Friday, July 5, 2013

Parenting Methods

I've been thinking (since I'm such a treasure trove of experience, what with having 5 kids and used many parenting "methods"), I should post a series on parenting. 'Cause I'm an expert & my kids are perfect (she lies as her kids whine about finishing chores in the background).

Really, it's because I want parents to know some of the stuff your kids do that makes you crazy is normal, even necessary. And I want to spare you some grief by discussing some parenting experts whose methods are so-so and others who I think you could benefit from.

I'll start today with a quick overview of past & present methods or books I've followed and my recommendations.

On Becoming Babywise, Gary Ezzo
Yeah, it's controversial. For good reason. It "worked" in the sense that I felt in control. However, issues. So many issues.

The combination of my fundamentalist upbringing (parent is ultimate authority, child is a sinner from birth & tries to manipulate the parent, early physical punishment) combined with the very black and white thinking Ezzo presents made for a horrible dynamic. I didn't hold my first baby enough because I was so concerned with following the schedule. I also have a condition called overactive letdown (undiagnosed until baby #3) that is made worse by following conventional breastfeeding advice. Combine that with the rigid clock-watching involved in Ezzo's method, and I had a very fussy baby who was constantly projectile vomiting (too much foremilk upsets the tummy) and consequently hungry, yet I'd let her cry until feeding time rolled around again, only to repeat the cycle. It was torture emotionally, but I was afraid I'd raise a selfish kid by giving in to her "demands."

In addition, Ezzo's credentials have been called into question.

My recommendation: Avoid, unless you're the type who can take a piece of good advice here & there, then mentally discard the rest. You'll likely ignore a lot of the book and pick up only a few tips, so consider what your time is worth before reading.

Shepherding a Child's Heart, Tedd Tripp
I got this when my oldest two were toddlers. I love the way Tripp consistently talks about connecting with your child's heart, getting to the heart issue of the behavior. The con is that it seems every negative behavior is labelled "sin." Kids can't just have a bad day.

Also, he advocates spanking, but he doesn't describe the whole process (to my's been a while since I read it. Feel free to correct me!). I grew up in a home where "spanking" was any physical punishment applied to the buttocks. So, being hit with a belt, a custom paddle, a wooden spoon, a ping-pong paddle, or a hand on the butt or upper thighs (clothed or naked) was all spanking. In my opinion, if you're going to advocate spanking, you should be specific in your definition of the term. As much as I dislike Michael Pearl, at least he's explicit in his definition of "switching."

My recommendation:  Cautiously recommend; while there is great emphasis on connecting with your child's heart, Tripp's view of dealing with children's wrongdoings is extremely punitive.

The Strong-Willed Child, Dr. James Dobson
My parents are Dobson fans & my mom had several of his parenting books. She passed this one on to me. Basically, his premise is if you get into a battle of wills with your child, you must win at all costs. He also advocates spanking at the first sign of defiance instead of waiting until a last resort. Because of this advice, I spanked early & often.

The problem I see with this is that you never know for certain what's going on in someone else's heart & mind. Add to that the fact you're dealing with children who do not have the same thought processes as adults and are still learning how to express their autonomy & feelings appropriately, and there's a huge chance you're going to misinterpret the child's motives.

In shades of Michael Pearl, Dobson also likens training your strong-willed child to training a dog.

My recommendation: Avoid; this book sets parents up for an adversarial relationship with their children.

Get Off Your Butt Parenting, aka Effective Practical Parenting (GOYBP or EPP), Joanne Davidson
Found this as an online resource after baby #3. Highly practical, extremely effective method that is a wake-up call to parents who expect to be able to sit on the couch & have their young children quietly and cheerfully follow instructions. (Guilty!) It emphasizes the importance of having a relationship with your child and advocates natural & imposed consequences. Great real-life scenarios & tips with examples of imposed consequences

My recommendation: Highly recommend. EPP tends toward imposing consequences but doesn't completely rule out punishment, so it's good for those transitioning from punitive parenting to positive or gentle parenting.

The 5 Love Languages of Children, Gary D. Chapman & Ross Campbell
The theory is that each individual has a primary love language that they "hear" love best: Words of Affirmation, Physical Touch, Quality Time, Gifts, or Acts of Service. If a child feels insecure in the parent's love, s/he will act out. The parent learns to see the acting out as a signal to meet the child's need for unconditional love by communicating in that child's love language first, and addressing the negative behavior second. Using this method, I've found that once I've reaffirmed my love for the child acting out, s/he will apologize and make amends for the negative behavior without me having to do anything else.

My recommendation: Highly recommend as a resource to help understand your child. It's not primarily a "discipline" book, and as such, doesn't have a lot of tools to use from that aspect.

Your X-Year Old, by Louise Bates Ames & Frances L. Ilg (a series from age 1-16)
According to Ames & Ilg (and the Gesell Institute) every child goes through developmental phases of equilibrium (where they cope well) and disequilibrium (where so much is happening in terms of development that they aren't able to cope well with normal disappointments). These phases tend to shift roughly every 6 months in the cycle of development. As a result, your child can go through the 3 1/2 year disequilibrium stage at age 3, 3.5, or 4, depending on his/her development. My barely 4 year old is currently exhibiting disequilibrium behaviors typical of 3 1/2, and my 5 1/2 year old is right on with the disequilibrium behaviors for that age. My oldest son didn't seem to have any equilibrium at all between 5 1/2 & 7. It just depends on the kid; these are simply typical developmental behaviors.

I haven't read every book in the series, but I found Your Six Year Old: Loving & Defiant to be invaluable. Six has been the hardest age I've had to deal with so far (and I have a tween, y'all!). So hard, in fact, that I've been dreading when my younger set gets there. If you can snag a copy from your local library, do it!

My recommendation: Highly recommend. In fact, I can't recommend it enough. Get your hands on a copy for your age child, somehow!