What a FABULOUS title! This week, we’re talking about a great new book on the MomTastic Bookshelf, and…the author is coming to the D.C. area, so local moms, you’ve got a chance to hear this expert in person, and at a MomTini discount. Have I got your interest?

The title, Honey I Wrecked the Kids, is so honest, funny, and catching, and after speaking with the Author, Parenting Expert, TV Host, and of course, Mom Since 1994 (MS’94), I could see so much of her bubbling personality at work. We had a great conversation about the book, about parenting, and about creative ways we can all respond to the many “dances” our kids do to get our attention.

Schafer said this book is a response to the desperate questions she was constantly receiving from parents. She realized, “Nothing is broken, but we’ve gotten ourselves into patterns that are not helpful. Here’s a fresh way to look at your child & understand these dances we’re all in.”

Her book is a parent’s guide to understanding why kids misbehave and how we can turn things around.

So, how did we get here in the first place? According to Schafer, “Most of the techniques we use come from the parenting style we’ve inherited over the years, basically an ‘external control’ method of trying to manipulate children into behaving by using some kind of punishment or reward to make them mind you.” The problem with this strategy, she said, is that it “doesn’t work on the new generation of kids who are what I’d call the ‘Rosa Parks’ of their generation. They aren’t going to take it; they won’t be manipulated.”

So, what can we do? Schafer acknowledged, “We’re challenged as parents. These kids are going to teach us to be better disciplinarians and to be more respectful, egalitarian parents. We’re going to be the pioneers of new ways of parenting.”

Sounds great to me! Where do I start?

In simple terms, Schafer explains in the book what she calls “The 4 Crucial C’s.” Basically, these are the styles of misbehavior or the “dances” we do with our kids. We’ve all seen it, and we’ve all danced. They move one way; we move another. They negotiate; we engage. We know better, but in trying to “fix” things, we find ourselves trapped.

And, while we see misbehavior as wrong, Schafer says that for a child, it’s not a problem; rather, it’s a solution. “They don’t see it as good or bad, just effective or ineffective,” she said. In other words, they’ll get our attention one way or another!

I’ll simplify based on my chat with Schafer to give you the broad strokes. Here’s my edited version of Schafer’s explanation of “The 4 Crucial C’s”:

1 – Connect – A child needs to feel connected, like they belong. If they feel this, they won’t misbehave; otherwise, they seek attention & do the attention dance. Parent solution: “Help your child connect through lots of communication/conversations – engage your child,” explained Schafer.

2 – Capable – Kids needs to feel they have some control over their lives. If not, it leads to power struggles. Bottom line, according to Schafer: “We want kids to be empowered; that’s where self-esteem comes from. If we’re slow at handing power over, they will take it from us. The solution: empower them in appropriate ways; give them choices, responsibilities.”

3 – Count – Kids need to feel like they count, like they can make a difference. If not, they feel discounted and may seek revenge (a tit for a tat). The solution, said Schafer: “We need to heal the hurt, learn to be a good listener. You might not have intended to hurt them, but that’s their reality.”

4 – Courage – Kids need to believe they can handle what comes their way; if so, they feel equal, confident, hopeful and will face challenges and develop resiliency. If not, they use avoidance or give up. If you don’t feel courageous, you’ll find ways to avoid the task. The solution: learn to be encouraging parents. “We often confuse praise with encouragement, which is really an external reward. So it’s still a manipulation tactic. You need to learn the true art of becoming an encouraging parent,” said Schafer.

Schafer added that she firmly believes in an egalitarian relationship between parent and child. “If you want a truly cooperative child, not an obedient child, that child needs to perceive they’re in an egalitarian relationship. Democratic parenting really is very different,” she said.

Her book and approach is full of humor, since she believes humor is the most therapeutic tool for busy parents.

parenting styles

Alyson Schafer is a psychotherapist and one of Canada’s leading parenting experts. She is the best selling author of “Breaking the Good Mom Myth” and her recent release “Honey, I Wrecked The Kids”.

Alyson is the TV host of Canada’s The Parenting Show, and has appeared on the Montel Williams Show, CityTV’s Breakfast Television, and CTV News. She has been quoted in Cosmopolitan, Readers’ Digest, Canadian Living, Today’s Parents, and Canadian Families.