A Window into Life in the Suburbs

"Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these." Luke 12:27 (NIV)

Monday, June 28, 2010

Book Review: Setting Limits with Your Strong-Willed Child

If you have limited funds and you can only afford to buy one or two parentings book this year, this is the one to get.
While I loved The Difficult Child and found it very helpful in identifying the underlying issues for me, Setting Limits with Your Strong-Willed Child is a fantastic follow on in that it provides a wide range of examples, scenarios and solutions. The strategies are given in a clear, concise manner. It's the most practical book I have read on the topic and to its great credit, the book has the feel of a workshop rather than a pop psychology textbook.
The book is broken into 11 chapters:

1. Understanding Your Strong-Willed Child
2. How Strong-Willed Children Learn Your Rules
3. How Parents Teach Their Rules
4. Are You Firm or Soft?
5. The Family Dance
6. How to Be Clear with Your Words
7. Stopping Power Struggles Before They Begin
8. How to Be Clear with Your Actions
9. Motivating Your Strong-Willed Child
10. Teaching Skills: Showing Them Works Best
11. Change: Can It Happen Fast Enough?

There are several things about the book I really liked. Apart from its overall readability, the author gets to the point almost immediately and lays it out simply. He identifies problematic parenting styles (autocratic, permissiveness or mixed) which I think most of us can instinctively relate to. We know we've been there and done that. Also, he insists that parents give their children clear instructions that are age appropriate. How many times have we given ambiguous instructions only to throw a fit at the kids for not following through. I also appreciate his observation that strong-willed children are compulsive researchers... that all their infringement and pushing of boundaries is their way of doing research on where the boundaries are and what they can get away with. These kinds of children, who have to learn the hard way, need to be certain that what mum and dad say is what they really believe.
My favourite chapter is the one on "The Family Dance" which is a humorous metaphor for the vicious cycle of drama that takes place routinely when parents are trying to get their uncooperative children to do habitual things (eg. getting ready for school in the mornings). When parents are not equipped with the right strategies they lapse into old habits of dealing with old problems and the usual battles ensue. MacKenzie encourages his families to sit down and map out these "dances" in detail and analyze specific behaviours of children as they correlate to the actions of their parents.

For all good things to work and effect change, parents are encouraged to persist at it... not just for a week or a month but maybe for weeks and months. But they are worth doing because not only would life be easier for the entire family but parents will be teaching their children some worthwhile skills of self-discipline and problem-solving.

I'm not sure if you can find this at your local library but it's probably the kind of book you should have a copy on hand at various times for handy reference.

Setting Limits with Your Strong-Willed Child appears to be 1 of a series of 3 books along similar lines. It is available from The Book Depository for $16.17 AUD.

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