When children are at their best, it is easy to get along with them and enjoy them. However, when they are defiant, argumentative or disrespectful, it is easy to get wound up, to argue back, threaten, nag or shout. If this sounds like the situation in your home too much of the time, then this is the book for you.
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Noel Janis-Norton is a learning and behaviour specialist with more than forty years' experience helping parents and teachers on both sides of the Atlantic. She has helped tens of thousands of parents and teachers learn effective techniques that result in more cooperative, confident, motivated, self-reliant and considerate children both at home and in the classroom.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Many years ago I was a new and inexperienced teacher, fresh out of teachers’ college at New York University. In my ?rst post I noticed that in some classrooms the children were shouting out, ?nding excuses to get out of their seats, throwing paper airplanes across the room as soon as the teacher’s back was turned, and ignoring the teacher’s repeated pleas for silence. But in other classrooms the pupils were sitting where they had been told; they were concentrating and learning—and smiling. Clearly they were enjoying school, and they were proud of what they were achieving.
I was in awe of the excellent teachers who were able to motivate and inspire. I could see that it was not a coincidence that these were also the teachers who were able to give an instruction and know that it would be carried out. Within my ?rst few days in the classroom I became painfully aware that my four years of teacher-training had taught me almost nothing about how to manage a classroom. I had learned a lot about how to teach, but the unspoken assumption of my professors had been that all I had to do was turn up, and I would be greeted by a classroom full of quiet, motivated children gazing up at me raptly with sunshiny faces, eager to soak up everything I could teach them.
I had assumed, without having given it much thought, that I would enjoy teaching and that I would be good at it. But I saw immediately that I just wasn’t equipped for reality. The pupils in this school did not automatically respect teachers. These children did not believe that it was their job to pay attention or do their best. So during my lunch hours in the staff room I listened carefully to the conversations of the seasoned veterans, hoping to learn the secrets of their success. I approached the teachers I admired and asked them how they managed to achieve such calm, focused classrooms.
One kindly teacher tried to reassure me: “Don’t worry, dear. In a few years you’ll get the hang of it.” This did not reassure me because I was worried that unless I ?gured out how to bring order to my classroom, I wouldn’t last a few years. One teacher, whom I frequently heard shouting at her unruly class, interrupted to give me this piece of advice: “These children! They’re animals! Don’t expect too much from them, and you won’t be disappointed.” I knew that couldn’t be right because there were a handful of teachers at the school who had earned the respect of their pupils. These teachers expected a great deal from their pupils, and they were not disappointed.
One teacher tried to explain: “You just have to show them you mean business.” This sounded promising, but it didn’t tell me how. Another teacher told me, “You have to show them you believe they can do good work.” This also sounded good, but once again, I didn’t know how. And another teacher told me, “You just have to let them know who’s boss.” When I asked the all-important how, I was told, “You just have to put your foot down.” I felt like asking, “Which foot?”
I realized that these excellent teachers had been good at their job for so many years that they no longer had to think about how they got the results they got. They just didn’t know how to put into words what they were doing that worked. So, sadly, they were not able to give me any useful advice.
That’s when I began carefully observing those teachers and taking detailed notes on what they did and how they did it, what they said and how they said it. From distilling and studying my notes I realized that it was not any intrinsic quality of a teacher that got the children to behave and want to learn, but certain techniques the teachers used. I ?gured I had nothing to lose, so I started using these same techniques with my class, even though I was not con?dent that I could pull it off. I hoped that with time and practice I would eventually start getting some good results.
To my intense delight, the techniques started working within days. When I started doing what those effective teachers did, the kids quickly responded to me as if I were one of those senior teachers I admired so much. Within weeks, not years as that teacher in the staff room had predicted, I started to feel con?dent that I could achieve what I set out to do.
I was amazed when other teachers started noticing. One teacher said, “Has Frank B. been absent recently? I haven’t had to scold him in assembly for a while,” and another teacher replied, “No, he hasn’t been absent. He’s just much quieter now. Noël’s working her magic on him.” Soon I found that teachers were asking me, a rank beginner, for advice on how to handle the dif? cult kids!
