Parenting: Children are from Heaven

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Children are from Heaven with John Gray

By John Gray
WebMD Live Events Transcript

John Gray, PhD, author of 'Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus,' revolutionizes parenthood with a new guide to raising loving, happy, and healthy children.

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.

Event_Moderator Welcome to WebMD Live. Today we will be discussing "Children Are From Heaven," with author John Gray, Ph.D.

John Gray, Ph.D., 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" and Mars and Venus Starting Over." A highly sought after speaker, Gray is a popular guest on the "Oprah Winfrey Show" and a national columnist.

Dr. Gray, welcome to the show.

Event_Moderator {question presented} How does your book, "Children are from Heaven," differ from other parenting books?

Dr_Gray Parents need to be aware of their child's brain development at each stage. Up to 9 years old, a child has not yet developed the capacity for logical thinking. Therefore, to focus on a child's mistake and get upset about it, gives the message that the child is bad. If you focus on negative behavior and put a lot of energy on that, the child will tend to repeat it. What you put your energy on is what motivates a child. And, what pictures you put in your child's mind is what they follow. If you say, 'don't knock the vase over,' you're putting a picture in the child's mind of that, and they will do it. If you say, 'let's be nice to the vase,' they will have that picture. Say, 'biting hurts Mommy, let's kiss Mommy's arm. Be nice. Do this.' Any kind of logical concept is not received by the child. Parents think their children are logical because children can imitate logic but they don't yet have the brain capacity for that. If they spill juice on the floor, the child gets the message, 'I'm bad." Don't be upset at all, just say, 'let's clean it up' and clean it up with them. Then say, ' in the future, be careful.'

Event_Moderator {question presented} What types of punishment do you recommend?

Dr_Gray I have discovered 5 techniques from soft to tough, which when used, allow parents to let go of punishments. These are the 5 skills of positive parenting that when applied, free you from the need to punish your children. The world is different today, children are different, old techniques are working less and less. Parents are frustrated because the punishments aren't working. I haven't read any book that explains how to raise cooperative children that doesn't require some kind of punishment! And, in this book, communication skills are so effective, punishment is never required.

Event_Moderator Why do you think the world has changed and children are different?

Dr_Gray For a variety of reasons, they are different today. Violence is different, it was an accepted part of life, like war. And, most of us in the 60's went through a big change, 'let's have peace in the world,' a radical notion. Yet, we turn around and punish our children, spank our kids, and expect our leaders to get along with other countries peacefully. Truly, we want peace in the world and it starts in the home. People who want peace in the world recognize that violence is not the answer. What is the alternative? Communication, negotiation. Conversation. These are the skills that can be used at home. When we can create cooperation with our children, lead them without punishment, these children will be able to negotiate a world of peace. What's wonderful is these 5 skills of positive parenting accomplish this! And, many parents in response to this book all tell me, 'thank goodness this is here because my punishments aren't working!' I developed these ideas 20 years ago before I had children, by teaching classes to teens about to go to reform schools. Threats and punishments meant nothing to them. So, I had to become creative to manage and control them. And, I became successful. You can raise any child without needing to punish them if you understand the process. If you don't, you're left doing what our parents did which is now out of date. How are our children different as well? We live in a democracy that's only 200 years old, in the span of history, that's short. We've made changes based on democracy and freedom of choice that bring us human rights and the sense of entitlement that every adult has. That changes our business practices and government practices. Business have changed radically in the past 200 years. Futile lords, dictators and pirates ... into companies that in order to get ahead recognize employees rights. That's the climate we live in. Yet, parenting practices of punishment have not changed at all.

Many parents are still using skills of 200 years ago, some 1,000 years ago ... and some are using new skills that, although well intentioned, don't work because they're so new and experimental. Many people went from punishment to somehow trying to be their child's best friend and this child-centered parenting resulted in spoiled children. Spare the rod, spoil the child. The rod needs to be updated to communication skills so the parent remains the boss, but the children's rights are recognized. The child has 5 rights that I talk about ... they have the right to be different. Different learning styles, tendencies, etc.. They have the right to make mistakes ... they are forgivable .. certainly this is the message of love. Yet, every time they punish their children, they say unless they're big mistakes, that's not okay. The third message is that it's okay to express negative emotions. Most children in the past weren't allowed to speak! The fourth message is that it's okay to want more but you don't always get it. This is particularly given for little girls, but it's okay to want more. Women today don't know how to ask for what they want, and don't give themselves permission to do what they want. So, they push men away from their lives instead of asking for what they want. And, resent the man 10 years later. It's okay to resist mom and dad, but remember that they are the boss.

