Written by veteran pediatrician T. Berry Brazelton and child psychiatrist, Joshua D. Sparrow, this book provides a quick run-down of basic discipline techniques and approaches. It is easy to read and gives the reader tangible solutions to discipline “hot spots” as well as a little background on the importance of discipline and how it works.
The book opens with the “touchpoints of discipline,” which are “times when a child regresses in anticipation of a developmental leap ahead.” These are the typical growth milestones: the first 6 months, 7-8 months, 9-12 months, 12-14 months, the second year, and what comes after: emotional development, self-esteem, and moral development. From a theoretical orientation stand point, this section sounds a bit Freudian, or more psychodynamic. It explores how defenses are built in early childhood. The information here seems pretty grounded and was an interesting view on child development.
The second chapter discusses approaches to discipline, such as the parent’s own memories of discipline, influence of temperament, leading by example, interpreting behaviors, and consequences, to name a few. It provides enough information for the reader to get the gist of approaches, though is not an exhaustive in-depth look at discipline approaches.
The third chapter holds all the keys: ways to discipline. Methods are presented in three categories: 1. Usually worth a try, 2. Sometimes useful, and 3. Not helpful. This is where the reader will find things like time-out, taking away toys, spanking, or ignoring behavior. Each way of disciplining is explained and then weighted with pro’s and con’s. I thought this was a great lay-out for presenting different discipline options.
Finally, the fourth chapter explains some of the typical problems of discipline. These include attention seeking, biting, defiance, lying, power struggles, running away, etc. Each issue is briefly discussed and then goes on to suggest what the parent might do to deal with the issue.
My take on the book:
If you are in need of a quick and easy introduction to discipline, this is a great book. It won’t help you develop a personal philosophy on discipline or really change deeply ingrained discipline habits if you have been using any for a while. I am new to discipline (a fairly blank slate), so I could quickly incorporate some of the ideas here and get results.
The book also offers some nice verbal examples of what to say to children. Sometimes, parents just need a script for certain instances and the authors do a good job of demonstrating dialogue around discipline.
While things for me are still fairly uncomplicated (my oldest is 2.5 right now), I am still looking for something with more substance to help me develop a stronger discipline philosophy / approach.
The most helpful technique or bit of information that I have taken from this book is the concept that children at this age (2-3 years) do not have the ability to keep impulses in check and they need our help. BUT, at this age, they also want to do things for themselves and are testing out their independence. This is scary to a child in a way because they realize how much “power” they have. To help my daughter, I have been telling her that she can do it herself (comply with my request) or I will have to help her do it (physical intervention). After two or three times of me “helping” her, she always chooses to do it herself. This applies to things like putting on shoes, getting in the car, giving a toy back to her brother, climbing down from the table, etc. While this is a little over-simplistic, it works for now.
On the whole, the book is practical and to the point. It is a great introduction to discipline and a nice fix if you don’t have a lot of time to put into really learning and understanding discipline in the big picture.