At some point or another, every parent has to deal with the same truth. My child is not meeting expectation. It could be at home (clearing the table after dinner without a fight or needing to be reminded), at school (getting that history grade up), or in general society (respecting another person’s space). What do you do? How do you handle the situation when it arises?
In Raising Human Beings, Dr. Ross Greene examines how we as parents handle it when our children aren’t meeting expectations. Do we tell our child to “quit being lazy”? Do we make demands that they meet the expectation or suffer the consequences (or, on the flip-side, offer some reward for meeting the expectation)? Do we attempt to solve whatever problem we think is keeping our child from meeting the expectation for them, sometimes without finding out what they think is the actual issue that is keeping them from meeting the expectation?
Dr. Greene offers that your child has one job–to find out who he or she is, get comfortable with his or her identity, and to live a life congruent with that identity. I know, I’ve over-simplified it a bit. In reality, we all struggle with this at times, whether we’re still children or not. That’s a big job. Add all the other “stuff” that parenting throws at you, and it can be just as overwhelming being a parent as it can being a child still trying to find his or her way in the world. To make it easier on us as parents (and to give us all a little relief when we feel like we’re not being the parent we always dreamed we would be), Dr. Greene sums up the job of the parent as figuring out who your child is, getting comfortable with that, and helping him or her live a life congruent with his or her identity.
How we handle unmet expectations should be informed by our job as a parent. We should be helping our child figure out what his or her feelings are and reassuring that his or her perspective is important. We should be helping them figure out how their responses to what they think and feel are helping or hindering them from meeting expectations. We should be helping them to consider the points of view of others. We should be helping them to find solutions that address the concerns of both/all parties involved.
Notice I didn’t say “we should assume”, “we should command/demand”, or “we should tell them?” The approach that Dr. Greene proposes is a collaboration. It requires parent and child sitting down together and talking. It requires time. It requires effort. It requires shutting our mouths and listening to one another.
In short, it’s hard to do.
Why is that?
Dr. Greene proposes many potential reasons why it can be hard to collaborate with our children that go beyond the obvious time and energy involved. We want to protect our kids. We want to give them the benefit of the wisdom we have gained through our experiences while saving them from the suffering we endured. We think we already know the answer and we want to give it to them now. We grew up in a home where it was “my way or the highway” and don’t know any other parenting style… or maybe now it’s just our turn to be the parent and tell our kids how it’s going to be.
Raising Human Beings walks readers through the collaborative process. The process itself is a simple and familiar one. What can be difficult is putting aside the “father knows best” approach and giving your child room to find solutions, even if that means letting him or her fail at times.
Dr. Greene is aware of the prevailing thoughts regarding parenting that we have inherited from centuries of defining and refining Western civilization, and anticipates many of the “yeah, but” issues that parents are likely to raise when it comes to asking Junior why he can’t seem to get his homework turned in or collaborating with him on an acceptable curfew. For every “but I was told”, Dr. Greene is ready with one or more rebuttals and statements in support of the collaborative method.
But why would a parent want to take Dr. Greene’s approach? After all, we’ve taken our lumps and paid our dues. We’re the parents! As the title implies, the purpose of collaborative parenting is to raise better human beings. To teach our kids that while their perspectives are important, they are not the only ones to consider. To teach them empathy. To teach them to work together. To teach them to problem solve. To teach them that drawing arbitrary lines in the sand, which one is then required to enforce, leads to conflict, not compromise.
That is the value in this book. As parents are using the technique Dr. Greene describes, not only are we learning how to communicate and collaborate with our children, but how to be better spouses/partners, co-workers, and teammates. Not only does Dr. Greene teach us how to be collaborative partners in our children’s development, but how to both raise and to rise up as better human beings.
Raising Human Beings is available today at Amazon or wherever books are sold.
Disclaimer: A copy of Raising Human Beings was provided for the purpose of this review. All opinions are my own.