“When are you going to write a book on grandparenting?” is a question asked of me by lots of folks, most of whom – no surprise here – are grandparents.
My stock answer: “I might, someday, that is, but right now I’m working on some other projects that are taking up most of my time blah blah blah.”
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve thought about a book on grandparenting, and I may still write one. If I do, it may consist of real-life horror stories I’ve heard from grandparents around the USA (and, of course, my advice concerning each horror). These tales of woe aside, many Boomers are less-than-thrilled with the way many of their children are parenting. It certainly deserves a book.
So, the bottom line is that I’m not going to write a “how to be the grandparent your grandkids want you to be (whether they know it or not)” book. Maybe my wife, Willie, will write that one, but not me. Besides, that book has been written already and I don’t think I could improve upon it.
Chrys Howard – her daughter Korie Robertson is the female lead on Duck Dynasty – has a lot more grandkids than she does kids, and as we say in the South, her grandkids love her to death (and the feeling is mutual). Like everything connected with the Duck Commander crew, Chrys is the real deal and so is “Rockstar Grandparent” (Waterbrook, $15.99).
Written like an intimate conversation about Chrys’ grandparenting experience, “RG” is full of real-life anecdotes that reveal the heart of a grandmother who takes her matriarchal role in the family seriously. Chrys gives practical advice on how to be a fun grandparent, yes, but she always comes back to her main theme: family. She reminds us that grandparents are the glue that holds a family together, an especially important role in times like these when family members are often living hundreds of miles away from one another.
Chrys also speaks from experience about the heartaches of death and divorce and how to move forward when tragedy strikes. She shares stories about opening her heart and home to children through adoption, foster care, and mentoring. She communicates the importance of standing strong on principles and being the example of right moral behavior.
All of this is done using songs from the sixties and seventies as jumping- off points which Chrys weaves deftly into each chapter topic. Songs like “The Sounds of Silence” (Simon and Garfunkle) and “Let it Be” (The Beatles) were anthems for the ‘60s teens who are now grandparents. The words from these songs will resonate with the reader bringing back fun memories as well as themes for optimal grandparenting.
Whether you are just beginning this journey or consider yourself a seasoned pro, this book will inspire you to either “carry on” or “get moving.” The influence of grandparents in the lives of their grandchildren is largely a matter of what the grandparents choose to make of the opportunity to be a steady source of wisdom and counsel. This book will encourage and inspire lots of folks my age to make the most of an amazing opportunity.
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Use 'Alpha Speech' to Get Child to Obey
Q: My 7-year-old son, an only child, is giving me fits. He’s overly active and will not cooperate in any instruction I give him. In addition, if I tell him not to do something, it’s a guarantee he’s going to do it as soon as my back is turned. I’m a single mom and I’m embarrassed to admit that he runs the house. I spoke to his pediatrician about him and she is recommending ADHD medication. I don’t want to go in that direction; besides, he has no problems in school and never has. His teachers love him and are constantly telling me how smart and mature he is for his age. It’s like I’m dealing with a person with a split personality. If he’s not crazy, I’m slowly getting there. Can you give me some tips?
A: The completely unscientific nature of the ADHD diagnosis aside, your son is not a candidate for medications that have never reliably outperformed placebos in clinical trials. It never fails to infuriate me when I hear of pediatricians whose knee-jerk response to discipline problems is a prescription. Having said that, I understand completely the pressure they are under to do something “helpful” during a ten-to-fifteen-minute office visit. There ought to be a parenting specialist in every pediatric office, someone who can take the time that the physician probably doesn’t have.
Your son doesn’t have a split personality either. He’s simply figured out that some adults have claimed their natural authority over children and others, including you, have not. Proper adult authority has a profound calming and focusing effect on children, an effect that no medication can match.
In your description of the problem, you used the word “cooperate.” My consistent finding is that parents who use that word actually want their children to obey, but instead of giving clear, authoritative instructions are instead making requests and suggestions, as in, “Would you please come to the table so we can have dinner?” and “It would really help me out if you’d stop what you’re doing and feed the dog, okay?”
