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I first discovered this book by Dr. Stephen Glenn and Dr. Jane Nelsen just before my son was born in 1988, when my daughter was three. I was very impressed with their ideas and have consistently used them ever since, with excellent results.

Glenn & Nelsen state that self-reliance and self-responsibility will never stop being crucial, in any society, at any time in history. But, unfortunately for parents today, we receive very little help from the society at large (especially the public schools) in teaching these values to our children. This means that modern parenting is far more complicated than simply enjoying and loving our children. There are essential attitudes and skills they need to know in order to grow into decent, self-reliant adults which no one is likely to teach them if we don't. But in order to do this, we first need to know what these attitudes and skills are and what techniques work for teaching them, and then apply those techniques regularly by spending frequent one-on-one time with our children.

I believe that though many parents will find the ideas in this book inspiring, a big barrier stands in the way of them actually following its advice--they are already strongly established in the convenient, no-thinking-required, typical tradition of parenting in the U.S.: (1) eating dinner together as a family group as many nights a week as possible; (2) nagging the kids daily to clean their rooms, do their homework and chores; (3) going on family outings, such as a fast food place or a movie, several times a month; (4) telling the kids if they complain about bullying from siblings or schoolmates to "stop tattling and work it out yourselves;" (5) ignoring each other the rest of the time as much as possible.

When parents are used to an uncomplicated pattern like this, implementing Glenn & Nelsen's time-consuming and thought-involving ideas will require a huge lifestyle change, which may be very uncomfortable. Here are some examples of these ideas, which I have found extremely helpful, but are anything but simple or easy to apply: (1) Stay calm. When you get upset at the kids, Glenn & Nelsen suggest getting out your anger and frustration by yelling, privately, at the mirror in the bathroom, and after the worst is over and you are not so upset, only then go talk with your child and discuss what went wrong and what can be done differently next time. (2) Treating children with dignity and respect. Philosophically, many people these days believe it's a good idea to treat all human beings with dignity and respect, but in practice, even people to whom these beliefs are sacred frequently instinctively speak disrespectfully to family members, especially their children. When people hold no such belief, then the odds are it is only an accident of a fleeting good mood that will cause them to speak with respect to their children. (3) Planning ahead. Glenn & Nelsen suggest discussing important situations in the child's life ahead of time and coming up with an agreement that spells out meaningful consequences if the child does not live up to the agreement.

Glenn & Nelsen openly admit in this book that positive, assertive (vs. oppressive or permissive) parenting is top-heavy on the work involved when you are first starting it, because it is never easy to learn new habits. However, without this effort, early on and consistently, our children all too often drift away from us over the years, some to the point of becoming almost totally emotionally disconnected during the dangerous teen years. At that point, to start the work of positive, assertive parenting can be a nightmare of endless, painfully frustrating work, with no guaranteed outcome, no matter how hard we try. For this reason, I recommend this book most strongly to people who are expecting their first child, or to parents with small children. These ideas will still work for parents of teenagers, but it is far better to head off future bad outcomes by preventing them.

Update 8/06: I first posted this review 11/01, and my kids are now grown, my son 18 and my daughter 21. I am delighted at how they have turned out, and I am convinced that the valuable parenting skills I learned from this book, and used consistently through their whole childhood, contributed massively to them becoming productive, emotionally healthy, financially independent adults. I see both of them frequently, and we have become very close friends, in large part, in my opinion, due to the mutual respect and emotional intimacy that the parenting skills this book teaches have promoted between us. In my experience, every investment you make following the wisdom of Drs. Glenn and Nelsen pays off a thousandfold in your children's lives--and in the richly rewarding relationship you are able to enjoy with them as adults.
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on May 3, 2001
The goal of all parents is ultimately to prepare their offspring to eventually step out into the world as independent and responsible adults themselves. As we all know, reaching that goal is a painful yet exhilarating process. Learning how and when to cut the apron strings is a lesson all parents must learn. This excellent parenting help book is a must read for all brave souls daring to raise children into adulthood.
Glenn and Nelson's book is an easy to read, jargon-free, practical, life affirming, and strengthening guide on how to raise children in a world that is drastically shifting from Production based to Consumer driven. It is becoming far too easy to raise children to be passive souls who fail to gain spiritual and ethical maturity who can make eductated decisions and accept the consequences of their actions.
Glenn (a hyperactive child and adult himself!) lays out simple strategies and philosophies that do meld tough love with a tender and loving heart. Of all the parenting books we (my wife and I) have read, this has proven the most important and helpful to date as we have constantly returned to re-read many passages to gain reflective insight and know we are not alone in our convictions. A definate 5 out of 5 in a market flooded with too many pale and weak products.
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on July 1, 1998
I can't say enough about this book. I've been recommending it to every parent and parent-to-be I meet. We began using several techniques right away with amazing results. The book was recommended to us by our daughter's Montessori teacher. I now know why Montessori children are capable cooperative young people. Don't miss this opportunity to develope a wonderful and respectful relationship with your child. I only wish we read it many years earlier.
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on April 16, 2006
The first 25 pages or so make the case that today's families are more dispersed and isolated than they were pre-WWII, that our nation's growing affluence has led to self-indulgence, and that technological advances have dramatically increased isolation within nuclear families.

The result of this shift is "American children at the onset of puberty (who) face and incredible smorgasbord of opportunities with a deficiency in capabilities. Self-confidence, self-validation, self-discipline, good judgment, and a sense of responsibility are all lacking..."

The authors state that there are "four critical factors that demand our attention" networks, meaningful roles, on-the-job training for life, and parenting resources. Parenting resources is scarcely addressed at all, and networking is given just a couple of pages.

