Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Book Review: Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours, by Kevin Leman

Although the last book I read by the same author ("Have a New Kid by Friday") did not receive rave reviews from me, "Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours" (MCMWLY) was actually quite a helpful book. Perhaps my attitude was different going into it: we had just spent three days having my in-laws visit, and our little darling children were anything but darlings!! It was a very humbling, stressful weekend, with outbursts, tantrums, and sassiness left and right! So when I cracked open MCMWLY, I was REALLY ready for help!!
"Reality Discipline" is the name of the technique or system of discipline: you want your children to learn to think for themselves and learn to become more responsible through guidance and action-oriented techniques. Five components of reality discipline:
"1) Parents never seek to punish; they always seek to discipline, train, and teach.
2) If 'punishment,' pain, or some kind of consequence is involved, the parent is not doing it or causing it - reality is.
3) Reality discipline is the best system I know to avoid inconsistent meandering between authoritarianism and permissiveness.
4) Reality discipline is the best system for teaching accountability and responsibility in a way that will stick.
5) Above all, reality discipline is your best bet for avoiding Super Parent Syndrome."
As Leman went on to name four pitfalls of "Super Parent Syndrome," I realized he had me pegged:
"1) I own my children.
2) I am judge and jury.
3) My children can't fail.
4) I am boss - what I say goes."
Wait, you mean that isn't right? I know, I know, our children are "on loan" from God, I get that. But I don't want my children to fail!! And I'm parenting Biblically when I tell my children I'm in charge, right? Well, not see, in all of my good-intentioned, controlling ways, I have been teaching my children to be 100% dependent on me. I have not taught them to think for themselves. I have, instead, made all their decisions for them, granted them little freedom (in the name of order, control and safety), and made myself crazy trying to run and control every aspect of our household!
Leman cited an example of a "Super Parent" named Michelle, "a perfectionist thirty-four year old mother who had three daughters...their color-coordinated outfits could be seen from more than a block away. Michelle even ironed the bacon for breakfast to be sure it was flat and 'neat-looking'...she was a thoroughly exhausted woman - physically and emotionally...the idiocy went on day in and day out and finally Michelle started to crack. Her family was a circus and she was trying to be ringmaster." This could be me!!! "While Michelle believed that she was giving her family love...she was not achieving her goals at all. By making so many decisions for her children and by constantly 'doing for them,' she actually hampered their development into responsible persons who could make their own decisions and learn accountability to others and ultimately to God." Wow - I don't want to be like that!
This book really helped me to stop and think. I saw myself, and my parenting style, in a new light - one that didn't look very helpful. I have already made several changes in how I speak to my children and have been quite pleased with the results. Although I won't be able to change overnight, I am thankful for some new ideas to implement as I seek to train my children, guide them, and then set them free.


  1. I like the concept, but I wonder about the reality of reality discipline. What do you do if "reality" doesn't deliver the discipline? Some consequences don't appear until the damage is severe... Like a child touching a hot stove or riding his scooter into the street. Is this addressed in the book?

  2. sounds like a good book. thanks for sharing the main points.

  3. Grace Whisperer - Great point! The book definitely covers this. I am careful starting this with younger children. NCH, being 7 1/2, seems at a much more sensible age to grasp the idea. I don't think it would be appropriate for children under age 3. The book does mention other types of discipline that may be necessary from time to time, depending on the age of the child, the issue at hand, etc. The biggest thing I got out of MCMWLY was the importance of staying calm (and how to do it) when dealing with my children, and seeing what can easily turn into such frustrating moments (repeating over and over to a 7-year-old to clean his room or to stop rocking in his chair at dinner, etc.) Nagging him teaches him to tune me out (scary!!) Yes, I still have a lot to learn. :)

  4. Ah ha! Prime example just happened: KBH (age 3 1/2) was putting her feet on almost-2-year-old NJH. I asked her to take her feet off her brother, telling her what she was doing was not kind, that she would not like someone else to put their feet on her. I turned around to finish what I was doing. KBH then shrieked and started to cry: NJH had nipped her toe!


I'd love to hear what you have to say about this...