If you own any of the popular parenting books, get that. If you don’t, go buy one, don’t borrow it. Now, reading the book by some parenting guru, some best-selling authority (the one we had when our kids were young was “kids are worth it!” by Barbara Coloroso), do all the good positive stuff in it and ignore all the crap about discipline and structure.
That should do it.
Look for keywords: discipline, structure, consequences, responsibility, ownership, limits, find the parts with words like that – and rip those pages out. (Actually, on second thought, borrow one. Borrow as many as you can find, buy as many as you can afford, then rip all those pages out and give them back, give the ones you bought to charity . . . ) Of course, ‘punishment’ is on that list, it goes without saying. I want to add ‘boundaries’ to that list, but it’s just possible that some of these books might actually acknowledge the child’s boundaries and suggest that we respect those. If that is the case, then that would be part of the good stuff. So, to the good stuff:
Love, of course, hugs, kisses, praise and criticism, attention, stimulation, these are good things, the main things. Secondarily, food, water, shelter, medical care, security, these are also important, but not so much as the first list, the primary things. This second list is often used to support ideas like discipline, and if so, that may contravene the very first thing, love. When you’ve got to punish them in the name of safety, who’s keeping them safe from you? So, love, praise, attention, stimulation, these are the good things, these are what loving parents are supposed to bring to the situation, plus I would add communication, talk, talk, talk. These things are compatible, complimentary things, all part of the natural ‘system’ of child-rearing. Talk is the choice to make, because it’s talk or punish, communication or punishment, you can’t have them both. Anyone who tells you that you can is being less than honest.
I’m not sure I was clear there: take those pages and incinerate them! Don’t keep them!