Test driving Calmer, Easier, Happier Parenting Part Two

Since this is such a big book, I thought I would report on a few more techniques.


Once you get past the Descriptive Praise section, the techniques are fired out pretty rapidly. There’s a bit on Special Time, a bit on Routines, a slightly confused chapter on Sibling Rivalry, but none of those were new to me.

The technique I found most interesting was the: How to Get Your Child to Do What You Say bit. Now, I have ambivalent feelings about this idea.

Most of the time I want my children to think for themselves. I want them to question me and challenge me. I don’t really want them to be obedient people. I want them to be kind, gentle, creative and courageous people. So, I do worry that if I focus too much on getting them to do as they are told I will be teaching the wrong values.

On the other hand, sometimes things are dangerous to them (like running into roads or sticking fingers in boiling sugar) and sometimes things are dangerous to others (like throwing tables or cutting guy ropes). Sometimes I want to be able to get the children to stop fast and ask questions later.

In addition to this l want to teach my children. I want them to listen when I explain things. I want them to practice skills even though it isn’t always fun. I want the children to take me seriously when I am being serious.

So Janis-Norton has a two part process to make children do as they are told. These parts can be rather times consuming, which I have decided is a good thing. If it takes a while to tell your child to do something, you are more likely to carefully select what things you tell him to do. I suspect that telling the children to do things less frequently is a good strategy, though it’s not the focus of the book.

Step One: Give Clear Expectations. Janis-Norton recommends ‘Think Throughs’. Basically you ask the child what to do in such and such a situation so that when such and such a situation occurs you can just ask them to remember. This is like a read-through of the role plays that we often use to get the boys to practice responses. It is quicker than a role play and easier to fit in more options.

Step Two: Wait a Bit. Several times Janis-Norton suggests that you should wait ‘slightly longer than you are comfortable waiting’. She’s right. The boys can move slowly and we have had some success with standing and waiting for Middly to do as he’s been asked. Once the child has acknowledged what you want, you just stand there and wait. Sometimes they get on with it.

There are definitely a few good ideas in this book. I found the tone a touch patronising, but that is rather common in this genre!

This isn’t a book for extreme problems. There’s no help for aggressive tantrums, for example, Janis-Norton suggests physical restraint and ‘not allowing’ children to hit parents.

It’s not a great book for people with more than one child (admittedly also a very common failure in parenting books). All the advice – even the Sibling Rivalry chapter – is about dealing with one child at a time.

But, it does have a couple of interesting ideas. And it does cover – albeit sometimes briefly – a lot of the standard parenting tips. If you wanted to read one parenting book and get a good overview of modern parenting books, this would be great.

As for us, we’ll be trying a new one next week! 😉

We’re moving on to ‘The Explosive Child’ by Ross W. Greene


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