I love reading parenting books. Even before my toddler was born—heck, even before he was conceived!—I enjoyed perusing the latest parenting bestsellers and imagining what kind of mom I would someday be.
The answer, it turns out, is a tired one—and one who certainly doesn’t remember that key paragraph on page 347 of so-and-so’s top-rated parenting book, and one who definitely doesn’t have time to read 6 chapters outlining so-and-so’s newfangled parenting philosophy.
I love reading parenting books, yes, but a week later I usually forget everything I read, and the book begins its eternal fate of collecting dust on the bottom of my bookcase.
No so, however, with Dr. G’s guide to effective parenting—appropriately titled Get the Behavior You Want…Without Being the Parent You Hate!
Deborah Gilboa, M.D., is a leading parenting expert, family physician, international speaker, and author—plus a mom of four. Just a few pages into her book I found myself thinking, “She gets it. She totally gets it.” And just a few pages later I realized, “I am actually going to use the information in this book!”
Her goal in the book? To provide practical answers to the basic question, “How can I give my kids what they need while they whine for what they want?” Tweet this!
What makes this parenting book more useful than others I’ve read?
- You don’t have to wade through chapters and chapters of background information before you get to the actual solutions.
- The chapters are divided by parenting dilemma (such as manners, chores, and homework), which makes it really easy to flip to whatever struggle you’re currently facing.
- The parenting suggestions are divided by age group—toddler, preschool, elementary, and middle school age—so you can find age-appropriate ideas quickly.
- “Ask Dr. G” Q&A boxes show up throughout the book, highlighting parents’ most pressing questions.
Interview with Dr. Deborah Gilboa
I had the pleasure of speaking with Dr. G about the parts of the book that stood out to me the most. Here’s a glimpse into our conversation.
What motivated you to write a parenting book?
When you set out to write a parenting book, the question you have to ask is ‘Why should I bother? What need could I possibly be filling?’
I wanted to fill two needs with this book. The first is that, with every parenting book I’ve read, I feel like the authors spend half the book explaining their philosophy and their worldview to me, trying to get me to sign on. That’s frustrating because I want to get to the solution—I don’t have time to read an entire book!
So I wanted to write a book that wasn’t philosophy-based, but solely ideas-based—filled with things that have worked for me or have worked with my patients, and might work for you too.
The second need I felt like I could fill was to give parents choice. I wanted options. Because what works with one child won’t always work with another.
I like that in the book, you regularly remind parents that they are the experts on their own kids. Do you find that parents struggle to trust their own instincts with their children?
I think that we are all experts on our own family dynamics and our own kids, and yet each of us thinks that we alone suck at this parenting thing—that everybody has a better handle on this than we do.
Parenting is the only topic on which the majority of people I encounter—myself included!—often think that anybody would do a better job at raising my kids than I would. It’s because the stakes are so high and we’re so invested in it.
How did your background—both as a mom of 4 boys and as a family doctor—influence this book?
My kids will tell you, I have field-tested pretty much everything in the book on them! If something didn’t work for me or my patients, or if an idea was one I would never try on my own kids, I didn’t include it in the book. My kids give me my biggest dose of practicality.
I don’t have a parenting philosophy in that I’m not authoritarian, but the one thing I believe is this: Every parent I’ve ever met wants their kids to grow up to be respectful, responsible, and resilient. That’s straight from my family doctor experience; my work as a family doctor really informs all of this.
I also know from experience that when parents are effective, kids get healthier. Tweet this!
I was drawn to what you wrote about parents needing to embrace our “parental superpowers.” What do you mean by that?
We are perfectly placed as parents to influence our kids’ behavior—not change it, because nobody can change behavior except the person—but influence it.
For many years, and definitely for ages 2 through 12, when you’re talking to your kids, they think you’re the coolest person in the room. Even if they don’t admit it out loud! We have so much research to show that what we say—our opinions, our behaviors—are the biggest influencer in our kids’ lives.
To them, we’re the coolest people in the room. So use that power for good! Use it to influence behavior toward creating kids whose houses you’ll want to go stay at over Thanksgiving one day. Use it so they become people you really respect and admire.
My point is not that you have to be an intentional parent every minute of every day. I don’t know about you, but I can’t be intentional about anything 100 percent of the time!
But if we are intentional in how we raise our kids, say, 10 percent of the time, it’s going to make a huge difference in how they turn out to be.
