• see if you can agree with her at least some of the
time, rather than always insisting that she agree with you.
• attempt to agree even if it requires changing your
agenda and it consumes more of your time.
If you cannot agree, work on a compromise in which she saves
face and the required objective is also met. Base your guidance
first on the recognition of her feelings and emotional state,
then give attention to your desire or agenda. Proceed carefully;
you don't want her to take your comments as a personal rejection.
For instance, when we wanted our little grandson to leave
the preset buttons on the dishwasher in place, we explained
that the buttons are not toys and none of us could play with
them. This was an opportunity to present equality, which he
A shortage of time is often the cause of disciplining being
done in a way that crushes a child's individuality. Factor
into your schedule more time than you would normally require
to accomplish tasks and events. For instance, when you need
to get the two of you out of the house for an appointment,
allow extra time during the process for her to explore and
dawdle a bit according to what is catching her fancy. Again,
this provides an opportunity to build positive emotional space
that could result in cheerful cooperation, rather than sulky
resentment. Having been given time to express her individuality,
she is more apt to willingly comply with your directions when
it is really time to go.
Much of what is important to a child seems completely trivial
and silly to adults. Consciously acknowledging what is important
to your daughter, instead of ignoring it as trivial, honors
and nurtures her individuality. This key element in parenting
will help both of you cooperate in avoiding what could become
hurtful, and instead, creating a cheerful experience of cooperation
and pleasurable companionship.
There are many times and many ways in which we parents, not
the children, must make the adjustments toward harmony. We
must not expect the children to do something they are not
able to do without stress. Our task as parents is to gain
the knowledge and understanding of their natural developmental
capabilities and needs and to honor them.
You may be having company at Christmas dinner. Think about
how you can allow your son to be free to move during the meal
without it upsetting you. At four he will undoubtedly be able
to leave the table and do something quietly in the corner
of the room. You can set the stage by putting there some toys
or books he enjoys. Explain the plan to him before your guests
arrive. Practicing this new routine before Christmas could
be most helpful.
We suggest that you respect and honor your son's natural
developmental process by graciously recognizing his body's
cry for movement and give him the privilege of moving it when
it tells him to do so. This applies to other times of the
day as well as meal time. Also, it would create a positive
environment if you provide your son some periods of time every
day in which you give him your complete undivided attention
and your genuine unconditional love. These are important nurturing
experiences for him. The rewards will be great for you both.
There are many ways to show children that you are there
for them. For instance, lots of holding, touching, smiles
of approval, undivided attention, frequent rocking sessions
with Mommy, Saturday mornings with Daddy, and most importantly,
the verbal and nonverbal affirmation of being valued for "who
I am, not for what I do or do not do." In addition, give
the children freedom to make their own personal choices in
some areas of life that are important to them. And for the
individual child and the whole family, provide a harmonious
and joyful family atmosphere.
My 9-year-old son has become fascinated with Go-Karts. He wants to work to earn $3,000 (!!!) for his own Go-Kart. I like to support him for his dreams, but this one seems so ridiculously unattainable for him. What should I do?
We heartily compliment you on your wisdom to support children's dreams. The classic cultural response, which is usually given too quickly in some form of "No," or "That is ridiculous," can so easily crush the child's spirit. Parents or caregivers can supportively say instead something like, "I really like your thinking on that idea, but I'm not sure how to go about that. Let's just wait and see if some more ideas come to us." or "That sounds like lots of fun. Why don't you give it a try and see what you think." or "Let's go shopping and see if we can find what you'd need to do that."
If children are supported long enough to discover for themselves that their dream or goal is not realistic or practical, they will build valuable wisdom for their future personal guidance.
As far as the $3,000 goal is concerned, we suggest that you allow your son to work in whatever way he can and save for the Go-Kart. We're guessing that long before he saves $3,000 he will have gone on to his next idea and will want to spend his money on that. You will undoubtedly discover that his ideas will gradually become more and more possible and practical. He will learn much by his own experience of finding out what will and will not work. Children only learn how to fear or be disappointed when adults come on strong with commands and criticism.
Even if your son never owns his own Go-Kart he will gain much wisdom through this experience of wanting, your supporting his dream, and his coming to his own conclusions. Most importantly, because of your wisdom in the way you handle this, he will not have suffered emotional trauma—humiliation, rejection, being made to feel foolish rather than clever and creative. Your providing emotional safety by protecting him from needless trauma is the very best you can do.
