents to a much more authoritarian view of parenting, requiring that you set consequences and stick with them. It’s very punitive in nature and doesn’t allow for any discussion or cooperation between parent and child. In fact, I’m sure users of the infamous Love and Logic disciplinarian style would love the book.

So, for the book as a whole, I’d recommend you look around for another way to spend your afternoon. If you are willing to take what you want from the first half and discard the rest, it isn’t bad. Luckily, there are many really good books out there that are much better.

 

Previously published at Living Peacefully with Children.

Between Parent and Child

Before Alfie Kohn, Pam Leo, Naomi Aldort, or many of the other consensually living authors of our time, there was Dr. Haim GinottGinott revolutionized the parenting and psychology worlds with his new philosophy on communicating with children. His book, Between Parent and Child, was on the national best seller list for over a year when it was written in 1965. While the republished version, edited and amended by his wife Dr. Alice Ginott, has been updated, it retains the same basic premise.

First and foremost, children need compassion and understanding from their parents. They need to hear that their feelings, wishes, and dreams are acknowledged by us and that those internal feelings are always acceptable, although the resulting behaviors may not be.  Guidance, not criticism, will help them to convey their thoughts and feelings in appropriate manners. As parents – the indviduals whom our children should be able to count on and trust more than anyone else, the words we use hold much more power and we should be cognizant of that when we speak with them. By modeling effective communication and giving our children the opportunities needed in order for them to develop their own responsibility, we will be helping them develop the skills they need.

If you are looking for one book to add to your home library this year, I would strongly recommend putting this one on your list of possibilities.

Previously posted at Living Peacefully with Children

Raising a Thinking Child

Most parents want their children to be equipped to handle life when they are grown. The skills needed to do this are ones that we can help them with right now. Rather than handling situations for them, and hence taking responsibility for our children, we can show responsibility to our children by helping them to problem solve and handle conflicts on their own. Myrna Shure has addressed not only the philosophy behind helping children learn how to think rather than what to think in her book Raising a Thinking Child: Help Your Young Child to Resolve Everyday Conflicts and Get Along with Others, but has gone the step further so often requested by parents by going through numerous examples of how exactly to do this.

Shure begins by explaining the principle concepts of Interpersonal Cognitive Problem Solving, generally referred to as I Can Problem Solve (ICPS), which has been successfully used in home and institutional settings for decades. According to the book, ICPS will help you:

  • increase your awareness that your child’s view may differ from your own;
  • see that helping your child think a problem through may in the long run help more than immediate action to stop what she is doing;
  • provide a model of problem-solving thinking for your children – as a thinking parent, you might inspire your child to think.

ICPS will help your children:

  • think about what to do when they face a problem with another person;
  • think about different way sto solve the same problem;
  • think about the consequences of what they do;
  • decide whether or not an idea is a good one;
  • realize that other people have feelings and think about their own feelings too.

The concepts in the book were not new to me. As part of striving for a consensually living family, we try to brainstorm solutions as a family or help our children think through their own problems to come up with their own solutions. When people develop their own solutions, they are much more likely to implement and follow through with them. What makes Shure’s book unique is that she goes through specific key words to use during dialogues and has numerous examples to help parents new to using this type of technique.

Reading through the examples, I was struck with the thought that the process and word choice was almost patronizing to children and adults alike. I couldn’t imagine going through the examples with my children. However, as I continued through the book, I was immediately struck by the example given where the mother stepped in, using ICPS techniques with her children when the father, who had less opportunity to practice these techniques, was frustrated and reaching his limit. That was the moment when I realized the value of the given examples for families, children and parents, who are new to such concepts and are looking for key words to help them in the learning process.

As the title implies, the examples in the book are geared toward families with young children. They would need to be adapted quite a bit for familes with older children (or even some familes with younger children) so that the kids didn’t feel as if they were being spoken down to. However, the main philosophical concepts are relevant to all families and individuals for thinking through conflict and resolution.

Shure shows in her examples that children are empowered by solving their own problems. Yet, she also advocates liberal use of praise in order to get children to practice these new found skills. In my opinion, the book and concepts in general would be strengthened by removing the use of praise.

 

Previously posted at Living Peacefully with Children

Positive Discipline

In her book Positive Discipline, Jane Nelsen approaches the topics of gentle and non-punitive parenting from an Adlerian point of view. She introduces the four R’s of punishment – resentment, revenge, rebellion, and retreat – and focuses her version of positive discipline as one which works toward mutually acceptable goals and solutions. The book has a lot of good information in it, although this is not the book I would recommend to parents new to the concept of consensual living or non-punitive parenting.

Nelsen writes as though she is lecturing, which ironically she advocates against (small pun intended). While she provides review questions at the end of each chapter, supposedly for discussion, they read as text book assignments. In an attempt to cover a multitude of ideas, the book tends to be repetitive and drawn out. This isn’t a book that grabs you with inspiration, compelling you to turn pages. I do find the book useful for quiet contemplation for those who are comfortably practicing  consensual living and actively working toward their own growth as parents and individuals.

Previously posted at Living Peacefully with Children

I Love You Rituals

Sometimes parents get so caught up in the physical acts of parenting, that they forget about the emotional acts of parenting. Becky Bailey presents the idea of making rituals in order to reconnect with our children in her book I Love You Rituals. While much of the book is targeted to parents and caregivers with young children, I think many parents could benefit from reading her book.

The first couple of chapters seemed to drag on a bit, but she started getting to the heart of the matter in chapter two. In line with other writers of non-coercive parenting, Bailey discusses the concept of unconditional love. She takes her explanation a step further by clarifyng it as unconditional affection. Just as others have written, most parents always love their children. The disconnect is in the child’s perception – based on our actions. Children need to experience our unconditional love as unconditional affection.

I’ve often heard from people who would be sold on the idea of non-coercive parenting if the idea of praise was part of the concept. Some people exclaim that they themselves love hearing praise, and therefore they refuse to take that away from their children. I believe that Bailey hits a key point. It isn’t praise that people long to hear, it is feedback that they truly want. They aren’t really looking for a “Good Job” when they clean the kitchen, go to work, take care of the kids, or do any of the other things we as parents do on a daily basis. What they really want is feedback. They want to hear that someone noticed what they did and possibly whether or not that person appreciated their effort. The same applies to our children. They don’t need to hear that you think they did a good job at something, they just want acknowledgement that you saw them do it. They want specific feedback without judgement because in listening to feedback, they know you are there for them, and yet they are free to make their own decisions about their actions.

I Love You Rituals are things we can do to reconnect with our children, both in normal times and in times of undo stress. It’s that connection with our children that allows us to work together as a team in order to solve problems. Bailey addresses the idea of authority in a different light, using the root of the word. Parents as authorities do not impose their will on their children. It is impossible to truly control another person. Instead, she suggests that we use our authority to lead the situation away from where it is going and reconnect with our children in times if stress (whatever they may be) by using rituals.

The rest of the book has suggestions for love rituals. There is an extensive section on finger plays which would be quite appropriate for toddlers, although she does address activities for elementary aged kids at the end of the book. Overall, it’s a good book, and I think she has found a unique way of explaining some of the NCP/CL concepts. The examples of love rituals would be helpful for parents and caregivers of young children who need a little help coming up with ideas.

Previously posted at Living Peacefully with Children