by Martha Heineman Pieper, Ph.D. and William Joseph Pieper, M.D.
The Compassionate Alternative to Discipline That Will Make You a Better Parent and Your Child a Better Person
What Is Smart Love?
9 Principles of Smart Love
- A Child Is a Child
Learn to see the world through your child’s eyes. Give up the illusion that your child is a miniature adult. You promote a child’s growth better by embracing immaturity than by fighting it.
- Foster Optimism
A child brings loads of hope and good cheer into this world. Teach your child to look life’s obstacles squarely in the eye, but never, ever scare your child into becoming a pessimist.
- Cultivate Inner Happiness
The greatest gift you can give your child is a sturdy fortress of inner happiness. Outward happiness always will be fleeting and uncertain without this inward foundation.
- You Are Your Child’s Ideal
If you come across as perpetually unhappy with your child, always acting tough and talking negatively, then your child will expect and want that unhappiness–and will do whatever it takes to get more of it. Do not teach your child to seek unhappiness.
- Happy Children Behave
Parenting is not “behavior modification.” Cultivating your child’s inner happiness is what really leads to good behavior. Chances are your child will behave better if you spend less time trying to change his or her behavior.
- Provide Quantity Time
On one side are all the reasons you do not have any to give. On the other are the great rewards you and your child will reap when you manage to do so. Make the effort. Quality Time does not make up for a lack of Quantity Time.
- Attention Breeds Independence
Lots of loving attention will make your child independent. Let go of those worries that you will spoil your child, or make your child needy and dependent, by providing too much attention.
- Capture the Middle Ground
No parent should feel stuck between being a pushover and a disciplinarian, between letting everything go and relying on the “quick fix” of discipline. You can find a happy medium.
- Use Your Head and Trust Your Heart
Always remember: Your parenting instincts are good ones. If your head tells you that tough discipline is necessary, but your heart is not in it, take heed. The foremost expert on parenting is the one you see in the mirror.
A Surefire Recipe for Successful Parenting
All parents want to raise a happy, successful child, but there is little agreement about how best to reach this goal. Over the years, parents have tried dramatically different recipes. They have put their baby on a schedule, or they have fed on demand; they have let their baby cry herself to sleep, or they have picked her up as soon as she cried; they have stayed home with their child, or they have entrusted her to daycare and gone to work; they have taught their baby letters and numbers, or they have left her mind a clean slate for her teachers to write on; they have given their child whatever she wants, or they have made her earn what she gets; they have made their child do chores, or they have asked little of her around the house; they have demanded good grades, or they have let their child find her own level in school.
These contrasting parenting strategies arise from quite different views of the nature of children and childhood and the roles of parents. Some parents view their child as naturally social and their job as allowing her the space to thrive, while others think that their child is by nature out of control. Some parents are convinced that their child is morally innocent, while others believe she is wily and manipulative. Some parents see their child as inclined to be dependent and needing help to leave the nest, while others are convinced their child needs constant attention and guidance.
Whether you are the parent of a newborn or an adolescent, the parent of one child or five you may worry about making the correct response to your child when she cries, makes demands, is frightened, wants constant cuddling and other attention, or won’t do what is good for her (for example, she refuses to eat her vegetables, go to sleep, do her homework, or come in at curfew).
As parents and as mental health professionals we have lived and struggled with these same fundamental issues. The discoveries we made in the course of decades of researching the subject of the true nature of the child, as well as the question of the necessary ingredients for a child’s healthy emotional development, have given us a new understanding of children and childhood, which, in turn, led us to create guidelines that all parents can use to parent lovingly but knowledgeably and effectively. Hence the term smart love.
In the first three chapters, we lay out the basic principles of the smart love approach to parenting–for example, that it is important to see the world and, especially, yourself, through your child’s eyes; that sometimes it is best to accept your child’s emotional immaturity, even when it is played out in behaviors like cheating at games or not wanting to share toys; that parents are not stuck with a choice between soft permissiveness and hard discipline because smart love makes possible an effective middle ground, called loving regulation; that children who are treated harshly come not only to expect unhappiness but to want it; that you cannot spoil your child with positive attention and, in fact, that lots of loving attention will make your child independent, not dependent; that quantity time is as important as quality time; that tantrums, nightmares, night terrors, habitual sibling quarrels, and many other conspicuous displays of childhood unhappiness are not inevitable; and that the best parenting involves using your head while trusting your heart.
