Parenting: Positive Parenting with John Gray (cont.)

Second, what to do when your child throws tantrums in public. In some situations, one option is to pick your child up and take them out of the situation as quickly as possible. This is giving them a time-out. Don't give them threats; instead, use one of the other skills, and sometimes it works. Give them something they want. Distract them from what's bothering them, and give them something they want. This is one tool that works. One is time-out, one is command statement (tell them what you want over and over, without using emotional threats or lecturing), one is incentive (when your child demands something, give them incentive to do something else). When a child is resisting putting on their jacket in the morning, I say "we can sit here and argue about this, or you can put your jacket on, and if you put it on now, I'll have time to pick you up today and take you to the park." You were planning to take them to the park anyway. This is a different way of saying that if you don't put on the jacket now, it's a punishment. So make it a reward, and change your communication style. You just distract their attention from what they're demanding present time, and focus their direction on something they want in the future. These are just a few of the techniques of the hundreds I suggest in the book. I'm against slapping your children, yelling at them, shaming them, threatening them -- these things just create mindless obedience, or if your child has some spirit of resistance left, it will create a bigger tantrum. Find a way to minimize the tantrum, using various techniques.

Leezlake_WebMD: How can you compare your method of discipline with another like "1,2,3 Magic" for example?

Dr. Gray: I like "1,2,3 Magic" very much. I think a variety of approaches are healthy. The reason I don't suggest "1,2,3 Magic" is that for a child up to nine years, it becomes more like a punishment instead of a need. I think children need to have time-outs. For those of you who don't understand "1,2,3 Magic," a short explanation is that you train your children to recognize that when you say "1," they better make an adjustment, or they get a time-out. When you say "2," they've made a mistake. If they continue, they get "3." In my approach, the parent asks the child to cooperate again and again and again. At a certain point, say that they need a time-out and take them to the time-out. Up to nine, it's the parent who decides when they need a time-out, and not the child who seeks to accommodate the parent out of fear that they'll experience the dreaded time-out. After nine, I think "1,2,3 Magic" is wonderful, because after nine years, a child knows that a time-out is not a punishment, but a need that the child has. When a young child needs a time-out, I don't say they've been bad, but that I've tried to get them to cooperate, but they won't, and now they need a time-out. Because sometimes children need a time-out, time-outs are not seen as a punishment. When adults argue, instead of continuing to argue, just take a time-out and come back to a more centered communication.

wel59_MSN: Being divorced, I see my kids being raised with two different styles of parenting. Any advice?

Dr. Gray: It's a difficult situation, certainly not the ideal situation. It's confusing for children to get two different styles of parenting. However, from your side, make sure the approach you use doesn't condemn or judge harshly the other approach. If your approach is a more nurturing and firm approach as I suggest in my book, and your spouse's approach is more firm, threatening and punishing, give your child permission to talk about their feelings to that approach, but always come back to the conclusion that their parents have different approaches, and that's why the parent is treating them that way, "not because they don't love you, but that's the best they know." You're trying a different approach, and that may be confusing, but it's because they love you and that's why they're doing things different. When parents are married and using different parenting approaches, that's also difficult for a child to deal with.

When writing Children Are From Heaven, one of my goals was to help parents to find compromises to different approaches. It's soft and tender, and tough and strong. In this way, both parents often at odds because one is too permissive and the other is too strict will find a common middle ground for sharing techniques, for managing their children rather than disciplining them.

Moderator: Do you think parenting is more difficult today than 30 or 40 years ago? How do you keep your own parents out of the parenting process if most of their skills were not very constructive for you?

Dr. Gray: Parenting today is much more difficult than any time in history. The world has changed, children have changed, and we still use out-of-date parenting skills. We're faced with extremely stressful lifestyles, and we haven't learned to integrate that with a peaceful home life. Parents are more stressed, and their skills are outdated, which results in unhappy, lost children. Very quickly, we are adapting to this fast pace of change, and new parenting skills and techniques are now available. It's just a matter of taking time, often one day, to take a parenting class. My own organization teaches Mars Venus parenting classes around the globe. For information about our courses, you can reach us at These courses are available to parents. What parents can also do is to learn how to manage their own stress successfully by improving communication skills at work and home. These workshops are also available. With greater insight and by making constructive changes in our parenting approach, children are much easier to be managed, and our difficulty with parenting becomes much less.

One of the reasons today we lived in such a splintered society, that is, children who have moved away from their parents, is because children don't like the way their parents parented them. Their values are very different. It's not that we don't love our parents, it's that we don't like the way they still treat us. This is responsible for children moving away from their parents. Add to this, having your own children, the last thing you want is your children to go through what you went through with your parents, so naturally there will be conflicts regarding grandparents and children. Grandparents can help us take care of our children. Particularly today when we're so busy, having grandparents to take care of our children is quite a blessing and boon. The last thing parents want is their children to be exposed to their parents (the parent's parents, or grandparents). In dealing with your own parents, and how they take care of your own children, it's best to be compassionate and understanding. Use the same skills I suggest in my own book; let them know in clear terms that you are now the parents of your children, and you want them parented the way you parent them. It's not good to make ultimatums. Be wise and patient, but let them know your ideas and how change can often occur. One easy thing is to give them audiocassettes of my book, or any other parenting techniques, and educate them.

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