Thursday, May 25, 2006

Guru Suggests Rocks, Sand and Pinecones

My friend Michele is my parenting guru.

She has two boys (4 and 16 months.)

Her four year old is, quite possibly, the best behaved child I have ever met - and not just well behaved, but also straightforwardly pleasant to be around.

He is sometimes guilty of being four - repeating a question 450,000 times or missing social cues that indicate that the other humans in the room have moved on to the next thing - but he IS four, so it only seems fair and normal.

Given the evidence of Michele's success at parenting, I call her regularly for advice, read all the child-rearing books she suggests and generally try to emulate her parenting style.

For the past two weeks, The Mayor, who is not yet two, has insisted on sleeping in the twin bed in his room instead of in his crib.

I talked with Michele about it and she felt like there was no hurry to transition him and that we might want to keep him in the crib a little longer - mostly for our convenience.

She suggested that it might be better to wait until he was potty training and might need to get up to go to the bathroom in the night.

When I told her that he INSISTED, my parenting GURU, my ROLE MODEL said,

"Can't you just put rocks or sand in the bed? Pinecones maybe."


Motherhood Uncensored said...

See. There's a reason why they're so well-behaved. Torture works wonders on the behavior - however, not so good on everything else.

Um. That is unbelievable. What would she say to me about my near 2 year old who likes to poop on the floor (I know, lovely, right?)

floosen said...

What books is she reading? Pass 'em on, sister!

Maharishi Michele H. said...

It is I, the supposed "parenting guru," Michele. I make no such claim, but revel in the positive reinforcement Jessica gives me by titling me as such.

Just remember that the same child Jessica worships as the perfect child, today threatened to hit me, to call me "a baby" (odd threat, yes?), and to "do things you don't like" more times than I can count. This is, perhaps in response to some refreshed parenting tactics that have resulted from my lateset book purchase, "ScreamFree Parenting: Raising Your Kids by Keeping Your Cool" (Edward Runkel). You see, I had had more than a couple of screaming outbursts lately and was feeling kinda guilty about them, which explains why I'd also examined "Parenting Without Guilt," but put it back. I took the cool approach and he didn't know how to handle it!

So first, in response, I was teasing Jess when I suggested rocks, sand or pinecones in the bed for Owen. I was simply putting a twist on the well used parenting technique of "negative reinforcement."

Secondly, my favorite books vary by age group. The one I recommend highly for under-twos is "Raising a Happy Unspoiled Child" (Burton L. White). It has hands-on techniques for managing the demanding seven months-thru-toddler behaviors and establishing the parents' authority. I also recommend the "Your (insert age)-Year-Old" series of books. They are a bit dated, and they assume some sexist things about gender roles and moms as caregivers, BUT they do a great job explaining the "whys" of behavior at each stage of development. It has given me the sanity check I needed, especially this year when my angel-baby boy turned Four and had a radical personality shift.

Otherwise I'm just browsing the shelf regularly. I read "Preschool Wise, " a book from the "BabyWise" family of books (which I'd also read with my newborn) and "Positive Discipline for Preschoolers: Raising Children Who Are Responsible, Respectful, and Resourceful." This one shed a lot of light on my four-year-old's need for attention ALL THE TIME. It has a great chart about parenting styles with pros/cons for each, and a chart with a list of typical preschoolers' (annoying) behaviors and the messages behind them.

Those are the biggees. Anyway, anything that works, I'm up for. I'd love to hear any other suggestions.


Maharishi Michele H. said...

Oh, I forgot, the poop on the floor thing... My advice, make him/her help clean it up, with a smile on your face. That might curb the behavior a bit when they realize how unpleasant it is. I know... You're thinking, "but that will make a mess..." Just save a tiny bit of mess for them to wipe up, you do the serious stuff that protects your upholstry, carpets, hardwoods, etc. Maye make them carry it to the garbage or the toilet. Something to put their nose near it a bit.

Final comment: Jessica put me up to this...

floosen said...

Ok, maybe Michele should have a Q&A blog, because I need help and I sense that she's the woman to give it to me.

My big Q of the day is... do the books work if you are the only one of the two parents reading them? My husband, a clinical psychologist by training, refuses to read parenting books...I think he thinks are self-help books in disguise. Sure, when my son was born we/he read the Dr. Sears stuff which basically said that the baby should be attached to the mom 24/7 (what dad would argue with that???) but he's incredibly reluctant to read any sort of book that might help us raise the nubbins without any severe emotional damage. So I am at a loss because I feel like one of us reading them is the equivalent of one hand clapping (and winging off to slap you in the face sometimes). Thoughts?

You know, I've always wanted a guru...

maharishi Michele H. said...

Tell your husband that parenting books are NOT self-help books. They are hands-on tools for dealing with behavior issues and learning about developmental stages in children. Raising kids is a foreign situation for all of us. You wouldn't try to repair an engine without a manual or some lessons. How could you expect to raise a child without some tips and instructions from experts?

You definitely have a problem if dad isn't on board with the parenting plan, no matter where you get your information. Mom and Dad have got to be consistent in order for any approach to work. When people ask us about what we're doing right, our answer is a general consistency with rules, consequences, reactions and responses. Never threaten a consequence that you aren't prepared to carry out. And it's often consequences that make behavior change, whether it's "We'll have to leave the playground if you can't stop throwing sand," or "Let's put your clothes in the hamper so you will earn your star today!"

If your husband won't read the whole book, perhaps you could just ask permission to summarize the relevant passages or have him read a paragraph or two to make your point or address a particular issue. My husband and I have done that sometimes. Then we discuss the pros and cons, make our modifications and go with a specific plan. And I say ask permission so it doesn't sound to him like you're trying to lecture, but that you are trying to make some progress about something that's important to you. If you make it a request, you might get better results.

Also, my husband and I don't contradict (or undermine) each other in front of the kids if we can help it, and no matter what, we let whatever the first parent said stick for the situation. This only works because we have agreed to a course of action to handle certain situations. If I do disagree, we generally discuss it later when we are away from the kids.

As a footnote, i should disclose that I am not a fan Dr. Sears. Attachment Parenting wasn't my style. I believe my kids can be far more self-sufficient than Sears gives them credit for, and frankly, I couldn't handle all that on-demand eating/sleeping with me stuff. (Though I did nurse both my boys 'til 14 months.) If you want further discussion on this we should take it me at

I'm contemplating a blog. l'll let you know if it takes shape...