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Diet for Stress Management: Carbs, Nuts, and Other Stress-Relief Foods

Event_Moderator {question presented} How difficult will it be for parents to implement these skills against old parenting patterns?

Dr_Gray It's amazing how easy it is to put this into practice and you will forget many of the things again and again. Anything that you learn takes repetition hundreds of times before becoming automatic. Hitting a ball with a bat takes several hundred runs before you know how to do it ... becoming a reflex. Repetition helps us to learn quickly. However, this is simple once you start practicing it. In raising children, you get to repeat it over and over .. they're basic skills. What makes it work is that your children will respond right away .. you see that it works. When things aren't working, you think, 'Oh, I've got to go back to the book or tapes and see what isn't working.' This is a much healthier attitude than saying, 'Things aren't working, now I'll punish my kids.' With some practice, it becomes automatic. Having said all that, I don't want to be seen as someone who says parenting is easy. Just with these principles parenting is much easier, but still a challenging job, especially if both parents are working. Raising a child is very challenging! The more skills you have, the easier it becomes. The result is much better.

Event_Moderator {question presented} You mentioned in your book that children can be put into one of four general temperaments. Would you explain those to us and explain how parents should deal with different temperaments?

Dr_Gray Children are different. What I found in my research .. teaching classes for 25 years, watching children, studying them, reading books about them, I've found there are 4 types of them. Generally one temperament is dominant. That temperament has a need or requirement. If you understand that, you know what your child needs to be more cooperative. If they don't get that need met, they'll become uncooperative and you'll have to punish them. An example would be ... a child needs sleep. Deprive a child of sleep for three days and there's no way the child will cooperate with you no matter who you are or what you do! Children have to have their basic needs met in order to be cooperative. What I've found is different children have different needs. One child has a greater need to be heard, to communicate, for empathy, for compassion, to talk about problems, for people to sympathize. So, if a parent is not this type of temperament, they will not know how to give the child what he/she needs. And, they'll give what the parent needs. Our instinct is to give the child what WE need, but not what the child needs. Another temperament is the active child. This child tends to resist authority, get in trouble, dominate situations, lack compassion for others, much more self-centered than others. They rush to the front and want it first. The active child is also from a positive point of view, the leader. Wants to be the center of attention. That kind of child. This child needs enormous amounts of acknowledgment and appreciation. If they're upset, you don't need to ask them a lot of questions like the sensitive child. You need to immediately give them a solution, responsibility and a role. They need lots of supervision and direction. A sensitive child can become resistant when you don't listen to their problems. The active child can become resistant if you don't forgive them for their mistakes. If you want them to follow you as the leader, you have to be a strong leader ... a strong leader takes responsibility for the final outcome. They should not be punished, but they generally are the most heavily punished ... most prisoners today were these types of children. I'm only briefly going through these temperaments.

Then there's the responsive child. This child needs lots of stimulation. Moving from one thing to another. They need the parent to give them opportunities to do lots of things. We see parents today taking kids to soccer practice and singing lessons, whatever. But, if you put this kid into that, it'd be too much stimulation for them, so you have to know your type of child. If a responsive child ( needing many experiences ) ... their shortcomings .. they won't finish things, if they're criticized for this, they won't feel nurtured and become cooperative. They need that stimulation in order to meet their needs. You have a child who needs more stimulation, they're not getting it, and you ask them to put on their jacket, they won't put it on! So, you say, 'the other day, I wasn't wearing my jacket either and I looked up at the beautiful sky and then it got cold and I put on my jacket, c'mon, put on my jacket right now!' So, you distracted them from what was bothering them. Where the sensitive child, where you talk about something else, they feel worse.

The next child needs routine, schedule, ritual and rhythm in their life. Special time with Mommy, and Daddy. Their life has to be in a realm of expectation and knowing what to expect all the time. These are receptive children. They then grow out of that and can take risks. The moody sensitive child, if they get understanding can become light and free. The responsive child can learn to commit and finish things. In this way, parents with this understanding can recognize why the child was resisting them. The child has been deprived. They don't have the emotional support to be cooperative.

Event_Moderator With the holiday's, there is always lots of tension and stress, family responsibilities. IS there any advise in dealing with hectic times and the behavior within the family unit?

