All parents have struggled with the challenge of guiding and teaching their little ones (and in my opinion, those who haven’t aren’t parenting!). The perennial question, whether to punish and/or reward has always haunted me. We’re supposed to “reward the behaviour we want” right? And Supernanny’s naughty step worked every time, didn’t it? How about praise, surely that’s a good idea? How do you teach children consequences without these tools? They’re all sensible if used proportionately, aren’t they?
According to Dr. Laura Markham, the jury is in and there is absolutely no doubt in the verdict; the way to raise well adjusted, confident and happy children is to abandon punishment and reward entirely. Her assertion is based on the last 20 years of research in child psychology and neuroscience and she makes a compelling and wonderfully articulated case. So if you’re like me, someone who winces at the emotional pain I have often inflicted on my children in the name of demonstrating consequences, this book will come as a revelation and salvation.
It’s a book that follows through on its promise, delivering tools that supplant punishment and reward, a relief after reading books that tell you what you’re doing wrong, but only hint at what you might do instead. Having since used Markham’s tools I know they work too and because her approach is based on “fostering connection” with your children it’s an incredibly enriching way to parent.
Part of its success is that unusually for any parenting book, the first half is dedicated to the most important person in the child-parent relationship: the parent. Yes, the parent! Who would have thought that any work on parenting would need to start with us; “…the most important rules to raise terrific children are for us, not our children”. This aligns perfectly with the concept of Personal Responsibility that is central to The Winning Edge. As Markham goes onto say, hitting a nerve full on: “Your child is fairly certain to act like a child…. the problem starts when we begin acting like children too.” Like The Winning Edge, Markham’s book doesn’t shy away from bold statements, challenging parents to sort themselves out before sorting their kids out. As Stephen Covey argued, the most important work in life needs an inside-out approach.
Which leads me to what I find most exciting about ‘Calm Parent, Happy Kids’. I have never found any book, let alone a parenting one, so in sync with The Winning Edge. You aren’t supposed to laden book reviews with quotes, but I can’t help myself (all Winning Edge graduates will understand that I can help myself, but just don’t want to): “parents who raise wonderful children… have a secret. In fact, a whole secret life, inside their heads. They talk to their children differently. They talk to *themselves* differently.” In another chapter, Markham explains “Your life is the sum of your choices. You’ll make bad ones, sure, but every choice turns the ratio around”.
I have given this book as a gift four times and recommended it many times more, you may have already guessed I’m a fan!. This is surely essential reading for any parent, and whether you adopt its lessons or not it will challenge your paradigms. I leave the last word to the author, a line that has become my mantra, not just in my parenting life, but in life more broadly: