Looking for advice on parenting but don’t want to wade through reams of studies? A new book offers help. In “What Great Parents Do: 75 Simple Strategies for Raising Kids Who Thrive,” Erica Reischer offers practical tips in an easy-to-read format.
Reischer, a clinical psychologist and parent educator, developed her book from a workshop she offers to parents. The workshop, she explains in her introduction, presents information about “the best practice—synthesized from research and clinical research and clinical experience—that helps parents reshape kids’ challenging behavior, create strong family bonds, and guide children toward becoming happy, kind, and responsible adults.”
The strategies include “Great parents do what they say they are going to do,” “Great parents see that actions speak louder than words,” and “Great parents are transparent about their decision-making process.”
Each tip gets its own chapter, so readers can easily locate topics that interest them. Each one is just a page or two long, followed by a brief section called “Try this,” which offers action-oriented advice based on the individual subjects.
Included within chapters are page references to sections containing more detailed information about specific points. For example, in a chapter on changing parental behavior, you’ll find page numbers for chapters about unwanted behaviors, consistency, maintaining a warm attitude, and acting in a matter-of-fact manner.
Some advice focuses on phrasing. One easy-to-implement tip is replacing the word “but” — which can have negative connotations — with “at the same time,” which sounds more agreeable. Substituting “and” or “also” works, too.
Another technique is to “pivot.” This means to use words that get your point across in a softer, more positive way. “Pivoting is the art of saying yes instead of no, and meaning the same thing,” she explains. Her example: “No, we can’t go to the park until after you have a nap.” versus “Yes, we can go to the park as soon as you’re done with your nap.”
Reischer also suggests avoiding labels. If your son is reluctant to join an activity, resist commenting to other adults that “He’s just shy.” Remind yourself that acting shyly is a behavior and not always a permanent characteristic. Be aware that your child is listening and could come to think of himself in the manner you’re describing.
Even a positive label should be avoided. By labeling your child “smart,” the author states that he may internalize this as “I am smart/creative/good at sports and I want to stay that way.” This might lead to a reluctance to try new things for fear of failure and no longer being defined by that label.
In the chapter “Great parents focus near and far,” Reischer warns against focusing only on the moment and not the long term. If your son typically whines for a toy while at the store and you usually buy it for him, he’ll learn that whining helps him get his way. A short-term solution, which has been repeated often, has now created a long-term issue. This is also true of yelling to get your point across.
“Similarly, if we habitually yell to get our kids’ attention, we are inadvertently teaching them to ignore us until we yell, and we are also teaching them that yelling is an acceptable way to get someone’s attention,” she writes.
To refrain from these habits, the author advises asking yourself three questions: “Is what I’m doing something I would be happy to see my kids emulate? Is what I’m doing creating a positive family dynamic? Is what I’m doing solving one problem but creating another?”
At 250 pages, the book packs in a lot of information. But the format makes it easy to digest and the strategies are delivered in a nonjudgmental and to-the-point tone. And for parents with older kids, the author presents one last tip, titled “Great parents start where they are.” Here, addressing moms and dads fretting over past actions, she writes: “Please keep in mind that you can only act on what you know, and most parents have been doing the best they can with what they know so far. Thankfully, most kids are both resilient and forgiving; they are more like hardy weeds than flowers.”
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