Then the parents started asking me for advice. They could see that I was able to get their little rebels to sit and listen and do their work in school, so surely I would know how to get them to do their homework or go to bed without a tantrum or do what they were told. I was ?attered to be asked, but as I had no children at the time I felt I had no useful advice to give these parents. All I could think of to say was, “This is what I’m doing in the classroom, and it’s working. Why not try it at home?” Within days, parents came back to me saying, “It works!”
That’s when I realized that a lot of parenting is really teaching, and that anyone can learn the techniques to become a more skilled teacher, and consequently a more skilled parent. I learned that the behaviors and habits that annoy or trouble us in our children can be improved, and in many cases completely erased, once we start thinking about each problem as a teaching opportunity.
As I continued working with children, and then with parents and teachers, I learned more and more about how to help children become more cooperative, con?dent, motivated, self-reliant, and considerate. My fascination with this subject led me to further study. And as a mother, stepparent, and foster parent (and now as a grandmother) I learned even more. Over the years I learned about the effects of temperament on behavior, and how children with extreme temperaments can be helped to develop more balanced responses. I learned that many children with behavior problems are suffering from subtle and often unrecognized learning dif?culties, and that addressing the learning problems always improves behavior and attitude. I learned that chronic stress undermines a parent’s best efforts, and what can be done to reduce stress. Gradually I put together into one comprehensive package all the techniques, skills, strategies, and principles that I could see worked. I call this method Calmer, Easier, Happier Parenting and Teaching.
Over time I went from advising parents at the school gates to giving seminars, courses, and lectures. My next step was opening a center for families. Then I put what I had learned into books and CDs and DVDs so that parents who did not live near London could bene?t from these techniques. As the word spread, I started to ?ll the need by training Calmer, Easier, Happier Parenting practitioners who coach parents worldwide, in person or by telephone.
Parents always tell us that their biggest frustration is having to repeat instructions numerous times before their children listen and cooperate. As you read this book, you will see that the Calmer, Easier, Happier Parenting approach gives you a step-by-step method to solve this problem (and many other typical family problems). Using positive and respectful techniques, parents can guide children into the habit of cooperating the ?rst time and without a fuss most of the time.
In this book you will ?nd strategies that will transform many typical family issues—everything from homework and music practice and sibling rivalry to cleaning up and bedtimes and mealtimes. These strategies teach children to see themselves as capable, considerate, and worthy of appreciation. This method helps parents to feel more relaxed and more con? dent in their role as parents. And it makes family life signi? cantly calmer, easier, and happier.
In the forty years that I have been consulting with parents, I have never seen these techniques fail. It gives me great pleasure to share them with you now.
FIVE CORE STRATEGIES FOR CREATING A CALMER, EASIER, HAPPIER FAMILY LIFE
WHAT MAKES MODERN PARENTING SO STRESSFUL, AND WHAT WE CAN DO ABOUT IT
Changing frustration to freedom
I used to regularly shout at my children around bedtime. And, like clockwork, as soon as they were finally asleep, I would slump onto the sofa, almost in tears, so frustrated and feeling bad about myself. It happened so many evenings. I would vow to be more patient and calm. What I didn’t realize back then was that I didn’t have a clue how to get them to do what I asked. So I was making a vow that I just couldn’t keep.
Now I have the tools so my children do cooperate most of the time. Life is calmer; I’m not spending time bargaining, negotiating, and shouting; and I actually have time to get some of the things done that I need to do!
Mother of three, ages 9, 7, and 4
When I’m talking to a roomful of parents, laughter always erupts when I say to them, “It would be a whole lot easier to be a parent if we didn’t have kids. They slow you down. They get in the way. They make a fuss while you’re trying to get something done.”
As parents, we can all identify with this. Our “to-do list” is pages long. Yet when we cradled our newborn in our arms and looked lovingly into his eyes, we didn’t think, “I can’t wait to hand you over to someone else so I can get on with all my tasks.” Of course we wanted to nurture and spend time with our child. We envisioned a life of calm and happy parenting.