Dr_Gray Lots of advice, but can you be more specific? Raising children? As you said, this is the most stressful time of the year and it's important to understand why. Then we can eliminate the cause of the stress. There is a lot of pressure put on us to give presents, visit family. Everyone is expected to be happy, and nice, friendly, do things that they're not expected to do at other times. With receptive children, you have to say "now it's Christmas time, this is what we do." With sensitive children, telling them that they have to be nice and lovely and cheery is not the answer. But, people that are more in touch with their feelings need to be able to vent them, there needs to be room for that. The sensitive child will say, 'they got that gift and I didn't,' and get upset. Don't make the child wrong for that. Just let them talk about it ...'I understand you wanted that gift. Let's talk about that.' The active adult needs to know ... what's required of me, what is my role. A married couple is going to visit relatives and the husband doesn't like them and yet is being pulled along! The wife can say, 'honey I know you don't like being here, but your being here makes me feel good ...' Give him a role, and then he'll go along with that. Taking these temperaments into consideration, gives us a lot of knowledge. The receptive temperament goes out of whack when they don't have enough sleep or food to eat. There are parties and people don't get enough sleep! So, please get enough sleep .. and the other thing is there are a lot of desserts. So, a lot of people are hypoglycemic ... avoid the high sugar products and even juices. Your mood and temperament will be much nicer and easier. I know what it's like, I'm a person, but I found a remedy for that. It's the most wonderful supplement you can ever put in your body ... please drink 10 glasses of water a day. No one says, 'this is it!' It's hard to over eat when you're drinking that much water. And, your need for sugar won't be as high. You're free from sugar and fat cravings. If you avoid those .. you can avoid those by thinking 'there's an abundance of fresh, healthy food here.' Eat as much of that as you want and drink lots of water. That's what puts on the weight, refined sugar and carbohydrates.

Quick GuideDiet for Stress Management: Carbs, Nuts, and Other Stress-Relief Foods

Diet for Stress Management: Carbs, Nuts, and Other Stress-Relief Foods

Event_Moderator {question presented} You state that the biggest problems people face growing up can be cured at home. That places the most responsibility of dealing with healthy development of children on parents. However, our society is set up so that this responsibility is actually levied on schools. What can we as a society in aggregate best deal with this reality?

Dr_Gray First of all, people need to recognize that this is a problem, no problem can be solved til we recognize it. We just assume that this is the norm and this is the way life has been. That's how we diminish a problem. Yet the reality is look at history and you'll find that schools were never responsible for our children. One hundred (100) years ago, children primarily stayed at home, it's only in this century that children now all go to school, and it's against the law for children to be working and they have to go to school, or home schooling. My great grandfather was a great lecturer in California and he traveled around as the school superintendent of the state, giving lectures to parents to please send their kids to school!

Dr_Gray {action} laughs. So, one of the major changes in history is sending the children away from the parents and giving teachers responsibility for them. And a teacher cannot be responsible for 30 kids! So, in recognizing that problem, one solution is smaller classes. Or parents have to not let go of responsibility of their children and hand it over to teachers, they're wonderful and capable, but that's an impossible job. Just being aware of the problem, an attitude of 'I'm responsible for my kids, where are they going? what are they doing? what are their relationships like? what are their successes in school?' We parents need to be informed. You have to find out by asking your child and do they tell you? No!

Every parent knows you can't get anything out of your kid. And, the power is all in your child's lap, but the parent has to have the power, and the children will become the followers and share. With the right communication skills, the children will talk to them and feel that they're directing their lives. The internet is fantastic .. there's a web site called They have a free software for schools where the school signs up for free and make it a project ... the class has a bulletin board. there's a site for the class and a site for the child, the child's homework is on the site, his/her best papers. Now you can go and see what your kids are doing every day, at your lunch break, during work, any time you want. Now your kids know that you know and they feel under your leadership. When I was a kid, it was hard for me to do drugs cause my dad always wanted to know where I was and how he could reach me by phone. He'd give random calls asking me how it was going and he could tell by my voice if I was high or not high ... I couldn't get away with it. Kids can feel if they're under their parents supervision. They change their behavior. Children respond to someone who's informed. If you're not informed, they tend to say nothing.

Event_Moderator Were you involved in the creation of the site?

Dr_Gray Yes, I'm a part of that. I'm a consultant, on their board of directors. I've written about it in the back of my book. I have a column soon to appear on it. We should all be much more connected. When we make presentations of this to PTA's, we get standing ovations. This puts the power back into parent's hands.

Event_Moderator {question presented} What are the different challenges of parenting boys and girls?

