HOW DID YOU COME TO WRITE CALMER, EASIER, HAPPIER PARENTING?
As a classroom teacher, I realised that in the past parents had more confidence about how to bring up their children. But it seems that many parents today have lost their way. They don’t understand that they need to be in charge of making decisions about the family’s lifestyle.
One reason parents are so confused is that we often don’t live near our extended family. Parents are not surrounded by more experienced mums and dads who can give them advice, and many people also don’t grow up around younger children.
I developed the techniques in this book over a number of years as a parenting advisor. It became clear that while many people could come to our seminars, courses and workshops, there were many other people around the world who were interested. By writing the book I can come to them.
CAN YOU BRIEFLY OUTLINE THE MAIN STRATEGIES CONTAINED IN THE BOOK, AND HOW ARE THEY DIFFERENT FROM OTHER APPROACHES?
My book is a comprehensive collection of strategies, some of which you will have come across elsewhere. What makes this book different is the strong emphasis on consistency. I don’t just advocate consistency; I show parents how to achieve it.
The first technique I teach parents is Descriptive Praise. Acknowledging the specifics of children’s good behaviour is much more effective than vague or general superlatives. Don’t wait until your child does something amazing because that won’t happen every day – but children do plenty of OK things every day that too often go unmentioned. For example, if you say ‘Your little brother made a mistake and you didn’t laugh at him’, this will really improve the relationship between siblings.
Next I talk about Preparing for Success: preparing the environment, preparing the child and preparing ourselves. This strategy makes it easier for everyone to do the right thing. The more thought we put into preparation, the calmer, easier and happier family life will become. In my books I address each family flashpoint (mealtimes, homework, sibling squabble, bedtimes etc), and I explain how to Prepare for Success.
In the book I explain a strategy for helping children manage their emotions. Reflective Listening is a way of responding when our children are upset. An easy-going child doesn’t get upset very much, but a more intense child might get upset 10 or 20 times a day. Reflective Listening helps defuse upset feelings.
Never Ask Twice is a strategy I teach parents for the times when children aren’t doing anything wrong, but you want them to move on to the next activity on your agenda.
In the book I emphasise that we need to foster self-reliance in our children. If we do things for our children that they can do for themselves, they may start to believe they’re not capable. This undermines their self-confidence. Or they may come to believe they have the right to have things done for them.
YOU SAY YOU HAVE NEVER SEEN THESE TECHNIQUES FAIL. HOW WILL FOLLOWING YOUR SUGGESTIONS RESULT IN A MORE RELAXED HOUSEHOLD?
When everyone knows the expectations and when children are being acknowledged for doing things right, you can avoid telling them off, and you can all relax.
I have rarely come across parents who aren’t willing to work to make family life better. You have to be willing to put the time and thought into forging new habits. Even a very positive strategy like Descriptive Praise can feel like an extra burden until you are used to it. But it gets such great results it is worth persevering with.
WHAT WOULD BE A GOOD FIRST STEP FOR ANYONE WANTING TO SEE QUICK RESULTS AND WHY?
I would definitely recommend that parents start with Descriptive Praise. Whenever you are with your children, keep noticing and mentioning what they are doing right – and what they’re not doing wrong. For example you could say, ‘You’re not interrupting; you’re waiting patiently’. All children want to please their parents. We just have to show them that we are pleasable.
When we are praising the specifics – ‘You’re chewing with your mouth closed’, ‘Your letters are on the line’, ‘You’re keeping your hands down’ – children know exactly what to do to get our appreciation and to stay out of trouble.
Sometimes parents are worried that this will create a praise junkie, but what happens is that at first children do the right thing to get the appreciation, and then after a while they get into the habit of doing it and no longer need the acknowledgment. Descriptive Praise helps children to feel more confident and more ready to face the challenges in their world.
Some parents have noticed an improvement in attitude and behaviour within a few hours. I can’t promise that, but with easy-going children you should notice the strategies working within a few days. It might take a week or two with a more intense or impulsive child. The more you do it, the better results you will get.
IF A READER TAKES AWAY ONE MESSAGE FROM YOUR BOOKS, WHAT SHOULD IT BE?
Children are experts in knowing what they want, but parents are the experts in knowing what children need. Therefore parents need to be in charge. That means we need to decide what is going to happen in our homes. Being in charge means being true to your values, and using positive, firm and consistent strategies to achieve what you think is right. For example, if you believe your child should be in bed with the lights out by 8pm, but it’s more often 8:30 pm, then you are not in charge.
VISIT The Calmer, Easier, Happier Parenting Centre in London offers talks, workshops, seminars, parenting courses and private consultations, including by telephone. calmerparenting.co.uk.
READ Noël’s other books include Calmer, Easier, Happier Homework and Calmer, Easier, Happier Boys.
LISTEN Noel has audio CDs on siblings, mealtimes, music practice and special needs, available from the website above.
Hannah is a freelance journalist and mother living in Staffs – hannahhiles.co.uk