ABOUT THE BOOK
ParentShift is based on the premise that, despite what our culture tells, we are not natural-born parents. Great parenting — heck, even good parenting — often doesn't comes naturally to us. Even those of us who really like kids! What comes natural to us is, as the great Aletha Solter put it, "to treat your children the way you yourself were treated."
And the truth is: Most of us weren't treated the way we deserved to be.
Does this mean our parents did a poor job? Not at all! Most did the best they could with the information they had at the time. That's all any of us can do. But, fortunately, we know a lot more than we used to know about children's brain development and how our parenting style affects our children's mental health. Science really is telling us how to parent.
Of course, as we all know, "science" is conveniently not a parent herself. Science has never tried to keep her head while parenting the tantruming toddler, the strong-willed five-year-old, and the thirteen-year-old who thinks she's thirteen times smarter than we are. We, not science, understand the urge to put the five-year-old in timeout and to bribe the thirteen-year-old to do his goddamn chores. We know what it's like to live in a real family with real parents and real kids.
That's precisely why we are so passionate about this book, and all it has to offer: Because we have managed to take what we know through research and science, merged it with real-world conflicts and challenges, and created a system so dimple and straight-forward you will wonder why it's not standard practice everywhere.
SOMETIMES CHILDREN GO STRAIGHT FOR THE GROIN
When you think about it, an awful lot of parenting is just responding. Maybe my kid is trying to talk me into buying him candy at the grocery store. Maybe she is demanding to be the center of attention in the middle of my mother's birthday party. Maybe he is punching his brother in the groin. Regardless of what it is my kid is doing, I often have a duty to respond.
Now this would be a cake walk if the appropriate response was always obvious. And always delivered from our brains to our mouths with thoughtfulness and clarity. And, while we're at it, it also would be super-helpful if we could dictate the reactions our little ones would have to our thoughtful, clear-headed responses.
But if you've been a parent for longer than three hours, you already know: Parenting is no cake walk. In reality, parents are choosing among a tiny and often ineffective assortment of tools — many of which they've learned from psychologist, teachers and fellow parents, and yet are almost guaranteed to make things worse.
Taking away toys or privileges.
Imposing extra chores.
We're all familiar with the usual suspects.
When situations spin out of control, they generally involve one or more of these bad boys.
"GOOD PARENTING DOES NOT COME NATURALLY. WHAT COMES NATURALLY IS TO TREAT YOUR CHILDREN THE WAY YOU YOURSELF WERE TREATED."
— ALETHA SOLTER,
developmental psychologist and author
"BETWEEN STIMULUS AND RESPONSE THERE IS A SPACE. IN THAT SPACE IS OUR POWER TO CHOOSE OUR RESPONSE."
— VIKTOR E. FRANKL,
neuroscientist, psychologist and Holocaust survivor
Most of us use some type of punishment or rewards in our child-rearing because we don't know what to do instead. And we aren't convinced that there's a real downside anyway. "If it works, it works!" seems to be the attitude. But that's not our best selves talking. That's fear talking. And laziness. The most knowledgable professionals in the field of child psychology have been telling us for over a century that even parenting techniques proven to "work" in the short-term can devastate children's mental health in the longterm. Not all parenting styles are created equal. Not all the tips and tools you picked up from your parents, or read on your favorite mommy blog, are helping you to raise kind, healthy, happy, resilient kids.
The good news is that there are PLENTY of tools and tecniques that not only "work" in the short-erm but "work" in the longer-term, too. Many, if not most, have been discussed in all kinds of parenting books. The only hiccup is that rarely are these tools put together in one place, or tied together by a framework that makes good, common sense. In our experience, and maybe yours too, many wonderful parenting books and websites either speak too philosophically to be much use, or their focus is too narrow.
ParentShift is different. It provides the big picture without being too philosophical. And it gives you the practical answers you crave without being to narrow in scope.
"DO THE BEST YOU CAN UNTIL YOU KNOW BETTER. THEN WHEN YOU KNOW BETTER, DO BETTER."
— MAYA ANGELOU,
poet and author