Positive Parenting with John Gray

By John Gray
WebMD Live Events Transcript

Dr. John Gray, author of 'Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus,' discusses positive techniques for parenting.

Event Date: 05/30/2000.

The opinions expressed herein are the guests' alone and have not been reviewed by a WebMD physician. If you have questions about your health, you should consult your personal physician. This event is meant for informational purposes only.

Moderator: Welcome to WebMD Live's Family Wellness Auditorium. Today we are discussing Positive Parenting with John Gray, PhD.

John Gray has been a family counselor for more than 30 years. He became one of the best-selling authors of the decade with his publication of Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus, which enlivened communication between the sexes. In the past ten years, Gray has continued to supply the public with other bestsellers including, Mars and Venus in the Bedroom, Mars and Venus in Love, Mars and Venus on a Date, Mars and Venus Starting Over, and Children Are From Heaven. A highly sought after speaker, Gray is a popular guest on the "Oprah Winfrey Show" and a national columnist.

The opinions given by Dr. Gray are his and his alone. If you have specific questions or are concerned about your health, please consult your personal physician. This event is for informational purposes only.

Dr. Gray, welcome to WebMD Live. How can you learn to manage your feelings?

Dr. Gray: Much of our frustration as parents comes from not knowing what to do to manage our children. We're at a crisis point in history. All of the old parenting skills we learned by watching our parents parent are not as effective as they used to be. Children today are different, and do not respond to guilt trips, yelling, and the threat of punishment. These are the kinds of control techniques our parents used as a last resort. In previous generations, they worked, but today they don't. This book, Children Are From Heaven, provides a training for parents with new communication skills to make the job of parenting much easier and, at least, much less frustrating. Frustration always arises when what we're doing is not working. If we don't have a knowledge of new skills, then unfortunately, we have no choice but to continue doing what doesn't work. Fortunately, that choice is now available through learning new parenting skills.

Moderator: What parenting skills have become outdated?

Dr. Gray: The whole necessity of using guilt and fear to control children is not only unnecessary now, but, when you learn to address your children's needs and communicate in a way that invites participation, and maintain the authority that you're the parent who's in control, then your children will cooperate without having to threaten them with punishment or make comments that make them feel bad or guilty. There's no longer any need to withdraw love and support in order to motivate your children to cooperate. Instead, this very love and support that was pulled away can be directly applied to creating more cooperation. In the past, parents who spanked their kids or used threats of punishment to control were coming from a loving place, but what child feels love when you do that? In my book, I teach parents five messages to communicate to their children, and five practical techniques to do that.

The five positive messages are:

One: It's okay to be different. To communicate this message, parents need to understand the four different temperaments of children, the three different learning curves children go through, and the eight different types of intelligence that children have in different degrees. They need to understand three different body types children have. With an understanding of these natural differences, parents are able to adjust their parenting skills, as well as expectations, to appropriately meet this child's needs. When a child is different from the parent, without an understanding of the appropriateness, a parent mistakenly judges and puts down the child.

Two: It's okay to make mistakes. If children are punished for their mistakes, quite automatically they develop a fear about making mistakes. Children should first learn that it's safe to make mistakes, then they learn on their own to identify their mistakes and self-correct. Without the safety to make a mistake, a child has four different reactions. One, they tend to defend and justify their mistake rather than self-correct it. Two, they tend to blame others for the mistake, rather than looking at how they contributed to it. There are also other ways.

Three: It's okay to have and express negative emotions. However, parents must teach their children how to identify those emotions, and how to express them at the appropriate time and place. One group of parents makes negative emotions unacceptable, and children become afraid to reveal them and become suppressed. This makes the child difficult to manage. Another group of parents are permissive, and allow negative emotions, but these children learn to dominate and control situations through their feelings, and never learn healthy ways to release negative emotions and come back to positive feelings of cooperation and healthy motivation to please.