Eight-year-old Jimmy threw a major league, YouTube-worthy tantrum when he noticed his mother Laura stuffing towels and sunscreen into her pool bag. It was one of those glorious days, perfect for lying out at the pool: sunny but not too hot. Two of her girlfriends were joining them, along with their kids.
Jimmy had other plans. "I don't want to go to the pool! I'm not going! I want to play my Wii!" Mom reasoned and pleaded with her son, to no avail. Within seconds, he was grimacing, shrieking, and flailing his body around like a tornado. In the midst of it all, his fists of fury knocked over a valuable picture frame, cracking both the glass and the frame.
No threat or bribery seemed to persuade or calm him. Although a part of Laura wanted to wring his neck, she found herself calling her girlfriend. "I'm sorry, I can't make it; Jimmy really doesn't want to go." As soon as those words hit Jimmy's ears, the tornado dissipated and his disposition calmed. At least she got some laundry done while he happily gorged himself on video games.
There are two types of parents. Those of you who can relate to Laura fit the first type: the submissive (wimpy) parent. Jimmy's attitude, sense of entitlement, and out-of-control behavior tend to befuddle these parents. Today, many parents feel a similar desperation and powerlessness in their relationships with their children; they sheepishly allow such outlandish behavior. I hear more and more parents complain that establishing and maintaining order, peace, and loving relationships in their family has somehow escaped them. Their hope ebbs and flows as they watch the parade of experts on Dr. Phil and Supernanny, hoping to find the magic words or parenting techniques that will finally turn their family into the Brady Bunch they always dreamed it would be.
The other type of parent is the Parent in Charge. Parents in Charge read about Jimmy and Laura and confidently say to themselves, "That would never happen in my home." I am a Parent in Charge. Jimmy `o the Tantrum wouldn't last five minutes in my home. First, I would never allow him to have a tantrum at his age; second, if he did, he would quickly wish he hadn't. Parents in Charge do not tolerate nonsensical behavior because they recognize that they are the boss, they are the ones in control, and they can demand superb behavior from their children. Period.
Why I Wrote this Book
Children desperately need Parents in Charge. First and foremost, this book will convince you why Parents in Charge provide the best template for their children and the best chance of the children becoming successful in their future relationships and career. It shows how Parents in Charge will discover harmony in their marriages and a greater sanity and sense of self-respect.
The next section shows you a simple, organized, sensible, natural, and highly effective way to establish yourself as a Parent in Charge. After reading this section, you will differentiate between your children's rights and the privileges that they must earn. You will also simplify all of your rules and expectations into a far simpler structure called the Four Expectations.
The book then provides a complete but simple structure for the change your family will experience, called your Family Constitution. I show you how to write your own and give an example of a highly successful Family Constitution. You will learn how to implement this constitution, including appropriate rewards and consequences that are consistent with your child's needs and your position as the Parent in Charge.
Finally, the book tackles several difficult parenting issues, such as how to be a single Parent in Charge, whether to spank, reasonable limits for modern media (such as Internet use, cell phones, video games), and how to deal with children with unique personalities and needs.
I have worked with children and their parents for more than eighteen years in psychiatric hospitals, in therapeutic day schools, and in my own private psychology practice. I have seen countless families who, for some reason, have lost their sense of unity. Sensing their family crumbling, parents cling to whatever shred of dignity they can muster. They come to me for advice, for hope, for solutions--anything I can offer them that might help them recapture their vision of family and relationship.
How This Book Is Unique
Dozens of parenting books line the shelves at local libraries and bookstores, offering a broad range of parenting philosophies and approaches. Which is best? Which offers the most realistic, time-tested approach to parenting? The number of choices can be bewildering and depressing. Some instruct you to count to three. Some tell you to give your child choices. Some insist that diagnoses like Attention-Deficit/Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD), Oppositional Defiant disorder (ODD), Developmental Disorder, LBD (the dreaded Lazy Butt Disorder) should reduce your expectations for your child. Still others insist that children have rights that are equal to parents--that parents do not have the right to be in control of their children.
Baloney! You are the parent! You are in charge. You must be in charge. Your child needs you to be in charge, in control, the boss. This book pulls no punches. Call me a throwback, an old-fashioned conservative. Fine. I know what works. I have seen it in my own home and with countless families. Children are desperately seeking Parents in Charge.
Almost every family I encounter whose union is broken struggles with establishing and maintaining a proper hierarchy, where adult authority and expectations are primary and the children's desires come second. Time after time, exhausted and despondent parents tell me that their child does as he pleases and that nothing they do as parents has any meaningful or lasting effect. They feel stuck.
Some do not perceive their family hierarchy as broken or dysfunctional. They have bought into the idea that their number-one priority as parents is to satisfy the desires of their children in order to show their love and maintain peace and order. Others recognize the brokenness in their family hierarchy but do not quite know what to do about it. Many parents who come to me in crisis doubt whether they can ever regain some semblance of harmony in their family.
I wrote this book primarily for two kinds of parents. First, those parents who recognize their broken family structure and realize they must reestablish a proper hierarchy in their family. For them, this book will equip them to reestablish a semblance of control, regardless of what they have done or not done to lose it. Second, this book challenges those who do not yet recognize what has happened in their family or in the culture of families today. For them, this book constitutes a wake-up call. My message is clear: if you do not establish or maintain a proper familial hierarchy, you will not only reap sorry benefits in the future, but you will fail to provide one of your child's most basic needs.
Additionally, this book provides a foundation for new parents. For them, this book provides a framework for parenting, so that both parents can enter into the joys and trials of parenting with a solid philosophical underpinning and a simple, flexible game plan for how to establish and maintain a healthy hierarchy in the family. This will reap great rewards in both the short and long term for them and their children.