Loving Your Child is Not Enough: Positive Discipline That Works
by Nancy Samalin
Reviewed by John Speyrer
Viking Press, 1987
As adults, we all know the importance of how others react and respond to us; we immediately recognize, for example, when a person treats us in a thoughtful manner or when a person puts us down. Nancy Samalin's book is about how to respond to others, especially those who are important to us, and most importantly, to our own children. Not automatically reacting in a confronting blaming critical fashion, but responding and interacting in a thoughtful way, is one key to building love and trust between parent and child.
You won't find one wasted word in this book. What you will find are numerous case studies which illustrate the author's recommendations as they are put into practice. But, some might protest, we're primal people and our old triggers have been defused. Oh, really? Primal pain is deep and we all react in our old neurotic ways at times. Here's a book which shows everyone, even people who have been reliving (primaling) their pain for years, how to treat their children the way they would like to be treated themselves with feeling and consideration. It's easy to continue on the same old track of belittling our little ones and the author recognizes that an effort is required to change our ways. Indeed, the principles of this book can be applied to all interpersonal relations such as disagreements between spouses and workplace interactions.
Some of the techniques are relatively easy to apply: for example, giving choices to a child instead of commands, or acknowledging one's own feelings as well as the feelings of the child when either or both of you get upset. Samalin encourages the reader to look beneath the surface in a conflict and to root out the feelings involved.
The author claims that punishment is usually ineffective when dealing with inappropriate behavior in children. An alternative, which she suggests may be effective, is not to shield children from the consequences of their actions. Another effective alternative to punishment is offering the child a choice of actions instead of the prohibited behavior.
In dealing with our own anger, the author proposes that we not behave like our children and get into a battle with them. Again, the answer is feelings not feelings acted out, but, rather, feelings expressed with words. When it seems that everything else is failing, she suggests exiting the situation temporarily. The author says that if you are unable to curb your inappropriate reactions to your child's behavior, all is not lost. There will always be another chance to do and say the right thing.
Having read both of Samalin's books, I prefer this one and highly recommend your reading it; your life and relationships will be greatly enriched.
This article appeared in the Winter-Spring 1994 IPA Newsletter.
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