reclaim the good parts of parenting

get the behavior you want without being the parent you hate book review deborah gilboaI’m going to start off by saying right up front that this book – Get the Behavior You Want…Without Being the Parent You Hate – has pretty much changed my outlook on parenting. Family doctor and parenting expert Dr. Deborah Gilboa has put together such a well-organized, easy to read manual on effective parenting, with advice for whatever phase of parenting you’re in.

I hate to break it to you guys, but I am pretty much a perfect parent. We eat dinner as a family just about every night, my girls are doing well in school, and I take my well-behaved children on fun outings where absolutely no one loses their shit, like ever. Basically, my life is a damn rainbow.

But every once in a blue moon, I lose my way on the parenting path and start to see that I’m headed down a wayward road. It happens gradually; I fall into a routine of ease and laziness, overlooking this behavior or that attitude. But before I know it it’s all Lord of the Flies up in here.

It starts with us

It was during one of those phases that Dr. Gilboa’s book fell into my mailbox. It’s not only given me great ammunition in small doses against a lot of my most notable parenting challenges, it’s also given me ideas for changes to make that will make this parenting gig a little more pleasant. Seeing as this is something I’ll be doing for several more years, putting the work in is worth it.

Get the Behavior You Want…Without Being the Parent You Hate is broken down into four parts:

  • Part I: Respect – That’s My Kid!
  • Part II: Responsibility: Count On It
  • Part III: Resilience: Raising Problem Solvers
  • Part IV: Making Change Happen: How to Actually Get Kids to Do This Stuff

The first three sections cover topics that parents may not necessarily struggle with, but should keep in mind when raising awesome kids. Things like being a good guest (respect!), asking how they can help (responsibility!), and managing relationships with siblings, friends, and teachers (resilience!).

Gilboa explains WHY it’s important to teach kids these things, then goes on to give real action items broken up by age group. And if there’s one thing I love, it’s an actionable item for those times when I’m just out of ideas and I’m all, “Seriously. Someone please just tell me what to do here.”

But the meat of the book lies in Part IV, where Gilboa goes beyond the tidbits of advice she’s given, and gets down into the nitty gritty of how parents can make change happen for their kids. And I have a secret:

It starts with us.

So all you have to do is change how you respond to your child’s words and behavior. Your change will lead to their change. — Dr. Deborah Gilboa

Problems and solutions

Each of my children comes with their own special challenges when it comes to parenting them, and juggling those different challenges is often where I struggle. Life would be much easier for me if their problems came straight off the conveyer belt and I could just methodically hack at them one by one.

Claire tends to get easily frustrated and gives up on herself before she’s really even tried.

Rachel is impulsive, and not in a good way.

Zoe suffers from – how should we say? – “I’m the littlest, and I’ve gotten away with so much for so long, that now I’m really pushing my boundaries and seeing if you’re serious with these attempts at disciplining me.” You can imagine that one’s going over REALLY well at preschool.

I was able to pull specific strategies from the book that have given me more guidance in their individual challenges:

When Claire gets frustrated because she can’t ride her scooter as fast as her sisters, I remind her that it’s not a race, and I just want her to do her best. But throwing the scooter in the neighbor’s yard is not acceptable, and you can either continue riding it around the block or carry it. Or we’ll leave it here for another neighborhood kid to enjoy.

When Zoe puts on her sassy pants, we swiftly inform her that she’s being disrespectful and give her options for more respectful ways of communicating. Being respectful to her teacher is important to us, but if we let her get away with having a little attitude at home – no matter how cute it can be on a 4-year-old – she will most definitely try to push those same boundaries at school.

Finally let’s take Rachel as an example, because this is an area in which I feel we’ve seen great improvement.

Have a plan

Lately Rachel’s temper has been getting set off at the smallest thing. We read only one story at bedtime, but she wants two. She’s bored and wants to watch TV, but we’re screen-free for the moment. Regular stuff that might cause a kid to groan, but for her, it causes all-out tantrums. She completely loses control of herself and her actions. As a parent, it’s extremely difficult to control your temper when your child is flailing her arms and hitting you.

One of the things Gilboa stresses the most in Part IV is that as a parent, you must have a plan. Things will go so much smoother if, when these challenges arise, you have a roadmap of how you are going to handle it. We were able to take several things from the book and put them together into a plan that worked for us in quelling these terrible tantrums.

  • Remain calm, but stay firm, because this behavior is unacceptable. The angrier I got, the more out of control she got. I had to keep myself in check. (That part is HAAAARD.)
  • Deliver consequences. Items thrown across the room (or at me!) will get taken temporarily, or sometimes permanently, depending on the item. I’ll throw out a cheap, plastic toy, but the favorite blankie becomes mine for the time being.
  • Do not respond to irrational behavior (as long as she is safe from harming herself or anyone else). Every time we opened our mouths to try and calm her, it was like going back to square one. Depending on the severity of the situation, we choose to either leave her in her room alone to chill or sit with her, but we do not respond to her verbal lashes.

Maybe we’ve just been lucky, or maybe this stuff is really working, but each tantrum got increasingly shorter and spaced further apart. Before we instituted The Plan, we had a stretch where they happened several days in a row, and I thought I was going to LOSE my MIND. But the most recent time, within minutes of being left to calm down, she emerged from her room, all hugs and sincere apologies. And I am not even kidding you, I feel like I have my child back.

Your kids will love you. They will not always like you, and they will not always thank you or be able to explain your value. But they will love you. So don’t hold back on what they need. Don’t hesitate to guide behavior for fear of upsetting your child. To change a behavior, we have to get out of our comfort zone.  — Dr. Deborah Gilboa

 

Think your parenting can benefit from Dr. Gilboa’s strategies? Purchase your copy of Get the Behavior You Want…Without Being the Parent You Hate on Amazon and start reclaiming the joy of parenting. You can also find Dr. Gilboa on her website, Ask Doctor G, and on her YouTube channel.

 

I received an advanced reader copy of this book for review. Amazon links are affiliate links.

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5 Comments

  1. I am drowning in unread parenting books, but I’m tempted if for no other reason than I have a Rachel on my hands too. It’s been a tad intense around here lately. Hooray that you have seen improvement! Parenting is hard work, yo.

    1. The good thing about this one is that you can read only the sections that you need at a particular time and you don’t have to wade through a bunch of stuff that doesn’t apply to you.

  2. It’s so good to hear that something actually works, because too many parenting books just throw out tired old cliches, and they don’t work. Debi is a miracle worker (through her book)!

  3. Amy, it IS hard work, yo. And I don’t know if this one would speak to you, but I’m glad you’re tempted!

    Jennifer and Alison, thank you both SO much.

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