In the later chapters, we focus on the developmental milestones from infancy through adolescence so that you will know for sure what behaviors are appropriate at what age. When your child’s behavior needs regulation, we will show you why it is less important to wonder “How do I get Jill to behave herself right now?” than to ask yourself, “How can I help Jill develop into an adult who will want to, and be able to, take good care of herself and be caring toward others when I am not around?”
We return to the question Socrates asked almost twenty-five hundred years ago, “Can virtue be taught, and if so, how?” All parents face the question of the best way to help their child acquire a reliable capacity for self-regulation. What history has taught us is that we cannot rely on the four most common methods of trying to teach children self-discipline–moral instruction, disciplinary measures, permissiveness, and rewards. We will show you another way to think about guiding your child toward responsible adulthood. Loving regulation is a means of protecting children from the consequences of their immaturity while at the same time offering them your ongoing love and admiration. When you help your child make constructive choices in a context of an ongoing close relationship, your child will come to recognize that the deepest happiness results from loving and feeling lovable and loved rather than from satisfying particular desires or achieving specific goals. Your child will learn to govern herself better through the desire to feel happier and more competent than she ever would from fear of negative consequences.
You will learn how best to satisfy your child’s developmental needs and how to use loving regulation to manage her immature behaviors. With the guidelines we provide, you can help your child to acquire a stable inner well-being that is unaffected by success, failure, or other ups and downs of daily life, and that will enable your child to reach her full potential.
Smart Love Just Makes Sense
You will benefit from this book if:
- you want to help your child reach her full potential and grow up to be a happy, loving adult;
- you want to understand childhood from your child’s point of view;
- you want to improve and strengthen your relationship with your child;
- you are uncomfortable with the disciplinary measures advocated by most popular books but worry that offering children too much love and affection will “spoil” them;
- you aren’t sure how to regulate your child’s behavior without stifling her spirit;
- you are a busy working parent and want to ensure that you spend a maximum amount of pleasurable and meaningful time with your child;
- your child is unhappy (difficult, moody, or has nervous habits, trouble sleeping, school problems, trouble maintaining positive relationships); or
- you aren’t actively parenting at the moment, but you work with children and/or you are interested in understanding why some children grow up happy and fulfilled while others become unhappy and difficult.
As parents ourselves, we have experienced firsthand the joys and the demands of parenthood. And because of our therapeutic efforts with hundreds of families from differing socio-economic, racial, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds, we also know that smart love guidelines are equally useful with all children and can be applied by any parent. The case examples we use throughout this book to illustrate the principles of smart love are all real-life instances of parents putting smart love into action.
Until now, smart love has been used and appreciated only by our clients and in academic and clinical settings. This book is the fruit of our long-standing wish to present smart love to a wide readership so that all parents will have the tools they need to raise happy, fulfilled, loving children.
The Basics of Smart Love
No matter what your child’s age, with the help of smart love principles you can implement more effective and compassionate parenting strategies. Smart love gives you a relaxed and realistic timetable for your child’s emotional development; identifies heretofore unrecognized developmental milestones and shows you how to help your child reach them; offers you a way to protect your child from missteps caused by her immaturity without resorting to the extremes of permissiveness or strict disciplinary measures (both of which are counterproductive); and makes it possible for you to raise a successful and truly happy child. Just as important, if your child is unhappy and difficult, the smart love principles will show you how to recapture her birthright of inner happiness.
Smart love offers a new understanding of the entire sweep of child development, allowing you to view the process of growing up through your child’s eyes. With an awareness of how your child’s experience of the parent-child relationship changes as she grows from infancy through adolescence, you will be better able to provide your child with a lasting conviction that she is loved and understood.
