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Parenting Without Stress Review by Marisa Corless

By Dr. Marvin Marshall
Piper Press
PO Box 2227
Los Alamitos, CA 90720

This book is a parenting book with a focus on positive parenting to teach children to be responsible for their own actions. It is not written from a Biblical perspective, so if a parenting book full of Bible quotes is what you want, then this is not the book for you. However, if you want a book that will make you reflect on how effective you are as a parent, give you some more positive tools, and encourage positive thinking, then this might be a great book for you.

For a parenting book, this was a very meaty book, with a large portion of the book dedicated to self-evaluation and philosophy followed by the techniques. I found the structure of the content difficult to follow, because sometimes in the self-evaluation portion, the author would refer to the later teachings. It was almost like the author was trying to convince the reader that his methods were going to work--just wait and see. As a result, I needed to read the book a second time to grasp the full spectrum of information presented. Those first few chapters, for me, were the most valuable. They encouraged me to evaluate how I speak to my children and what words I am using. They encouraged me to reflect on my actions and how those actions affect my children and their actions. The book also has an extensive bibliography of worthwhile books.

Overall, I think this book presents many tools in a system to help parents remain calm and collected while helping the child reflect on his own behavior without lecturing. While the rest of this review may seem negative, I am glad I read this book. I feel it is worth reading for the purpose of adding tools to the toolbox of parenting, but I don't feel that this system alone will work for my family.

The book strongly encourages that if a child is to take ownership of the problem, he must reflect on what procedure he can implement to cause change in himself. If that procedure is not successful, then the child should impose a consequence on himself. This is accomplished by what the author calls "eliciting." To elicit the consequence, the parent asks the child questions, such as "What should we do about this?" followed by, if necessary, statements like "I am not ok with that" or "And what else?" until a mutually agreeable decision is reached. I have heard the advice to allow the child to choose a consequence many times. The thought is that the child will choose a consequence that is tougher than the parent would choose, and it will teach the child better because the child took ownership of the problem. In my experience with my children, this has never worked. I have never known them, or any other child, to choose a consequence that was more appropriate or caused more reflection and learning than one a parent might choose. Furthermore, they have come up with utterly ridiculous consequences that were of no true consequence so that ownership did not have to be taken. No matter how many times I try to elicit a response using the exact script from the book, my son will look at me with a blank look and say, "I don't know." Another technique teaches the child to view behavior in a hierarchy and presents a way of teaching that hierarchy. It then teaches the parents to use this hierarchy to have the child reflect on their behavior and begin to change it. It spends a great deal of time discussing helping the child to not feel that they are the behavior. If you speak and phrase your questions in a certain way, then the child will not get defensive because he will separate himself from the behavior. Even when I follow the instructions given in the book, my son still usually goes on the defensive. In fact, often he will not even discuss the hierarchy accurately and tries to deceive himself that his behavior was at a different level than it was. For example, once he was sassing me, so I asked him, according to the book's instructions, which level of behavior he was exhibiting. He proceeded to tell me that he was being compliant and cooperative because he knew it was the right thing to do. Attempting to correct his behavior in such an indirect method was not at all effective because my son is unwilling, at this point, to take ownership of his choices.

Although I don't believe the methods in this book are going to work 100% for my children, I found many valuable tidbits within its pages that will make me a better parent. Because of the tools it has added to my toolbox of parenting, I would definitely recommend this book.

Product review by Marisa Corless, MH, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, May 2010