90 percent of the time I’m making sure everybody’s fed, or they all make it into the car—90 percent of parenting is inventory management and logistics. But I really believe that if 10 percent of your time is intentional, it’s going to have a big impact.
I was also really struck by what you wrote about the connection between our kids’ feelings and their actions. Can you talk a little bit about that?
You have to look for the why behind their behavior. The trick as a parent is to never stop looking for the why, but without excusing the behavior.
So when my 12-year-old has a total meltdown like he did two days ago—all of a sudden he was a jerk to one of his younger brothers about something really small—I pulled him aside to talk about it and he burst into tears because he’s so nervous about 7th grade starting.
It’s important to figure out what the real problem is, but it’s also important not to excuse the way he treated his brother. You can show him empathy about the way he’s feeling and help him find some solutions or coping mechanisms, but also not brush away or sweep under the rug the fact that he was a jerk to his brother.
We have an obligation as parents to teach our kids to both look internally to see what the problem is and not to excuse their behavior—you can understand their feelings, and look for the feelings behind their behavior, but first they have to apologize and try to make it right.
You make the point that we can begin teaching our kids about responsibility from a young age. I really struggle with this, because I know the toys will be picked up way faster if I just do it myself. Any tips?
It’s true that you’re going to do almost any task faster and better than your young kids. I’m all about efficiency, so I had to come up with my own strategies to talk myself out of doing the jobs for them.
One idea: I give my kid a separate job than the one I have. So I’ll say, ‘Let’s see if you can clean up your toys before I finish washing these dishes.’
I like having kids do a part of the job, and then you do a follow-up part, but not a re-do. So if the milk spills, you say, ‘You get a paper towel and clean up the worst of it, and I’ll get the mop and finish the job.’ That way we’re not re-doing their work—because when we do that, we really undermine their confidence-building in doing that activity.
I loved the line you wrote about parents needing to get out of the way when our kids face challenges. We tend to think we always need to step in and help them! Why is that?
We are so accustomed to solving everything for our kids when they’re babies—and we’re supposed to! But then we just forget to train ourselves out of that habit.
Our big goal isn’t to make our kids’ paths totally smooth, it’s to teach them to problem solve. Tweet this!
When your kids tell you about a problem, my best tip is not to automatically hear, ‘Please fix it for me.’ I think we often hear the implied request for help, when they actually weren’t requesting it!
It’s a great instinct we have to help our kids, and it’s totally normal that we think of ourselves as the problem solvers in that relationship. But we have to build them into problem solvers too.
You talk about the need to get away from the “happiness hook”—the idea that our main job as parents is to make our children happy. Why is that a misguided goal?
The whole concept puts parents in a really bad spot, because everything says that if your kids are happy, then you’re a good parent, so by definition, if your kids aren’t happy then you’re a bad parent.
But I am the proximal cause of most of my kids’ unhappiness! Because I said you can’t have another piece of candy, or whatever limit or boundary I set, and then they think I’m the cause of all their unhappiness.
So parents feel stuck: Do I raise my kids to be good people, or do I make them happy? Often those two ideas are total opposites.
You discuss how important it is to be trustworthy to our kids—showing them that we will follow through on what we say. Why is it so important to earn our kids’ trust?
I often say, ‘We don’t lie in our family.’ And my husband and I really stick to that. They have to be able to count on me to be their first expert and source of information, to tell them when I really don’t know something, to tell them something that they don’t want to hear.
Whatever I say is what I mean, because I want them to be people who whatever they say is what they mean. It can’t be a double standard. We really do earn our kids’ trust, and they can earn ours too.
What’s one of the most common questions you’re asked by parents with young kids?
A lot of parents I talk to want to know how to stop yelling at their kids.
[Here’s Dr. G’s 1.5-minute video about how to stop yelling at your kids. Her Youtube channel is bursting at the seams with short, helpful videos like this one!]
Ready to get your hands on the book? Check it out on Amazon. Want to learn more about Dr. G? Take a look at her website. Want to get the behavior you want, but without being the parent you hate? Start reading!
Do you ever have days where you feel like you’ve become the parent you never wanted to be? (Yes, my hand is raised.)
What’s the biggest parenting struggle you’re facing right now?
Disclaimer: I received a review copy of Get the Behavior You Want…Without Being the Parent You Hate! for free, but all opinions—and power struggles with toddlers—are my own.
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image via superjhs