The bulk of the book is about how to provide meaningful roles and on-the-job training for life by providing an apprenticeship in thinking and problem solving. The authors discuss how to understand and strenthen a child's perceptions/thought processes, how to communicate effectively with your children, and how to strengthen various life skills in a meaningful, real-life way.

For me, this book is a real paradigm shift. I've read many books focused on a single aspect of this book - books about affluenza, family meetings, social skills, natural consequences, anxiety, parenting, even books about RDI (Relationship Development Intervention for Autistic Children, which is VERY MUCH in sync with this book), and so on. This book ties all of those facets together and shows how they are related and why they are important to equipping kids to deal productively and effectively with life in the real world.

As I read, I realized that I often step in for my children in the name of expedience - pouring juice for them because I don't want them to spill it, choosing clothes for my daughter because what she chooses doesn't always match, regluing the notes on music flashcards I was making because my 3 year old slapped them on in a very crooked fashion. Now I am considering the unspoken messages of "you're incompetent" that my words and actions unwittingly send my kids. I am consciously trying to take advantage of real, meaningful situations that come up to help my kids perceive themselves as capable.

And that is just one small gem in this book.

The most helpful part of the book is the examples of families putting the author's ideas into practice in specific situations. I personally am having difficulty putting some of the theory into practice - I would have loved examples of how parents can coach elementary aged kids through a massive screaming fight, for example.

All in all, one of my favorite books about raising children.
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on August 4, 1998
This is an absolutely wonderful book! Don't waste your time if you are stuck on the issue of strictness or leniency in discipline. This book teaches us as parents how to teach accountability and responsibility. It helps you to recognize what discipline gives the child. More than anything it allows you to make your child feel self-worth...after all if something is worth something, you take care of it. Many children today don't have a good feeling about self-worth!
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on May 3, 2006
I have had the pleasure of meeting Stephen Glenn at a number of seminars and look forward to taking the Developing Capable People workshop so that I may lead parenting classes for our school district (check the research on test score improvement in school districts providing families with these skills). My only "complaint" is that I did not have access to this material while raising my own children. I DO raise 32 a year and have used the seven steps for developing capable people as the basis of my philosophy for teaching. Over the last 19 years there have been but a handful who did not respond to methods suggested in this book - two were diagnosed as having severe psychological disorders. It is NOT a cookie cutter solution to raising children, nor is there any inference that parents don't DO for their children. It is about HOW we do for them - it is a guide to help you hear yourself and THINK about how and what you communicate to your children. I don't subscribe to any philosophy that is extreme in either direction, and I never felt that message related in this book. What is HAS done is remind me that my job is to help a child see himself/herself as capable - to develop intrinsic motivation. It is a HUGE job today when so many young people see themselves as lacking in academic skills. While their parents undoubtedly love them, they are often ill equipped to effect change. This book provides such a well written, easily understood narrative that one cannot help but come away with a better sense of "how to" and a set of skills that will be useful, even if only a few steps are implemented. It is a book I give to every new parent as a gift, one that I will continue to purchase with my own money for ANY parent who struggles and is concerned about his/her child's well being.

If I were emperess of the world, it would be required reading before taking a new baby home from the hospital (and certainly one for young single mothers choosing to raise their babies). I'm willing to step out and even suggest it be made mandatory for all educators too! Don't miss this book! I am about to purchase my 50th plus copy.
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on April 25, 2007
I was given this book by my mother when my daughter was 2 and my son was 10. We were beginning to have problems with my son and my daughter was just a challenge, period. I fell in love with the book from the first page. They said they would solve my problems, and they did.

As the authors say, its more work the older your kids are, and its true. My son dragged his feet but eventually became the model child. My daughter became the angel I always knew she was. I kept a cheat sheet with me at all times with the questions to ask and the steps to take for the first few months. It was difficult to remember all the key words and phrases off the top of your head. After that it was a natural thing to do.

My kids are now, 22 and 15. My son is a wonderful, mature, loving, well rounded man. Your basic, responsible adult who thinks before he acts and behaves more "grown up" than many grown ups I know. My daughter is more mature than me! She is growing up in a tough world, as are all our kids, and she is handling it with grace and poise. I had some friends ask me recently what I use for discipline with her as they were looking for knew ideas. I thought for a moment and realized that I dont have to discipline her at all! She is the model teenager. She communicates with us, does her homework without complaint, cleans her room when asked, does chores and is willing to discuss anything with us. I told the other moms that it was due to Self Reliance. I believe that with all my heart.

I think my kids started out as good kids, as most do, I had good clay to mold. But, I knew nothing of raising kids, not good parenting role models to fall back on. I had used P.E.T. prior to this and found it to be effective. However, Self Reliance became the backbone of my parenting and we raised some fine people that will make a difference in the world.

I have also used these techniques with the adults in my life. I used it in my marriage (he caught on after a while), I use it in my business and personal life with great results. They translate to all things and have had them used on me also to good affect too. You know you are being "Relianced", but, it helps you come around to what you need to see to.
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on November 4, 1999
Throw out all of your other parenting books. This is the one to read, and re-read. It has been invaluable for me personally, and I have bought several copies to pass along to my friends.
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on May 23, 1999
Every kid, and, for that matter, every one, needs the 7 significant factors outlined in this book. If you are serious about helping to prevent more school violence tragedies, read and then USE this book. It's on the recommended reading page on my website.
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on August 25, 2015
all parents---it's a MUST read !!!! We have a bunch of kids being raised now that have a lack of gratitude for all they have, Even my kids, who are pretty wonderful, do not know how good they actually have it. Help your kids but being firm and kind. Give them really strong consequences for their inappropriate behavior....and stick to it!!!! Take away those phones, I pads, and anything they escape into. YOU are the parent--not them. If it's kinda rough now, it's only going to get worse...nip it in the bud!
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