By reading this book, you will have a better understanding of your baby’s cries, and why your two-year-old’s favorite word is “no.” You will discover why four-year-olds refuse to believe there is anything they cannot do by themselves, and you will learn that the best way to motivate children to do chores and homework is also the kindest and most gradual. With the help of smart love guidelines it will be possible for both you and your child to enjoy your child’s adolescence.
We would like to mention here that although in these pages we sometimes assume the presence of two heterosexual parents, smart love methods are equally useful in any family arrangement. We wrote this book to help all parents, and we do not mean for any parent to feel excluded or overlooked.
Your Child’s Inner Happiness
The fundamental viewpoint that informs our approach concerns your child’s outlook at birth. Contrary to conventional wisdom, your newborn is not an undifferentiated blob who is aware only of himself. Instead, our research indicates that when your baby meets you he is an optimist with regard to human relationships. Unlike adults, infants are absolutely certain that whatever happens to them is for the best, because their beloved parents have caused or intended whatever happens. Your brand-new baby believes both that he is engaging your love, and also that the care he receives is ideal. When these inborn convictions are confirmed day after day, your child grows up to possess a lasting inner happiness. As we will describe, this unshakable inner happiness, in turn, will allow him to attain his highest potential.
Primary happiness originates in the conviction that all infants bring into the world that they are causing their parents, whom they adore more than life itself, to pay loving attention to their developmental needs. Your child’s primary happiness becomes unshakable when he is certain that you love caring for him. As he matures, your child will increasingly use the knowledge that you are helping him to become happy and competent as the source of his primary happiness. Once his primary happiness is firmly in place, your child’s day-to-day happiness will no longer depend on whether or not you are able to respond to any one particular need at a given moment.
We have found that children can acquire primary happiness that will not alter with life’s ups and downs, and that this is the child’s most important developmental achievement. Even though you may have been told that “healthy” doses of frustration build character, it is your caring responses that instill stable primary happiness in your child. As you will see, unnecessary frustration and deprivation actually interfere with your child’s acquisition of stable primary happiness by causing him to develop needs to make himself unhappy.
While primary happiness is generated within your child’s relationship with you, secondary happiness is the pleasure generated by everyday activities (such as building with blocks, dressing a doll, solving a math problem, playing the violin, hitting a baseball). The process of developing stable secondary happiness begins in your child’s second year and is completed only at the end of adolescence. With the same smart love guidelines you use to foster your child’s unshakable primary happiness, you can help your child develop permanent secondary happiness.
In his first year, your baby uses the satisfaction generated by intellectual, social, and physical pursuits to supply himself with primary happiness. Being fed sustains your infant’s primary happiness because it strengthens his belief that he is causing you to love caring for him. When you give food to your hungry preschooler, his primary happiness is nourished by your responsiveness and, in addition, he gains secondary happiness in the process of helping with food preparation (stirring,, mixing, and pouring).
As with primary happiness, secondary happiness follows a developmental course. Initially secondary happiness is unreliable because it depends entirely on your child’s ability to attain whatever satisfactions his heart desires. By the end of adolescence, however, your child’s secondary happiness can become as stable as his primary happiness because he recognizes that making constructive choices and pursuing them well is more reliably satisfying than getting what he wants when he wants it. Stable secondary happiness is linked to the enjoyment of activities and pursuits, but because it is not outcome-dependent it is not shaken by the occasional setbacks or frustrations that are bound to occur.
The All-Powerful Self and the Competent Self
In the early years, your child’s secondary happiness is bundled with her conviction that she is so powerful that she can do and have anything. This belief, made possible by your child’s cognitive immaturity, is one of the main reasons that she will be vulnerable to self-caused physical injury. If left unattended, your young child might, for example, decide to turn on the stove to cook, to drive the family car, to swim in the pool, or to plug in a hair dryer without the slightest inkling that she might not be fully capable of handling these activities.
Why Children Become Unhappy and Difficult
Contrary to popular belief, inborn temperament is not the reason that children become unhappy and develop problematic behavior. Through our extensive clinical experience we have come to the conclusion that children become unhappy because they have learned to desire unhappiness, which happens when they are regularly made to feel unhappy or their unhappiness is not responded to.
