Bonnie Harris, author of When Your Kids Push Your Buttons and What You Can Do About It, had a new book come out in September. Confident Parents Remarkable Kids is subtitled 8 Principles for Raising Kids You’ll Love to Live With. Having read both of her books, I feel a major benefit when reading a Bonnie Harris book is the encouragement to stop and assess some of your parenting actions: Are you parenting the way that you want or in the moment at a point of frustration?
Confident Parents Remarkable Kids is laid out with each of the first eight chapters focused on one of the eight principles. The first principle, for example, is My Child Wants to Be Successful. Real life examples from Harris’s classes are included in each chapter along with detailed explanations of the particular principle. Each chapter has a summary of the main ideas and some practice exercises. In the second part of the book she applies the principles to daily life and touches on common issues that parents have with their children such as the morning rush, sibling rivalry, or bedtime. I appreciated some of very specific examples, including an example of how to deal with e-mail bullying.
Bonnie Harris graciously agreed to answer a few questions over e-mail and her answers give insight into her new book, her passion for working with parents, and her thoughtfulness.
What are the important differences between your new book and When Your Kids Push Your Buttons?
Bonnie Harris: Buttons raises the awareness of the assumptions we make when our children behave in ways we don't like. Those assumptions often spin out of control and lead us to react in ineffective or damaging ways. Buttons presents ways to look at those assumptions and reframe them to ones that present a different and much more helpful perspective. The eight principles in Confident Parents, Remarkable Kids are those new assumptions or perceptions. Each of the principles offers a view of our children that leads us to compassion, encouragement, appropriate expectations, clarity of limits, responsibility, and good boundaries.
What kind of parent do you hope will pick up your book?
BH: I want parents who are frustrated with the old ways and don't want to bring their children up that way, who get frustrated and feel guilty about the reactions they find themselves in, who feel they have tried everything and nothing works, who are open to change because the old just hasn't worked, who are not afraid to swim against the tide, who are doing fine but just want to know all there is about the most important job there is. Mainly any parent who is looking and searching for better ways. Although the stories in the new book are of children toddler to twelve, the principles hold true for any aged child.
Why or how did you start writing these parenting books?
BH: I had been teaching parent education for a number of years. My classes, which I still teach with many of the same techniques found in the new book, brought out some problems in parenting that posed an interesting question to me. Why weren't many parents able to put these methods into practice? It finally dawned on me that they were getting their buttons pushed and in that space couldn't respond positively. I began teaching a class called Defusing Your Buttons to get to the bottom of what goes on with parents when that happens and how to help them. Through many classes and learning from many parents, I developed the buttons approach and the book just had to be written. I had no idea at that time that it would get published. After that book, I wanted very much to get all the principles down so that the combination of the two books (no specific order - depends on the parent) could answer most parenting dilemmas. It is my mission to help parents see that by rejecting the old reward and punishment system and taking on a real relationship with their children, treating them with the respect they want themselves, and parenting who each child is rather than who they want them to be, we can raise stronger human beings who will help heal the planet. To me, parenting is at the core of all non-biological issues of dysfunction in our society.
Is there a story/example in the book that you can particularly recommend for someone skeptical about using logic rather than punishment?
BH: The first story in the book about Kathleen and Jared is one of my favorites. Jared was really dragging his mother down - a very lovely, caring, soft-spoken mother who I just loved working with. Jared is one of those boys that frustrates so many high functioning parents like Kathleen. When a child like Jared pushes a parent to her max over and over, it wears one down and there is little reserve left to be at all effective. When Kathleen got the logic behind what we were working on, she was both willing and able to give it a try. It's very frustrating when parents listen and learn new approaches, but either don't put them into practice or try one or two things which fail and then give it all up. It takes perseverance because we have to be consistent until our children trust us. Often it takes a lot of trial and error. But the logic really paid off here for Jared. He responds so well when his parents see him in that different light - seeing that he is not being a problem, but that he is having a problem. As soon as that compassion enters the picture, relaxation can set in. Jared is still a highly frustrating child, but since his parents have been dealing with him from this new perspective, he is far more manageable and they have many more enjoyable times with him. Those moments build up and he ends up with a much more positive view of himself.
To learn more about Bonnie Harris, her books, or to subscribe to her free newsletter visit www.connectiveparenting.com.