In India we don’t generally put effort to learn ways of parenting – we think it just naturally springs up one we become parents.

With my experience I will say it’s a mistake. If we don’t know better, we will parent the way we have been parented. This could be a good or a bad thing, depending on the environment we have grown up.

While talking to many clients of my age, we sometimes discuss the many challenges we face in parenting. This book would be a useful read in this scenario.

I was blown away by Barbara Coloroso’s interview on Farnam Street. She easily narrates tools and techniques parents should embrace to raise happy, compassionate, caring, and responsible kids.

As a parent of two kids (14 & 6 year old) I have had my battles and struggles to handle the little ones. You will agree that kids of all ages can be a handful. Who will not like to know or learn to how raise well rounded kids?

Barbara set out the tone of book on defining our parenting philosophy. She asks—“What is my goal in parenting – to influence and empower my children or to control them and make them mind?” Obvious choice is former one.

“There are no quick fixes, easy answers, or recipes for parenting, but I believe most of us have the tools we need to be good parents if only we could find them”.

Barbara has put three indispensable tenets of parenting.

  • I will not treat a child in a way I myself would not want to be treated.
  • Kids are worth it.
  • If it works, and leaves a child’s and my own dignity intact, do it. Just because it works doesn’t make it good; it must work and leave the child’s and my own dignity intact.

Rewards and Punishments, Threats and Bribes … we all have got invariably raised on this diet. Do this you will get that. You clean room you will get to watch TV, You get scores then you will get toffee, and the like. In our day to day life this behaviour is so rampant that we don’t realise we are using it. Barbara has reported great deal on this with examples throughout.

If we want to raise children who have a strong sense of inner discipline, who don’t act merely to please someone or to avoid punishment, who behave in a responsible and compassionate way toward themselves and others because it is the right thing to do, then we must abandon some “tried and true” parenting tools of the past and reject some of the more recent alternatives.

Barbara says the questions to ask ourselves is, ‘Could children become responsible, resourceful, and resilient if they were controlled, manipulated, and made to mind? Could they develop a sense of inner discipline if all of the control came from outside?’

It is difficult to parent the different style than what we ourselves being parented. Barbara says in times of stress our original styles becomes dominant. Isn’t it true? How many of you experienced it.

What Threats and Bribes, Rewards and Punishments make them
Children have a difficult time becoming responsible, resourceful, and resilient if they are controlled, manipulated, and made to mind, robbed of their autonomy and denied opportunities to make choices and mistakes. They cannot develop a sense of inner discipline if all of the control comes from the outside. Control tactics compel or prevent actions and force kids to behave in an adult-approved way.

Often the result of control is either that the kids become submissive, obedient, and compliant, or they go to the opposite extreme and rebelagainst any and all authority

“Powerful Parents do not attempt to control their children with bribes, threats, punishments, or rewards—all of which can backfire. In fact, they don’t attempt to control their children at all”. Alice Miller refers to the use of bribes and rewards as “stoning a child with kisses.”

My experience says that I could not make them do something they chose not to do. Control attempts to eliminate choice. Following positive quotes from book are enough to bring home point that old tactics don’t work.

True obedience is a matter of love, which makes it voluntary, not by fear or force. —DOROTHY DAY, PEACE ACTIVIST

Love is the ability and willingness to allow those you care for to be what they choose for themselves without any insistence that they satisfy you. —WAYNE DYER

The reward for a thing well done, is to have done it. —RALPH WALDO EMERSON

What is the solution?

The author say, ‘Real power for parents lies in their ability to empower children, not control them and make them mind. How easy that is to say, how difficult it can be to do. We say we want our children to be responsible, resourceful, resilient, loving individuals who know how to think, not just what to think’.

Empowering our children involves first giving them a secure, safe, nurturing environment—offering them unconditional love, caring touch, tenderness, and concern for their physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being.

In order to believe they can solve their own problems, kids need self-esteem, integrity, and a sense of their own power. Barbara explains tools that enable this very well in a chapter called – The triangle of influence- The Encouragement, Feedback & Discipline.

Barbara gives solution of Encouragement, Feedback & Discipline to work well with children. This process does four things that the act of punishment cannot do: Show     children what they have done wrong. Give them ownership of the problem. Help them find ways of solving the problem. Leave their dignity intact.

“It is usually best to allow kids to experience the consequences of their mistakes and poor choices, which are theirs to own. They learn that they have positive power in their own lives. The hurt and the discomfort arising from the choices go away after they have worked through the problems constructively themselves”.

Building a conscience is what discipline is all about
Since responsibility and decision making are prerequisites to self-discipline, kids need to be trusted to assume responsibilities and to be given opportunities to make critical decisions throughout their childhood.

Take a critical look at the responsibilities and decision-making opportunities you give your children at home, and check to see if you are increasing them as your kids get older.

Believing in kids creates mindset which helps the child to create possibilities for them. How our children learn to deal with life has a lot to do with how we as parents view life and handle our own mistakes and problems. Our attitude, as well as our action, is important. If we are optimistic, we seek solutions to our problems; if we are pessimistic, we seek someone to blame.

The bottom line: To me, the measure of a good parenting or psychology book is if it changes my life, and by that standard, this book was EXCELLENT. Highly recommended, even if your kids are still little.

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