As we have said, all babies meet their parents as optimists with regard to relationships. Each infant believes that his parents are perfect caregivers who are perfectly devoted to him. He has an inborn conviction that everything that happens to him is for the best because it is intended and approved by his parents. As a result, we believe, when for some reason parents are consistently unable to satisfy a child’s developmental needs, the infant reacts by believing that his unhappy or alienated feelings are intended and approved of by his parents. Out of love for their parents, and in an attempt to care for themselves exactly as their beloved parents care for them, such children unknowingly develop the desire to cause themselves exactly the same discomfort they believe their parents want for them. These children believe that they are seeking happiness when they strive to recreate the feelings they experienced in their parents’ presence.
This learned but unrecognized need to experience unhappiness explains why so many children (and adults) react to success with depression or self-defeating actions. Children who have acquired needs to make themselves unhappy may show symptoms such as frequent temper tantrums, depression, difficulties concentrating, low self-esteem, and problems with drugs and alcohol.
The good news is that it is never too late to help unhappy and difficult children. Smart love guidelines help parents help their children to change in positive, lasting ways. By learning how to build on their children’s inborn, enduring desires to have a positive and loving relationship with their parents, all parents can make significant and constructive changes in their parenting and thereby ease the misery of problem children of any age.
Avoid Denting Your Child’s Primary Happiness
You want to avoid causing your child to feel ashamed, bad, or as though you don’t want her around when she is angry or upset. Parents are frequently advised to tell their child that her behavior makes them angry. But children cannot distinguish between their parents’ anger at their behavior and their parents’ feelings about them. This is true even of adolescents, who possess the intellectual maturity to understand the distinction their parents are making, but feel hurt nonetheless. When children repeatedly experience their parents as being angry at them, they copy their parents and develop needs to feel angry at themselves. If a child has already acquired inner unhappiness, the experience that her parents are angry with her will strengthen her needs to cause herself unhappiness.
A variation on this approach is the commonly heard advice that parents should tell their child that, while they don’t like her behavior, they still love her (“I am unhappy when you…”). Even this is too negative. What children hear at such a moment is that their parents are disappointed in them. Instead you need to focus on regulating the action that is dangerous or inappropriate. It is enough simply to say, “Please don’t pound with the hammer on the table. I’ll go get your pounding board.” If the child doesn’t respond, the matter-of-fact statement “If you don’t stop, I’ll have to take the hammer away for a while” is strong enough. If you have to take the hammer away from her, try to maintain a positive and friendly manner (“I have to put the hammer away for now, but we can bang spoons on this pot”). Your child will realize that the hammer may have to go, but your love and caring remain.
Understanding Your Anger
Even though you will feel angry with your child at times, there is all the difference in the world between believing that your anger is justified (with the result that you reinforce your child’s belief that he is responsible for it) and realizing that anger does not further the goal of giving your child lasting inner happiness and an abiding sense of competence. It is not uncommon for parents to become angry when their child gives them a bad scare. But once you understand that anger makes you less effective as a parent, you will be motivated to hold your anger, thereby relieving your child of the burden of your irate feelings. For example, if you become outwardly furious with your young child who has run dangerously close to the street, feel free to give him an immediate hug and say, “I’m sorry I yelled, honey. You didn’t do anything bad–it is my job to make sure you don’t go near the street until you are old enough to realize that cars can really hurt you. Let’s go back to the playground and swing.”
Parents also tend to become angry when their child behaves in a way that is appropriate for his age, but the parent is judging the child’s behavior based on what would be unacceptable in an adult. A teen may complain about having to do chores or absentmindedly leave the refrigerator door open, defrosting all the frozen goods. Parents may become angry if they conclude based on this behavior that their teen has become permanently selfish, irresponsible, and disobedient. They would find it easier to dispel or moderate their angry feelings and respond constructively to their teenager if they kept in mind that the developmental pushes and pulls of adolescence typically, though temporarily, make teens forgetful and resistant.
