I’d push myself up in bed and reach for my phone, flipping directly to my email. And there they were, every morning: one email from Baby Center and another from What to Expect. I had signed up for an account on each within days of finding out that I was pregnant with my daughter and I lived on those daily emails they’d send with information and tips about what was going on inside my belly. I kept reading even after she was born, every single word of every single email, learning everything I could about development, what was coming next and what I should do. They were my parenting guides.
Time kept moving on though and eventually life got busier. I went through another pregnancy, signed up again, and found myself drowning in a sea of emails telling me what week it was, how old my children were, what they should be doing. They began to pile up in my inbox so I started filing them, saving them for that magical time later on when I’d have a moment to read them thoroughly (not yet realizing that I wouldn’t have that moment until my kids had grown and flown and would not benefit at all from my reading about how to teach a four-year-old responsibility.)
Unfortunately, however, I never found a thing to replace those emails. I began parenting very much from the seat of my pants, answering questions and devising discipline strategies on the fly. And while parenting is very much best done by-the-gut, I believe in continual learning and the powerful perspective that researching and reading can bring to any situation.
So when I read the opening pages of Dr. Deborah Gilboa’s new book: Get the Behavior You Want… Without Being the Parent You Hate, I breathed a sigh of relief. In her introduction, she offers: “If you have time, you can absolutely read this book cover to cover. Of course, if you have time to do that I think you should put down the book and go back outside to the beach and enjoy the child-free vacation you are obviously missing!”
As I started to work my way through, each chapter gave me something new to think about, new words to incorporate into our every day, and new tactics for, yes, getting the behavior I want. Each chapter provides strategies for every different age-group, from toddlers through middle schoolers, giving me the steps to take with my girl and the corresponding ones to take with my son to really drive home a point in a concerted, coordinated way.
Since I started reading this book, I’ve made several changes in our home life. I’ve listened more closely to how my daughter talks and acts and worked to help her behave well even when she is tired or overwhelmed (chapter 5: Spoiler Alert: What You Do is More Important than How You Feel.). I’ve removed toys and a giant pink castle tent that had been left in my bedroom (chapter 16: Your Bedroom as Your Sanctuary). And, with school back in session, I’ve recommitted to encouraging my daughter to dress herself and my son to make choices about his clothes each day (chapter 20: Teach Kids to Get Themselves Dressed). I’ve also found myself reminding my daughter, as she complains about having to set the table or make her bed, that we all have to do things around here for the good of our family (chapter 23: Chores: Good for You and Them).
I’ll admit that I haven’t finished reading every chapter. Because, of course, I’m not currently on a child-free vacation. And because change takes some time to incorporate. Were I to have finished the book in a week and jumped feet first into every thing I had learned, my kids’ heads would be spinning and I’d be crying in a heap on the floor. As Dr. G. points out, you pick the places that are the biggest concerns for your family right now. Here we definitely need to work on respect and to start building resilience, but managing mean friends, teachers, and coaches just hasn’t hit yet for us. And that’s the beauty of this book. I get to come back to it year after year as we move from one parenting phase to the next, as the concerns that keep us up at night morph and change, and know that I have a compass to guide me through.