When it comes to the discipline of a child, consequences will be necessary at times, but the key is a proper presentation of oneself as an authority figure, and that is primarily a matter of how you speak. Using the above examples, the proper words are “It’s time for you to come to the table for dinner” and “You need to feed the dog now.” The fewer the number of words contained in an instruction, the more authoritative it sounds.
The reader might be amazed at the number of parents who’ve told me that simply learning how to properly give instructions and communicate decisions (in both cases, use the fewest words possible and answer “Why?” or “Why not?” with “Because I said so”) has completely turned their kids’ behavior around. I call it “Leadership Speech” or “Alpha Speech” because it communicates to the child in question that the adult is in charge, and a child’s natural reaction to the proper delivery of authority is obedience.
Now, you’ve obviously got some lost ground to make up for, but you can do this. Keep in mind that there’s nothing “wrong” with your son. If there was a BIG problem, his teachers would be begging you to medicate him.
In my next column, I’ll describe a rehabilitative method I call “Kicking the Child Out of the Garden of Eden.” You’re going to need to do something to get your son’s attention and convince him that life as he has known it with Momma is over. What I have in mind should turn the trick. Stay tuned!
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We're Living in a Child's World
Concerning major behavior problems, parents often tell me they’ve “tried everything.” In more than forty years of doing this “parenting expert” gig, I’ve never run across a parent who was telling the truth about that. Since the 1960s, we’ve drifted so far away from a commonsense understanding of the fundamentals of child discipline that most parents have no concept of what “everything” can and in many cases should involve.
A recent conversation with a single mom illustrates the point. She told me she’d tried “everything” with her disobedient, disrespectful, rebellious thirteen-year-old daughter. Turns out that “everything” has consisted of sending her to her room (which is full of entertainment) until she apologizes (which the girl does when it serves her purposes), berating her (which often causes the child to laugh), and taking away her phone for the remainder of the day (one whole day!). In short, as in most cases, “everything” consists of virtually nothing. I call it “trying to stop a charging elephant with a fly swatter.”
The further problem is that when I suggest pulling out all the stops and actually approximating “everything,” the reaction is often palpable reluctance. I can relate to salespeople when they hear, “Well, I’m going to go home and think about it,” knowing they’ll never see the customer again.
Example: I told the above mom that if she didn’t stop fooling around with her daughter’s misbehavior, it was only going to get worse. I recommended “kicking her out of the Garden of Eden” – that is, shutting her life down to a bare minimum: no phone, no privileges, no sleepovers, no new clothes (unless of necessity and in that event only what will suffice), no visitors, no nothing. How long? For a month, and if an incident (defined in advance) occurs before the month is over, the month begins anew the next day.
“That’s fairly, um, well, extreme, isn’t it?” Mom stammered.
“Not as extreme, by a long shot, as calling you a vile name because you’ve refused one of her typically outrageous requests, or smoking pot before school, or using her phone to send pictures of her body to her juvenile delinquent boyfriend.”
“What if she runs away?”
“Where’s she going to go? You’ll be able to find out where she is within twenty-four hours. Go get her and take a policeman along with you. That’ll be the end of that.”
“Won’t that pretty much require that I shut my own life down?”
“You’re going to have to restrict your own activities, for sure, but there’s no such thing as an effective consequence that doesn’t inconvenience the person who must enforce it.”
At that point, I became the above salesperson. She needed to think about it and get back to me, which, needless to say, she never did.
The problem is that unlike my parents, who grounded me (and rightly so) for the entire summer between high school graduation and going off to college, and parents of that generation, today’s parents want to be liked by their kids; therefore, they’re afraid of their kids. In fifty years, the parent-child relationship has turned upside-down and kids know it and take advantage of it.
To paraphrase one of the inimitable James Brown’s more famous numbers, “It’s a Child’s, Child’s, Child’s World.”
But the children have no idea how much they are losing in the bargain.
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