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Book Review – Stress-Free Discipline: Simple Strategies for Handling Common Behavior Problems

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Stress-Free Discipline: Simple Strategies for Handling Common Behavior Problems

by Sarah Au and Peter L. Stavinoha, out tomorrow

Stress Free Discipline

All children test boundaries (and sometimes your patience). It’s a natural part of growing up. Your job as a parent is to let them know what’s acceptable and what isn’t, praise good behavior, and enforce limits.

Easier said than done. Even the best-intentioned parents can find themselves shouting—or capitulating yet again to avoid a scene. Worse, the one-size-fits-all discipline methods experts tout can be too narrow for some concerns.

Blending developmental insights with an arsenal of proven techniques, Stress-Free Discipline prepares parents for any challenge: the preschooler who throws a fit . . . the second-grader who refuses homework . . . the budding tween who dishes out insults. The book helps determine the root cause, explaining what drives the behavior, why it’s usually normal, how to prevent escalations, and how to instill self-control. Once parents grasp the underlying motivation they can select the strategy that fits their child’s age, temperament, and issue—including role modeling, setting limits, positive reinforcement, negative consequences, disengagement—and deploy it calmly and with confidence. Examples and exercises throughout help readers personalize the authors’ advice to their unique situation.

First, let’s acknowledge right up front, as the authors do, that no portion of parenting will ever bee entirely free of stress. What you’re looking to do is reduce the amount of stress for yourself and for your children. Their intention is to provide strategies to do so. And let’s face it, if we could cut our stress in half, it’d be pretty freeing.

I picked out this book because we’re on the cusp of dealing with an emerging and malleable human being. Gone are the days where we must simply wait for biochemical equilibrium and emotional exhaustion. I don’t know if that’s a universal experience, but we reckoned correctly that reasoning with an infant was a fruitless endeavor.

What I didn’t realize is that Stress-Free Discipline is more of a rescue mission than an instruction manual. This book isn’t Discipline:101. You won’t get a step by step list of actions you can take to churn out perfectly behaved young people.

What you will get is a solid foundation for developing and improving your relationship with your child or children. The idea is to build on that foundation in order to reinforce your values, encourage expected behavior, and discourage bad behavior.

With a toddler just entering the age range covered by this book, many of the situations and examples are things I’ll have to remember. Or revisit. However, I wasn’t put off by that. Rather, I felt like I was reading it at exactly the right time. If we create such a foundation now, hopefully things will go more smoothly later. Still, I want to emphasize that a parent can pick up this book at any time and either gain some insight or be reminded to take the kinds of actions that require a little reflection before implementing.

During our day to day lives, the stress can get to us. We can take the easy, immediate road, without considering the consequences for the future. The strategies in Stress-Free Discipline aim to make better decisions easier, reduce the intensity of future conflicts, and develop positive habits in both parents and children. In other words, to reduce the stress.

The authors realize and acknowledge that not only are all children different, but all parents are as well. They provide a number of tactics for improving good behavior and curbing bad behavior, explaining how and why they function. More importantly, they describe how they interact and how best to use them in complementary ways. You can take what works for you and your child and discard or modify what doesn’t fully aware of where you’ll need extra work.

All in all, I found Stress-Free Discipline a worthy read. Trying to simply sum it up would probably lead to a lot of nodding and harumphing because some of the tips seem obvious. But what isn’t obvious is how important it can be to be always on. Or if you can’t be always on, to not need to be because you’ve already done a good portion of the groundwork.

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