Saturday, January 19, 2008


The seventh in a family of eleven kids, I helped with little siblings and then babysat for more families I can remember beginning at a very young age. Working with children has always been a joy for me, so I never guessed parenting would ever pose a challenge. And then I had kids of my own. Kids I couldn’t hand over to someone else when they had a sudden meltdown and I was too tired to think straight; kids who looked to me and depended on me to fix every little thing that’s out of sorts in their world, day or night, 24/7.

And I lost it, many times. Even when I had one child, my son who’s now a teenager, I couldn’t seem to get a handle on how to cope with demanding behavior from an energetic, spirited child. I was the parent and my child was supposed to do what I told him to do, right? By the time my son was in preschool, I lived far from home with no family around and my husband traveled all the time. I was the primary caretaker and number-one playmate, and usually I did okay, but there were times…many, in fact…that I ranted and raved and screamed right back at my son: when he refused to wear sun lotion or his bike helmet, for example; when he got out of bed at naptime over and over; when he screamed and clung to me at preschool drop-off; when he had to be carried (screaming again) out of a pool because he refused to come out on his own (I was wearing pants and caused a scene of my own going in after him. Fun!). By the time my son was five, I had a deep vertical crease between my brows and was gearing up every day as if for battle. There were good times and lots of outings and friends and fun in between the battles, but my goal every day was to get through and see him through whatever challenges lay ahead without me completely losing it or either of us getting hurt.

Today, we’re on good terms. He’s a teenager, yes, but not a disruptive one. We’ve both been through counseling and it’s helped tremendously. My husband no longer travels extensively and most of his family now live close by and they’re all eager to help. My son now has two little sisters and while each of my children possess notably different temperaments and personality traits, they also seem to be comfortable with the limits established in our home for behavior and basic routines like school mornings, mealtimes, and bedtimes. We’ve got a long way to go and some things remain to be balanced, but we’ve all learned a lot and, I believe, feel good about the state we’re in.

How much easier the past fifteen years would have been if I’d had Lynne Reeves Griffin’s Negotiation Generation to read along the way! I’ve always read parenting magazines and parenting books, including Raising Your Spirited Child by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka that helped a great deal way back when. The concept of Raising Your Spirited Child—that every child harbors special gifts and deserves ample opportunities to shine rather than be set up to fail on a regular basis—are echoed in Lynne’s book. But Lynne, a registered nurse and well-known behavior management expert, goes a step beyond reassuring that challenging behavior can have a good side and lays out simple tactics to set up not only a child—but that child’s parents—for success.

Lynne speaks directly to me and many other parents when she offers her no-nonsense advice for “taking back parental authority without punishment.” From establishing kid-friendly lifestyles (AMEN!) rather than adult-centered lives for children, organizing early dinner and bedtime rituals that allow a child to perform well in these areas before they’re too tired, demanding respect for all members of a household, building fences and adjusting them as a child grows not only in size and age but in emotional ability to manage more responsibilities and freedoms, to (most importantly for me) refusing to react emotionally or to talk (and talk and talk) in the middle of a conflict involving rules that are supposedly non-negotiable, Lynne’s strategies for working with rather than against a child while maintaining family order and parental sanity are all simple to understand and implement.

For more information about Lynne, check out her author website, her nifty parenting blog, and the fantabulous Writer’s Group blog, in which she regularly posts about the ups and downs of living a writer’s life. Kudos on all your fine work, Lynne, and thanks!!


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