Your Crying Infant Is Not Manipulating You
We cannot overemphasize that your crying infant is not trying to manipulate you, and that responding lovingly will build rather than corrupt his character. Manipulation is a word that never applies to babies. Crying is the child’s way of expressing misery at feeling both overwhelmed and also incapable of eliciting your loving assistance. Crying is not a calculated act. Anger or withdrawal on your part convinces the child that he is unattractive to you (and, therefore, to himself) when he is unhappy. The child whose tears evoke parents anger or seeming indifference grows into the adult who compounds everyday sadness and disappointment by feeling unlovable when he is unhappy. Remember that you are the source of your young child’s greatest happiness. If you freely supply your loving attention, your child gains a storehouse of well-being that will last a lifetime and see him through every disappointment and frustration.
Parents can usually find ways of soothing their infant when daily care causes distress. For example, bathing a newborn can be upsetting for the child. Many infants do not like the feeling of being lowered naked into water. The smart love principle is to try to keep your baby as happy as possible. There is no reason to give your baby a true bath until he is old enough to enjoy it. Premoisturized cleansing tissues or a well-wrung washcloth applied to face and bottom will provide acceptable hygiene without upsetting your baby unnecessarily.
You Can’t Spoil Your Child with the Right Kind of Attention
You may have been warned that the constant gratification of your child’s desires for your attention will make him unfit for the real world, the reality is that your child’s intense desires for focused parenting will be temporary if you are consistently able to respond positively to him. Gratifying your child’s wishes, especially his desires to engage your focused attention, will not spoil your child. It will not make him hopelessly self-centered or unable to postpone gratification. In fact, your child’s all-encompassing need for your focused attention will decrease when he becomes certain of your unconditional wish to respond to his needs and provide the attention he wants.
In contrast, if you ration your attention out of concern that too much is harmful, your child will never feel fully certain of his ability to elicit the care getting pleasure he wants and needs. When children find that they cannot count on their parents to respond to their needs, they initially react by intensifying their demands for parental involvement. If these demands are not responded to, children may even turn away from the ungratifying relationship and disavow their wishes for closeness.
If you try to gratify your child’s needs and wishes whenever possible, you will help your child to acquire a lifelong sense of competence and inner well-being. This unshakable inner happiness, in turn, will allow your child to become good, to do good, and to do well. For this reason, on a temporary basis, try to give your child’s wishes priority, provided these desires are safe and do not conflict with your essential personal aims (stopping for gas, putting away frozen foods).
By fulfilling your child’s developmental needs and wishes you will not spoil your child. You will be giving him the tools to become a happy, competent, and socially engaged adult. Your smart love assures your child that he is causing you to love caring for him, and this certainty, in turn, provides him with a well-being rich enough to share with others.
How to Help Your Child Adjust to School Rules
Once in school, your child’s customary freedom of choice is suddenly reined in by demands that she walk in a line, wait to talk, take turns playing with the most desirable toys, forgo eating her snack until everyone else is served, and ask permission to use the bathroom. Because your preschooler views much of the world through the unrealistic lens of her all-powerful self, she may well experience the multitude of school rules and regulations as oppressive and, more significantly, as applying to other children but not to her.
If your child resists classroom socializing, this does not mean that you should have been tougher on her; this reaction serves to emphasize the importance of her years of relative freedom. If you have consistently encouraged and facilitated your child’s wish to make choices for herself, she actually will adapt more easily to the school’s imposition of structure, because she will not enter school with a broken spirit or locked in a chronic battle with authority. Your child will soon realize that a few irritating rules and regulations are a small price to pay for the opportunities to engage in the exciting activities and satisfying social relationships that school can offer.
You can facilitate your child’s transition to school in a number of ways:
- You can say something like “I know it’s difficult not being able to eat anytime you want, the way you can at home, but, on the other hand, at school the paints are always out, and there is a water table and three hamsters! “
- When your child chafes at school rules, you can help by giving her as much latitude as possible after school. This is not the time to schedule ballet lessons or other structured activities.
