User's Manual for Parents, Part I: Starting with the Foundation Skills
By Annye Rothenberg, Ph.D.
wished for the manual that came with your kids, but you haven’t found
it yet. After more than 25 years of guiding parents with everyday
child-rearing concerns, I’ve developed some guidelines to give you
solid direction in your parenting job. It’s not the manual for the
specific model of child you’re raising, but it provides the necessary
foundation for doing the quality job you want to do.
Here are eight guidelines to use in raising kids.
about typical behavior and development for your child’s age. Ask your
child’s teacher or pediatrician, or your best friends, to recommend
information sources. Check out the bookstore’s parenting section and
the Internet. Two-year-olds, five-year-olds and eight-year-olds are all
very different from each other, and parents have to know what to expect
to do a good job. The series starting with “Your One-Year-Old” by
Louise Bates Ames and Frances L. Ilg, and continuing up to “Your
14-Year-Old,” still is one of the best sources around for learning
about typical behavior and development. (Skip the guidance sections,
- Realize that
children naturally want to do what appeals to them (and not what
doesn’t). Some of what they want to do is safe, some not; some is
socially acceptable and some not; some is inappropriate for their age.
Much of our teaching and guidance is aimed at helping our children
learn to do what’s asked of them, to do what kids their age should do,
and to develop the ability to delay their desire to do just what they
want to – now. A lot of parenting effort goes into this part of our job.
children to accept our teaching, training, and guidance, parents have
to build their relationship with each child, through taking care of
him, playing and talking with him, including him in household
activities, and loving him – including giving some unhurried time. This
strengthens parents’ connection with their children, which encourages
children’s willingness to cooperate.
attention to your child’s individuality. Spend time with her along with
other children her age – in the classroom, in organized group
activities (be the field trip parent or the soccer coach), in parks,
and on play dates. Talk to other parents about kids – yours and theirs.
Be able to describe your child as an individual with her own
distinctive characteristics. Listen to your spouse’s description. The
more we see our kids as individuals, the more we know what help they
need from us in their behavior and development.
to modify your parenting based on his individuality – for example,
whether he is active or not, or verbal or not.
of yourselves – the parents – as the representatives of society for
your children. This means that whatever behavior we accept from them is
what they’ll believe the rest of the world will accept and approve. If
you allow your kids to ignore you, get you to make them something else
for dinner, jump on the couch, and so on, you won’t have prepared them
to behave acceptably. In short, others in the community – adults and
most children – will be annoyed with them and will correct them, and
may even not want to be around them.
there are so many things we need to teach our children – especially
about how to behave – we can’t be their pals. A lot of what they have
to learn won’t immediately make them happy. We have to be their
parents, with a significant gap in authority between parents and
children. (Don’t worry. There are gentle, respectful ways to parent our
- When your kids are
in their 20s and beyond, you can have more of a friendship with them,
because you’re no longer in charge of them. But when they’re kids, your
primary goals should not be to make them
like you and make them happy every moment. Those are not wise or
reasonable goals because they would cause parents to go in the wrong
direction in child rearing decisions (although ultimately we all want
our children to be happy people).
the start of your user’s manual. Take these steps as slowly as you
need. Part II will get into the specifics to use in limit-setting.
Annye Rothenberg, Ph.D., author, has been a child/parent
psychologist and a specialist in childrearing and child development for more than 25 years. Her parenting psychology practice is
in Emerald Hills, California. She is also on the adjunct faculty in
pediatrics at Stanford University School of Medicine. Dr. Rothenberg
was the founder/director of the Child Rearing parenting program in Palo
Alto, California, and is the author of the award-winning books Mommy and Daddy are Always Supposed to Say Yes … Aren’t They?, Why Do I Have To?, I Like To Eat Treats, I Don't Want to Go to the Toilet, I Want To Make Friends and I'm Getting Ready For Kindergarten. These are all-in-one books with a story for preschoolers and a manual
for parents. Her new series is for elementary school childen and their parents. The first book is Why Can't I Be the Boss of Me? (2015). For more information about her books and to read her
articles, visit www.PerfectingParentingPress.com. To find out about her counseling practice and her speaker presentations, go to AnnyeRothenberg.com.