Every parent has had that embarrassing experience — a mad, screaming, crying, or pouting child in a public place. Do you yell, threaten, ignore, or try to appease the child? Whatever you do, other people are looking. Dr. Diane Ross-Glazer has been there. She opens Parenting as a Second Language by telling the story of her daughter throwing a tantrum, and parents will be hooked from that page on.
Dr. Ross-Glazer knows we can’t prevent our children from misbehaving in public, but we can lessen the damage by learning how to speak with them. And more importantly, we can learn to react in a way that will not emotionally damage them for the rest of their lives. Ordering a child to be quiet or reasoning with him is not always possible. Instead, we need to speak to children on their level, understanding and validating their feelings first so we can help them move past those feelings and into more acceptable behavior.
Many times, people, even children, know what is logical to do, but our emotions get in the way. As a therapist who works with both parents and children, Dr. Ross-Glazer realized early on that using problem-solving logic wasn’t a problem for most people. The problem is that people have lost touch with their feelings, lost the connection between the head and heart. This broken connection generally stems from childhood when they were taught to repress their feelings by adults who warned them not to act out or refused to listen to them. Dr. Ross-Glazer doesn’t want to see the same thing happen to children today; repressed emotions, as she explains, result in emotional dysfunction in adulthood.
Dr. Ross-Glazer discusses many ways that parents, often unwittingly, break their child’s head-heart connection, from trying to turn their musical child into an athlete, or simply through a poor word choice when explaining something to a child. Dr. Ross-Glazer learned this the hard way when she said, “Yuck” whenever she changed her toddler’s diaper until he told her he didn’t like her saying that; she then suspected that he equated her not liking changing his diaper with him having to feel ashamed or not good about himself.
Ultimately, parents need to teach self-esteem to their children and let them be themselves. One girl Dr. Ross-Glazer knows told her mother to quit trying to change her, and years later, remarked, “Because you’re my mother, and you let me be me, I’m turning out to be nicer than I expected.” As Dr. Ross-Glazer goes on to state, “We never want to engage our children in a continuous power struggle in which they are forced repeatedly to defend themselves against us. We are not the enemy unless we make ourselves the enemy. We are their parents and protectors. As such, we owe them the respect of listening to them, especially when they speak to us from their hearts.”
Perhaps most important are the practical examples Dr. Ross-Glazer gives to talk to children. She presents a four-step formula for talking to your child in a difficult situation that will ensure you do not break children’s head-heart connection but instead make them understand why things are what they are, whether it’s why your child can’t have a puppy or dealing with your child’s irrational fear of balloons.
Ultimately, Dr. Ross-Glazer teaches parents how to teach kids the consequences of their bad behavior without shaming them, and how to get children to abide by rules. Parents learn how to use rules to their and their child’s advantage without caving in during a weak moment or a temper tantrum. In the end, parents and children will both benefit because they’ll understand each other better from speaking the same language.
For more information about Parenting as a Second Language and Dr. Diane Ross-Glazer, visit the author’s website.