Assertive Discipline for Parents by Lee and Marlene Canter
Basic beliefs: unsaved perspective; non spanking; other punitive measures okay. (I see a chart developing in my mind’s eye.) The Canters became well known for the effectiveness of their Assertive Discipline programs for schools.
The Review: This is a quick, easy read, appropriate especially for parents of school age children and teenagers. It basically outlines the three-step process of “assertive discipline,” which is the Canter’s term for “act like the authority you are.” There is also a chapter on school problems, a chapter on getting help from your spouse, and a chapter of questions and answers. The Canters highly recommend logical consequences for behavior (both positive and negative), so they have also written a few appendices with suggestions for consequences.
The first chapter describes ineffective responses to children. If you’re honest, you’ll see yourself in some of these responses, even if occasionally. One response is the statement of fact: “You’re still not doing what I want.” The Canters explain that “this response assumes your children are not aware of what they are doing and that if they were, they would stop their misbehavior. Unfortunately, most children are fully aware that they are doing something you do not want them to do, and telling them what they are doing does not communicate what you really want, which is for them to stop.” They do not appear to believe in the innate goodness of man.
The second chapter was the most helpful for me. I will admit that one of my weaknesses as a mom of more than one child is that I can be somewhat distracted when giving a command. And I’ve noticed more than once that my children, particularly my two year old, are good at exploiting my lack of awareness. Thus, Chapter 2, on Communicate Assertively, is the most helpful, from my perspective. In some ways it describes what I’ve observed with Bethel in particular, that when I give out a command without looking her in the eye, asking for a response, and watching to make sure she obeys, she tends to ignore what I say. One helpful concept discussed that I’ve not done much of, but I can see how it would help me, is to touch the child when giving a command. Just a gentle hand on the shoulder can do wonders. Funny, I used this to my advantage when teaching school, but I don’t think I’ve consciously done it with my children.
The second and third steps will be the most controversial for Christians, since they may not agree with the consequences the Canters recommend, but the basic steps are quite reasonable: Back up your words with actions, and Lay down the law. It’s somewhat amusing, but one action that the Canters seem to like is solitary confinement in one’s room. Now I have effectively had my kids go to their room to help them settle down, or reset when they’re struggling, but I’m not a big fan of sending a child to his room for extended periods of time. They have good suggestions for parenting when you are away from home that would be very helpful for a working mother.
In the Q&A chapter, the Canters are emphatic that there is no relationship between child behavior and working mothers. I feel so strongly about mothers staying home with their children, that I must state clearly that I disagree with their assessment. While working is not an excuse for poor parenting when you are home, you cannot parent when you are apart from your child. Granted, the book is really targeted toward school age children (and not infants and preschool children who need more teaching and attention), but I still believe their conclusions are wrong.
I purchased this book because my husband wanted a book for unsaved parents who have figured out that they blew it by allowing their children to run the household as toddlers and preschoolers, and are reaping the consequences of their permissiveness. This book seems quite appropriate for this audience, although I suspect many Christian parents will consider the book fairly basic review. Still, sometimes we fundamentalists spend our time defending spanking so much that we fail to consider other effective methods of dealing with misbehavior. This book can put some more tools in those parents’ toolboxes. I think it’s a useful book for Christians.