But the reality is that many of us are juggling work, children’s schedules, volunteer commitments, managing household chores, et cetera. We have an agenda, and we’re constantly looking ahead to see what needs to get done. When our kids aren’t listening or doing what we ask, it is incredibly frustrating. We ?nd ourselves losing patience and feeling stressed because of all the hassle—the repeating, reminding, negotiating, and shouting we have to do to get our kids to do all the things that need to be done each day!
Does this sound familiar? It may be that you’ve picked up this book because you are at your wits’ end from dealing with whining, de?ance, tantrums, and disrespect or with mealtime, bedtime, or homework battles. It may be that one of your children has a relatively more extreme temperament—more sensitive, more intense, and more in?exible—and you are at a loss as to how to parent this child. It may be that the problems you are dealing with are quite mild, and you just want to learn positive and effective strategies to help you be the best parent you can be. Maybe your child has a diagnosed special need and you want to know how to bring out the best in him.
This book is for all of you. In this book I will give you speci? c strategies and skills to signi?cantly improve cooperation and all the other habits that you want your child to develop. I will share with you ways to make the job of parenting calmer, easier, and happier.
The unique challenges that modern parents face
Why is parenting more stressful today, and what makes our to-do lists so long? Certainly being a parent in modern times presents new and different challenges from those our parents faced. Parents experience more stress today for a variety of reasons.
Most of us don’t have extended family living nearby to support us. There is pressure on parents to ful?ll an impossible number of roles, especially in families with two working parents—an ever-increasing percentage. With parents working longer and longer hours, tasks such as food shopping, cleaning, and cooking are increasingly experienced as hurried and stressful.
Modern telecommunications have made it almost impossible for parents to completely switch off. Cell phones and the Internet have crept into every corner of our lives—our homes, our cars, our purses, our pockets, and attached to our ears. On the one hand, technology makes our lives easier, and on the other hand, the communication and the pressure to respond are coming at us 24/7!
Another role that affects our stress level is that of “family taxi driver.” The number of enriching activities kids have available to them today is staggering, and it starts in infancy! This is an enormous shift from our parents’ generation. Everything begins earlier for kids today: football, ballet, music lessons, and even yoga can all start by age three or younger! This presents opportunity, but also stress. We want to expose our children to lots of wonderful experiences, so we are enticed by all these enriching programs. Then, as much as our child may enjoy the activity, we end up in the role of chauffeur. All this carting them back and forth in traf?c to classes and matches plays havoc with our patience and raises our stress level. We ?nd ourselves overscheduled right alongside our children.
The perceived threat of “stranger danger” has also drastically changed how children play and consequently our job description. In addition to our other roles, we’ve also become “entertainment directors.” It used to be that when kids came home from school, they had a snack, and then they were out the door. Parents had time to get things done while the children were out with the neighborhood kids, exploring, playing hide-and-seek, climbing trees, et cetera. Kids didn’t come home until supper. Homework either didn’t exist or was so minimal that it wasn’t even on parents’ radar screens. Our parents didn’t worry about sexual predators, so kids had the freedom to explore. Now kids are playing at home more, pleading for more screen time, exercising less, wanting us to play with them or to drive them to playdates.
Given the challenges facing modern parents, it is no wonder that we feel so stressed and are driven to nagging, threatening, criticizing, and shouting to try to make sure everything gets done that needs to get done every day. It’s unlikely that any of these stressors will be going away, so it’s up to us to ?nd ways to reduce family stress and to guide our children to become more cooperative so that parenting can be calmer, easier, and happier.
Parenting: The job with no training
Parenting is the most important job there is. But it’s a job for which no training is generally given beyond childbirth classes. How can it be that a job as diverse and demanding as raising children can come without training? This isn’t a management job we can just quit when it’s hard and our employees are annoying us! Parenting is a job we have to get up and go to every day without pay. Of course it’s also a job that can be incredibly rewarding. And we ?nd the job of parenting the most rewarding when we feel con?dent that the way we are parenting is positively impacting our children.
When we became parents, we were suddenly thrown into the role of educators. Most of us didn’t go to school to become teachers, yet this is the job we perform every day with our children. In fact, teaching is our main job. I’m not talking about teaching academic subjects. I’m talking about teaching our children th...
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