Protecting children's emotional core in this way is like adding to an emotional bank account. If the account is in positive territory, it serves as a valuable cushion when unavoidable emotional trauma strikes. Every time you can save your son even the slightest emotional upset, you are helping him avoid emotional baggage and experience, instead, the flow of joy.
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Is the soccer and Little League setup really safe for children?
We do not have any way of personally judging whether or not these
activities are physically safe for children. However, we seriously question
the mental and emotional safety. These activities are extremely stressful for
children and the general trend in our society is to unthinkingly allow our
children to be over-stressed in the guise of "These activities are good for
them." Adverse consequences sometimes show up at the time, but are often
Many parents are so eager that their children follow in their own
footsteps or engage in activities that they themselves would like to
experience that they are completely oblivious to the injuries taking place to
the emotional core of their children.
There is a dangerous over-emphasis in our culture on the value of competitive
sports. In their enthusiasm for adult competitive sports, parents tend to
overlook the harmful stress these activities cause their children, stress
that can linger in consciousness and adversely affect adulthood. Sometimes
when we express this opinion, the parent counters with, "But my daughter (or
son) loves it." We sadly smile. We would like to say, "Look closely. What is
really happening is that your daughter (or son) is very adept at saying what
she or he knows you want to hear, because your approval is so important."
It is argued that organized competitive sports teach children how to be team
members. That can be true only if there are no adults involved.
If adults are
the organizers and supervisors, the children are simply learning that they
had better do just what the adults direct. The "team" is really a group of
individuals playing a designated role directed by non-participants, just as a
marionette moves according to the puppeteer's manipulations. That is not a
genuine team. We do not believe competitive sports are emotionally or
mentally safe for children.
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My parents spanked me when I was a kid and I turned out okay. What's wrong
Physical, emotional, or mental punishment violates the primary principle
of parenting: Children have parents to protect them from harm, to nurture and
lovingly care for them, to honor their true Self, and to prepare them for the
adult experience in a wholesome, non-stressful way.
One of the most harmful results of physical, emotional, or mental punishment
is that it forces the child into a survival mode, which engages and causes
the reptilian (survival) brain to overdevelop at the expense of proper
development of the neocortex (human brain). When this happens, the capacity
to engage in violence increases, and there is a loss of capacity for empathy
For parents who have spanked or used other forms of physical punishment with
their children before catching this principle, it is important to know that
with understanding and a new approach to parenting the effects of prior
spanking can heal.
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My brother and sister-in-law have a teenage son who is 15. Their life with
him has become a nightmare. When I express my dismay, they tell me all
teenagers are problems. I'm horrified at this prospect. My children are 2 and
4 now, adorable and sweet. I've begun to have nightmares of horrifying
experiences when my children are teenagers, and I'm losing the happiness of
our life together now. Do you have any ideas to comfort me?
Do keep in mind that all teenagers need not be problems. You are fortunate
that your children are still so young. There is much that you can do,
beginning today, to create a teenage future for your family that will not be
a nightmare. Our book, Living Joyfully with Children, is full of ideas and
guidelines that will help you, ideas such as "create a household governed by
principles, not by rules," "strive to help children feel valuable and valued
by others"; "don't overschedule."
Above all, enjoy each present moment with your children without dread of the
future, but with confidence that you and your family can avoid the nightmares
and live joyfully during the teen years by gaining new views now of parents,
children, and parenting.
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How can I get my teenagers to respect me? We're either
constantly fighting or ignoring each other. I don't understand
it. I always respected my parents.
We observe all around us startling examples of rudeness,
thoughtlessness, disrespect, and dishonor. Your teenagers
are reacting to a common pattern in present day society that
is different than the pattern of your childhood. Perhaps the
most important thing for you to know is that the disrespect
is not personal to your children or to you. It is a phenomenon
of the common culture. Your teenagers are simply taking it
on and playing it out. If they were able to express how they
really feel about you (but this isn't cool), you would undoubtedly
see respect and appreciation of which even they are not aware.
In a similar situation in another family we suggested the
parents respond to these inappropriate remarks calmly with,
"I'm sorry you feel that way," and walk away. This
was such an unpredictable response that the teenagers were
thrown off by it and the power and drama they were expecting
became completely nullified. In this case, the behavior did
eventually change for the better. This is not to imply a parent
doesn't stand firmly on issues that require it. You must.
But choose your issues very carefully so the teenagers feel
some autonomy in their lives, which will help them feel more
respect for themselves. Respecting and honoring themselves
will make it possible for them to respect others as well.
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