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As you may remember, Elizabeth Pantley of the No-Cry Sleep Solution sent me some more of her books for me to check out. Since I love books, this made me pee my pants with excitement just a little bit. (Although that’s also a side effect of having given birth. Still working on those Kegels.)

So I started with The No-Cry Discipline Solution.

I really enjoyed this book, and I actually found it more useful than Harvey Karp’s The Happiest Toddler On The Block.

In many ways, they touched on the same basic points:

  • Avoid struggles by knowing your kid and not trying to push things when he is tired, hungry, etc.
  • Turn struggles into games
  • Help your tot feel powerful by giving him the illusion of choice
  • Remember that children can’t regulate emotions well
  • Acknowledge their feelings
  • Show them how to manage negative feelings

and so on.

These are also the parenting techniques showcased in The Parent/Baby Game, which is a great book explaining how to apply attachment parenting in the baby years while combining it with effective and gentle discipline.

So a lot of this stuff I already knew. But she explains it really well.

She also touches a subject which I also hear a lot in Daycare Daze:

We are not raising children. We are raising adults. 

I believe that looking ahead to the time when your child will be a young adult will provide you with tremendous guidance and insight as you raise your young child today.

I can just hear Not Mary P saying “YES!!”

I was happy to learn that while the book may be called “No-Cry”, Elizabeth Pantley’s take on discipline is quite age appropriate.

Raising children requires that you act like a grown-up – that you must tell them no when they  want to hear yes or tell them stop when they want to hear go. […] I have yet to meet a child capable of understanding adult decisions and responding to being told no or stop with a cheerful “Good for you, Mommy! Excellent parenting decision.” […]

Know that your child’s unhappiness about your decisions and his tears or anger when he is disciplined are normal and natural and not truly directed at you.

So No-Cry is a bit of a misnomer, and thank heavens for that! After all, as I have pointed out before, a certain amount of negative emotions are important for brain development in the toddler years.

What Elizabeth Pantley focuses on is preventing unnecessary tears by setting ourselves up for success – why say “leave the playground right now, because I say so” when you could say “time to go home – let’s race!”? She also focuses on constructive responses to tears, so that the child’s tears are those of normal frustration rather than the tears of a child who has been spanked for something he didn’t even know was wrong.

I also appreciated the tone of the book. 

I found The Happiest Toddler to be slightly condescending. Or perhaps condescending isn’t quite the right word. I didn’t get the feeling that Dr Karp was looking down on me so much as talking down to me. He tries to make things REALLY simple, and that means a lot of over-simplification and repetition (by half way through the book I was getting really tired of “The Fast Food Rule” which to me was a simple enough concept – acknowledging the child’s feelings. Hell, I use that on PEOPLE on a day-to-day basis).

I don’t really do simple.

No-Cry Discipline talks to me like one adult from another,  and uses big words appropriate to my age level. Even better, I ultimately agree with her take on certain issues more than with Dr Karp.

While Dr Karp also focuses on preventing problems through fun approaches, setting yourself up for success, and so on, there were a few things that I didn’t wholly agree with.

One was his suggestion that you purposely “give in” on little battles to make the kid feel powerful – for example, asking for something the child is holding just so you can pout when the child says no. While I agree on letting the kid winning battles, and while it seems harmless enough if you make it clear that you are joking around, I still feel like that’s a dangerous game to play.

Instead, I offer Owl choices whenever possible, and I treat questions like genuine questions. If I say “can I have that?” he is allowed to say yes or no, but if I say “give it to Mommy,” it’s not a choice. But I don’t pount and beg and make a fuss while he delights in denying me, as Dr Karp recommends.

Another thing I disagreed with was his recommendation that I apologize at the end of a time out. PH also really reacted negatively to that suggestion. “I’m not APOLOGIZING to my child for parenting him,” he says, and I agree. It all comes down to Pantley’s point that we are being adults when parenting our kids, and we have nothing to apologize for.

So I generally agree with No-Cry Discipline more than Happiest Toddler.

The No-Cry Discipline Solution also breaks things up brilliantly. 

When I write my great dog training manifesto and become the next famous dog trainer, I will have to use this book’s layout as a model. Especially because I was amused at how many of her tips also pertain to dogs.

First, she has a chapter that covers the basics – busting discipline myths, explaining the importance of forming a strong and positive bond, and the importance of trying to see things from the child’s perspective. Then she lays out some key strategies that apply to almost all aspects of discipline, like stopping negative behavior, and teaching positive behavior as an alternative.

Then she goes into greater depth with basic discipline strategies. She discusses common roots to behaviour problems (like hunger, tiredness and so on), and how to deal with those, thus solving the the myriad problems that arise from them. Next she talks about some common ways to react to and prevent behaviour problems, providing a sort of smorgasbord of potential solutions from which you can pick and choose the ones that fit right with you.

Then she talks for a while about how to manage your own emotional reactions to your children’s behavior, so you can react in a more constructive manner.

She ends the book with an alphabetical list of common behavior problems and provides background on what causes them, how to deal with them, and how NOT to deal with them.

It’s a perfect layout.

My only complaint is that Owl’s primary behavior issue isn’t specifically mentioned in there, possibly because it isn’t a real problem unless we let it become one:

Owl hits.

Not because he’s angry (that’s covered), but simply because he gets really excited and starts treating everything and everyone like a set of drums. When we stop him (which we always do) and seriously tell him “don’t hit”, he just giggles. It doesn’t matter how loud and angry PH gets, or how quickly I take him off of the breast. He thinks our reactions, whatever they might be, are hilarious, and hits again to elicit the same reaction.

Mind you, Amazing Minds warns me about this, saying that toddlers are fascinated by any kind of reaction from their parents and that they will often provoke negative responses out of a kind of scientific spirit of exploration. That’s fine, but I don’t want a kid who hits, either.

Not Mary P has furnished me with some tips, which sometimes help. We have the most success with either pinning his arms to his side (similar to Kloppenmom’s “boring cuddles” but with the opposite effect) until the enforced inactivity starts to grind on his little extroverted soul and he starts to fuss. Then, if we redirect him, it generally ends.

Elizabeth Pantley recommends all those methods, but she doesn’t specifically address what to do if your child is having a positive emotional reaction when you WANT a negative one!

I suppose I could bigger problems, as a parent. 

*As a side note, I just want to point out that one of the children’s names in the list of Test Children is named ASPHYXIA.

This opens up a whole new avenue of children’s names for me. I’m thinking Neoplasia has a nice ring to it, or Dyspepsia. Or maybe our next son could be Vertigo or Pertussis.*