As a parent, I was determined to do a better job than my own parents. I resolved to be more attuned to my child’s needs, kinder and more patient, and more involved in his life than my own parents were toward me. They were a product of the 1950s—a time when kids were supposed to obey their elders unconditionally, never complain, and leave the parents in peace.
I believe I did do better, yet there were plenty of instances when I didn’t listen but criticized instead, or failed to make my child accountable for poor decisions, or displayed poor judgment, lazy behavior, or just plain bad parenting.
I was reminded of these “lapses” when reading the insightful new book by parenting expert Jay Scott Fitter MFT, called Respect Your Children: A Practical Guide to Effective Parenting.
Based on the problems and answers he uncovered from nearly two decades in private practice, working with children, teens, and their parents, Fitter’s book offers refreshingly straightforward, commonsense advice covering the full spectrum of topics and challenges parents face today.
In the first section of the book, readers learn smart and effective communication tactics for every age and stage of childhood. Fitter covers skills such as listening well, asking the right questions, apologizing, sharing age-appropriate information, deciphering nonverbal cues, and other techniques for avoiding the kinds of problems that come to haunt parents years later, when they shake their heads and say, “I didn’t see that coming,” or “I can’t get my child to talk to me.”
Fitter is also passionate about helping parents choose discipline over punishment—and understand the difference between the two. Discipline is when parents explain their expectations for the child, and deliver well-spelled-out consequences if the child ignores these rules or expectations. The aim is to encourage the child to stop negative behaviors, make positive choices, and ultimately become a better person. Punishment, on the other hand, is a tactic that instills fear, withdrawal, and/or defiance. Fitter believes it is neither productive nor constructive.
After he lays down the basic foundation for effective communication and discipline, Fitter launches into dozens of specific topics, and how best to address each one. He offers guidance for parents of newborns, as well as those with toddlers and school-age children. When he gets to the teen years, he’s not afraid to tackle controversial or hot-button issues head-on—real challenges kids face these days, such as sexting, predators, drugs, self-mutilation, and pornography.
Importantly, Fitter himself had a rough childhood—growing up in poverty, under the heavy hand of an abusive father. One of his main missions in his work with families is to help parents understand that the way they parent gets transferred to their kids. If they are alcoholic, neglectful, and violent, their kids will likely grow up with those same parenting traits. The generational cycle of bad parenting needs to end with us—now.
The underlying theme throughout the book, whether he’s talking about coaching a teen through her first romantic breakup or helping a child who’s bored in school, is not so much about changing children’s behavior as it is about changing the way we parent. Every parental decision and conversation should be based on respect. When you respect your children, you will almost always do the right thing as a parent.
No matter how well you think you’ve done as a parent, you will still pick up scores of lessons, creative ideas, and valuable insights from this thought-provoking, solution-based book.[amazon template=iframe image&asin=1450220665]