I like reading. In fact, one of my favorite past times (pre-parenting days), was to go to the bookstore, get a drink (or a donut, if we’re being honest 😉 ) and head straight to the parenting/education section. I’d find a book I liked and sit and read for a couple hours. If it was really good, I’d stay until I was done. (Sorry, Borders — I guess I was one of those people who helped contribute to your demise…but I did buy a lot of donuts from you. 🙂 )
With all the reading I did, I absorbed a lot, became a better teacher, and also learned about things like “elimination communication.” I didn’t use that information until my daughter came, but when she did, I had been exposed to it and was ready to look it up again. Having a young child made reading anything other than romance novels a chore. Now that my daughter is older and sleeps more, I’m enjoying being able to delve into educational and parenting books again. I often find that with more information at my fingertips, I’m better prepared to deal with what comes up as a teacher and as a parent.
In my effort to live the give way, I try to look to books that reflect that way. This one was so great, I felt I had to share it!
Soft Spoken Parenting: 50 Ways to Not Lose Your Temper with Your Kids by Dr. H. Wallace Goodard
I found this book at the library the other day. (You know if they sold drinks and donuts, I’d bet they’d get a lot more business!). The title caught my eye. “Soft-spoken parenting” sounded so loving and gentle. Something I always strive to be as a teacher and parent and continuously fail at becoming.
I am not generally a yeller (I added “generally” years later, after we added another kid to the mix. 🙂 ) . I’m more of the sarcastic/defensive/quiet/self-righteous type when I’m angry. These are not the best ways to deal with students and kids. In fact, I’d say they’re the worst ways. I know from my experiences as a teacher, that I rarely had any effective tools to deal with my anger or frustration with my students. Experience helped, but I think this book would’ve helped my time in the classroom (especially if I’d read it the first year I started. I probably wouldn’t have thrown that eraser across the room in frustration!)
When I had my daughter, my husband and I started on the same quest every parent does: become good parents. We’ve come to the conclusion that parenting is less about getting “our way” and more about developing a loving and peaceful parent-child relationship. Of course, that’s not to say that a child should always get “her way,” but that ideally it’s not a battle to be fought in these competitive terms. Having reached that conclusion, we’re still working on the daily logistics of figuring out how to do this.
As Goodard puts it, “This book is for parents like us who want their children to become good, caring, loving adults and wish that we were better parents so we didn’t get in their way.”
The book provides a list of strategies to help deal with and/or avoid anger or frustration as a result of living with these little humans. Each strategy includes a little workbook-type page to reflect on the information and help you focus on its applicability to your family.
To give you an idea of what you’ll find in the book, here are few examples of various strategies (and a few quotes I found thought-provoking):
- Look into the Child’s Heart “Very often we judge children’s behaviors based on their effects on us. If their actions (or inactions) irritate me, then the children are malicious – or at least careless and irresponsible…In all cases we should look on children not as annoying people who are tormenting us deliberately, but as children who are doing the best they know how to do.”
- Listen to Their Hearts
“When asked which flavor he wanted, the child replied ‘I want a scoop of every flavor!’ This response could tempt any parent to get angry: ‘Why, you spoiled brat! I offer you a cone and you want the whole creamery!’ The attack would not be helpful. Instead, the parent can listen to his heart. “Wouldn’t that be great! Wouldn’t you love to have some of every single flavor! Which two flavors would you like today?” The limit can be delivered with loving empathy.”
- Choose Peace
- Get Their Side of the Story
“…our children know far more about their lives than we do.”
- Walk in Their Shoes
- Put Off ’til Tomorrow What Shouldn’t Be Said Today “I only have the right to correct those I love. Any time am feeling impatient or judgmental, I am not prepared to correct. The irony in this principle is that, when I am wholeheartedly loving my child…it [correction] is done in a spirit that is helpful rather than punitive.”
- Make Sure Your Actions Match Your Words
- Put It into Perspective
“If we believe that we must convince our children that we are right and if we expect them to appreciate our principles and logic in every moment, we will be disappointed. Good parenting requires us to set some limits that children will dislike. Sometimes good children will be very angry with their wise parents. But we can always be pleasant. At the same time we recognize that a lot of little choices should be left to them.”
- Invite Each Child to Be Part of the Solution
- Teach Rather than Preach
“Preaching has an impatient, condescending spirit to it. Teaching is different. It is about sharing and discovery. It honors the learner as an essential contributor.”
- Keep the Ratio Right
“Our goal is to have five positives for each negative.”
- Change Your View of Children and Human Nature “So, when the children are cranky, we soothe them. When they act like little mercenaries, we make sure we are not rewarding bad behavior. But the heart of effective parenting is encouraging the nobility in each child.”
- Make Repairs
“All of us have occasion to make repairs in our relationships with our children. They will respect and love us more as they witness us apologize for our follies. In addition, they will become better at making repairs themselves.”
- Respond to Anger with Compassion
- Make Allowances for a Child’s Childishness “It is natural–but not helpful–for us to impose grown-up expectations on little people…Childishness is not a bad thing–in children.”
One line that made me laugh:
“It seems that our children have been blind to some truth that we have discovered. When we point out his error, he or she should be able to make better choices in the future.”
Ha! I know when people tell me I’m wrong, I always enjoy it and become a better person. Ha, again! I wish I was that good of a person. I’m working on it, but it struck me as funny that something that most adults would agree is difficult for us, is often expected to be dead simple for a kid to pick up quickly during their limited amount of time on earth.
On the whole, I liked all the strategies on paper. Maybe not some of the examples, but the strategies all seemed peaceful and geared toward relationship-building. But since every family and kid is different, what may work for one family might not work for another. And of course what might work with a toddler doesn’t with a teen.
I know that as my daughter gets older, we’re going to enter into different phases. So again, the more tools I have to effectively deal with them, the better. I think I better buy a copy of this book and reread it each year, especially if her personality starts to lean toward my sister’s. 🙂
Finally, I’ll leave you with the quote I thought I should post in every room to remember why I want to be a soft-spoken parent:
“Only a task that demands the sacrifice of all our pride, all our self-importance, and all our stubbornness has the power to make us what we yearn to be…None of this is easy. None of it is natural – since it is our natures to take care of ourselves. But it is possible.”
[Photo credit: Madison Guy]