- If your child is especially tired, grouchy, or fragile in the first weeks of school, try to remember that your child is experiencing emotional overload, and you may find it easier to be affectionate and understanding.
When Schoolmates Hurt Your Child’s Feelings
Unless your child has already encountered rebuffs from older siblings or neighbors, in the beginning she may return from school with her feelings bruised by the rough-and-tumble of peer relations. The child who knows that you love her and love being with her may be amazed and upset when other children exclude her or become angry with her. Because the child’s all-powerful self believes in its power to control other people, a child of this age feels especially wounded by a friend’s refusal to play. You will feel for your child when she says plaintively, “Jenny didn’t want to play with me today. She said she will never play with me again.” Yet these moments provide golden opportunities to help your child to draw on the reservoir of love and trust she has accumulated with you, to supply herself with secondary happiness in the face of the disappointments that result from others’ conflicting motives.
You can sometimes help your child by emphasizing the difference between her relationship with you and her friendships. You might say, “It may feel confusing and hurtful because we always like to play with you and here’s someone saying she doesn’t want to. But sometimes other children don’t do what you want. When that happens, it’s better to try to find a friend who feels like playing. I am sure that there is someone in your class who would be delighted to play with you. I remember you said you had fun with Samantha.” Over time, because of your help and caring, your child will come to derive greater secondary happiness from the fun of playing than from the illusion that she can convince each and every child to play with her at all times.
Occasionally children will report that classmates have made cruel remarks to them. We know one little boy who reported to his mother that there was a girl he liked at school, and he had told her he wanted to marry her. She replied, “I can never marry you, your skin is too dark.” Parents should acknowledge that the cutting remark must have really hurt. They can also emphasize that the other child was mistaken, saying, for example, “I know what she said hurt your feelings. But what she said is wrong; no skin color is better than any other, and people can marry whomever they please.” Parents’ opinions are more important than peers’ judgments at this age. If you emphatically disagree with the other child’s put-down, your child will listen.
It is sometimes difficult to know whether to take action outside the family when your child has been insulted. In general, run-of-the-mill insults, such as comments about your child’s clothes, weight, or glasses, are best dealt with at home. But if there is a pattern of racial, religious, or ethnic slurs, or your child is being teased because she has a significant disability, you might suggest to the teacher that a classroom discussion of differences in skin color or religious and cultural practices, or of the feelings of people with disabilities, might be in order.
How to Help Your Child with Homework
In trying to help your child with homework, use the same approach as when you taught her to tie her shoes or to ride a bike. Foster your child’s efforts by making concrete assistance available in a relaxed way and with ongoing love and affection. Parents often worry about the extent to which they should supervise and assist their children with homework. Fortunately, the child who possesses a durable inner happiness will most likely resolve this dilemma for you. Because she enjoys using her own mind, your child will neither hesitate to ask for help when she needs it, nor seek help when she doesn’t. Still, in the earlier grades children may need an occasional reminder to get to their homework.
The most effective assistance you can offer your child with her homework assignments is to establish a daily work time before or after dinner. You can use this time to sit down and read, knit, do crossword puzzles, pay bills, write letters, or do other desk work. Your child will feel proud and grown-up to be doing her work right alongside Mom, Dad, big sister, or big brother. Try to avoid pursuing distracting activities, such as watching TV or playing video games, during prime homework times.
It is crucial that you view your efforts to help your child with her homework as purely facilitative. Your aim is to advance your child’s abilities to derive secondary happiness from making constructive choices and becoming proficient in her efforts (for example, to help her to learn how to organize, schedule, and complete homework), rather than to make certain that any particular homework assignment gets done or is done to some established level.
If a child asks for help with a homework problem or project, feel free to offer it, secure in the knowledge that the child wants to feel and to be competent. The more you can respond positively (“I’d be delighted to help you. Let’s try this problem together.”) and show the child how to think through and analyze a question, the more effectively the child will navigate the important balance between sticking with a difficult task and appropriately asking for help when she needs it.