Dr_Gray That's clearly in the book as well. There's many. In all that we've discussed, we've only touched the tip of the iceberg .. how do you implement this? Put this into practice? This book is filled with hundreds of easy things. There's a section of the book called 'Boys are from Mars, Girls are from Venus' and they are clearly from different planets when it comes to gender differences as well. We're not stereotyping them into roles, but acknowledging who they are. I've heard women tell me, I resisted your Mars/Venus ideas until I had children. I could bring in trucks, army soldiers, and guns and there was no reaction. But, women said, 'I have a little boy and giving him a doll to play with in the bathtub, and that's all he's seen. We don't watch TV, and he's dismembered the doll and he's ramming the leg up the faucet.' Boys want to take things apart, girls want to nurture. These are basic hormonal reactions to life. Certainly there are ways we culture boys and girls to be different. But, appropriately so, hopefully.

If a girl's crying, she needs to talk about it much more than a little boy. If a boy doesn't cry, he doesn't need his mother saying, 'you should cry.' If he's not crying, don't worry, there's nothing wrong. He's a little boy. They tend to bounce back faster from physical pain and emotional pain than little girls. But once he does have that, he might throw a bigger tantrum or cry longer than a little girl. Boys tend to feel loved when you give them more independence. So he can take credit for things he does, that makes him feel like you love him more cause you're trusting him to do it himself. Let him tie his shoes himself. The little girl might not want to do it herself, she wants you to do it for her. Don't make her do it. Tie them for her. What she feels is loved because you helped her. Boys can let love in when they did it themselves And, girls can feel more loved when she feels supported. Yet this doesn't mean that you ignore a boy and let him do everything himself. Be aware of the sensitivity. And, don't do everything for a girl, just be aware that she has a greater need for support.

Event_Moderator {question presented }Your approach emphasizes people's inherent common sense and wisdom. However, many people's religious beliefs are based on a hierarchical structure which places wisdom outside of themselves. Would you say that in some ways you are challenging religious beliefs which place wisdom in a deity outside of the human being?

Dr_Gray What a wonderfully framed question. I appreciate that enormously. You hit the nail right on the head in terms of the enormous transformation right now taking place in mankind. We can look at developmental changes in children. They are dependent upon the guidance of the parents because they don't have the capacity to know what's right for them. We have parents to lead us, who are wiser, who know what's right, and we follow them. Then, around adolescence, a change takes place in our brain. At 9 years old we begin to learn logic, at 13 we begin to form opinions. We have the power to know what we think is right, and that's a skill that through adolescence and teenage years, we hope to be developing. Many of us didn't have that skill because we didn't have conversations with our parents. Democracy says everyone has the right to their own opinion, their is free speech. Mankind became adolescents ... they had their own opinion and could follow the truth within themselves. We're forming a new relationship with religion in the same way that a teenager forms a relationship with their parents, they're not completely dependent on them, but they still need them for guidance. A parent cannot always be there.

What's happening in the world on a mass level, the whole world, right now, has developed a new capacity to say, 'Hey, I respect you as having your wisdom and truth and there are many ways of expressing the same thing. I will follow my heart. I know what is true within myself.' It doesn't mean people will throw away religion, though some have. More religions demand obedience as opposed to cooperation. If religions treat people like kids, they won't follow anymore. But they go to them when they need guidance. And, instead of dogma and what you should do, the focus will be on a community where people come to worship God together. Yet, going to the religious leaders and saying 'should I do this? that?' has become judgment. I believe the judgment day has come metaphorically. Mankind has the capacity to judge within themselves what is right and what is wrong. We don't have to depend on some outer source. I ask someone who I think knows, but when my heart is open and full of love, the answers come and I know what's right for me.

Event_Moderator Dr. Gray, you are a true inspiration and I am proud to have had the opportunity to speak with you today. Thank you for joining us.

Quick GuideDiet for Stress Management: Carbs, Nuts, and Other Stress-Relief Foods

Diet for Stress Management: Carbs, Nuts, and Other Stress-Relief Foods

Dr_Gray Thank you so much. As we raise our children using these 5 positive messages of parenting and using these skills, we awaken within them the capacity to know what is right and wrong, so that by the time they become teens, they can develop that ability strongly. If they are already teens, you can help them develop this capacity, and then you give them an enormous gift. Right now, our teens have more choices, more stimulation, more temptations, more opportunities to get into trouble than ever before. What's immoral and abnormal is on TV as normal. And, by having strong communication skills with parents, the values of the family can support the children who are learning to face the world on their own. If you improve communication, you give them an enormous gift. Never in previous generations did you take classes on parenting. I think it should be a requirement when you get a marriage license that you take a parenting class, too.

Event_Moderator Thank you.

Dr_Gray Thank you.

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Reviewed on 10/23/2003 1:24:11 AM

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