Don’t Stand By and Watch Teens Fail
Many experts recommend that parents let their children and adolescents experience the “natural consequences” of their immaturity or willfulness. The smart love perspective is that when you stand by and let bad things happen, your child experiences the twin disappointments that something went wrong and that you did not seem to care enough about her to lift a finger to help prevent the mishap. The “natural consequences” approach is really a form of punishment. Children are never fooled into thinking that you had nothing to do with the unpleasant outcome.
A common situation in which parents might be advised to let “natural consequences” teach teens a lesson involves teenagers’ difficulties getting out of bed on school days. Parents are often told to let their adolescent experience the results of her tardiness, such as detention, a lowered grade, or extra work. What they don’t realize is that their child will believe that her parents are letting her down out of indifference or dislike. A more effective approach is to have a discussion with your teen the night before about the difficulty of waking her up. You can ask your adolescent to suggest effective methods to help her get going. One teen we know decided that the only arrangement certain to arouse her would be a cold washcloth placed on her face, and, in fact, this proved an effective wake-up call. If, despite your best efforts, you cannot wake your child, you can at least spare her the disappointment that you knowingly let her harm herself.
Parents sometimes say, “But she is practically an adult. If I keep performing these basic functions for her, how will she ever learn to take care of herself?” The smart love response is that, just as she needed you to get milk for her when she was a hungry six-month-old, she needs you now. We cannot overemphasize that adolescence is a developmental phase. Your adolescent still requires your responsive love and affection, and she will not be helped to grow up by your “tough love” or disapproval.
Smart Love: Your Companion on Your Child’s journey to Adulthood
In most areas of our lives we make momentous decisions only after much deliberation, and even then we may experiment a bit to make sure we have chosen the correct path. Parents, however, are faced every day with a multitude of vital decisions that come thick and fast. Because parents can’t see the final result of their choices until their children have reached adulthood, they find it difficult to evaluate the quality of their responses and they worry about whether they are making the right choices. Some examples of the dilemmas parents face on a daily basis are: Do we feed our baby whenever she wants or put her on a schedule? Do we make our toddler share and stop her from grabbing, or do we let her outgrow these tendencies on her own? Do we discipline our child when she is disobedient or destructive, or is there a kinder method to guide her? Do we impose consequences on children who don’t do their homework or pick up their room, or do we help them do chores and homework? Should we respond to the difficult adolescent with tough love or tender love?
We wrote Smart Love to help you with the thousand and one decisions you have to make as parents. Because smart love principles remain the same whether you are parenting a newborn or an adolescent, Smart Love can be your companion and helpmate at every step on your child’s journey to adulthood.
The choices parents make are particularly tough at moments when their child is difficult or unhappy and, especially, if their child is chronically difficult or unhappy. If you have a problematic child of any age, we have also written this book for you. By following smart love principles you can help your child recapture her birthright of inner happiness.
By using the smart love guidelines you can provide your child with a reliable, enduring core happiness that is unwavering even in the face of life’s unavoidable disappointments and misfortunes. We emphasize that this accomplishment is made possible by establishing a pleasurable relationship and not by frustrating your child’s needs or depriving her of your attention. Your child’s inner well-being rests on her certain knowledge that she has caused you to love caring for her. Of all the gifts you can give your child, this is the most important, because it is the foundation of all happiness and goodness and the shield against self-caused unhappiness.
If you choose to use the principles of smart love, you will have more confidence that you know what to do every day and every year to sustain and nurture your child’s emotional well-being. One reason that you can rely on smart love to guide your daily decisions about your child is that smart love considers childhood from your child’s point of view. In fact the entire smart love approach is built on this unique perspective. Smart love establishes a more realistic, less pressured timetable for your child’s emotional development; introduces you to new developmental milestones and shows you how to help your child reach them; and offers you a way to shield your child from the consequences of her immaturity without resorting to permissiveness, disciplinary measures, or rewards–all of which are counterproductive. With the help of smart love guidelines, you can raise a successful, well-regulated, and, most important, a truly happy child while loving and enjoying her to your heart’s content.
Excerpt reprinted with permission from foxcontent.com