Basic Parenting 101

The Manual Your Child Should Have Been Born With

by Philip Copitch, Ph.D.

Table of Contents


Parenting 101 The Manual Your Child Should Have Been Born With



1. How Children Learn

I'm Petrified of ...

Amy and the Chow Chow

How did Amy learn to be fearful of dogs?



Billy the Bomber



Timing is Very Important



Bribery Does Not Work

The Power of a Token Economy

2. How to Build Your Child's Self Esteem

What do you really want for your child?

What is the single biggest "gift" we can give our children?

How is self esteem built?

Three basic levels of self esteem

Self esteem is not cast in stone

Words count

Self esteem and behavior compliment each other

The parental role of nurturing

Giving the gift of high self esteem

Showing one's love

The role of time

Building trust

Teaching Honesty

A healthy focus on your child as a member of your family

Advocating verses judging your child

The power of praise

Teaching respect

Your child's temperament

Caretaker Versus Caregiver

3. Time Out is Not Punishment

It is a stop gap measure

Punishment versus discipline

The goal of Time Out

Defining "time"

Routine counts in Time Out procedure

How to start a Time Out

Doing a Time Out

Ending a Time Out

Advocating for good choices

How children test the Time Out process

Oops! What to do if you make a mistake

Who's responsible?

But we are not always at home!

"I want to talk code"




4. Family Rules- The Difference Between a House and a Home

The Art of Discipline

Must, Maybe and Minor Rules

Where are we today: Homework assignment #1

A typical 3M list

Maybe Rules cause constant conflict

Only Parents Can Break a Must Rule

Must Rules build a family

Positive consequences of being a member of your family: Homework Assignment #2

Must Rules should be written down

Who Writes The Must Rules?

How Do You Write A Must Rule?

What Really Counts For You: Homework Assignment #3

Children Learn By Consequences

Putting it all together

Minor Rules build caring adults

5. Controlling Chaos: Basic Parenting 101 In Action:

Anger, young child



Sibling rivalry



Teaching responsibility

Uncooperative behavior in school (8 year old)

Uncooperative Behavior: School Mornings, (Teenager)

Uncooperative behavior in school (Teenager)

What do I need to know about street drugs?


In Closing


Excerpt from Chapter 2:


How to Build Your Child's Self Esteem


What do you really want for your child?

We start off with a question fundamentally impossible to answer with one answer. At one moment the answer is, "I want my Sally to be happy." Five minutes later... "I want Sally to have a college education." Minutes later, "I want Sally to..." We have hopes and aspirations for our children. We wish them to be well educated, physically healthy, emotionally stable, and to care about us in our old age. The list is almost endless.

I asked parents over the course of a week, "What do you want for your child?" Their answers follow:

-to be happy

-to be safe

-to be smart

-to go to college

-to grow up and have a great life

-to be whatever he wants to be

-to have a better life than my parents could give to me

-to do well in school

-to be self confident

-to be thoughtful and kind

-to give to people less fortunate than herself

-to know and love God

-not to get into major trouble

-to have integrity

-to be honest


When I look down this list I have to agree. I would think that most parents have a list that is a mile long of what they want for their children. But, let's look at this from the view point of our children. What pressure! What overwhelming, engulfing pressure. Our children are constantly being compared to our goals for them, our expectations.

Now, don't get me wrong. Without parental expectations most children and teens would have difficulty finding food. We need to have hopes and dreams for our children. But, we cannot deny that the goals and aspirations are dropped on our children's shoulders without warning. The weight of our hopes can be overwhelming to many young people.

What goal would you deny your child? We are in agreement that the list of our hopes is overwhelming, so what would you cross off your list? Would you put a line through, - to do well in school or -to have integrity? I wouldn't think so. We all want the very best for our children.


What is the single biggest "gift" we can give our children?

Hold on. Take a minute to think about this question. If you could give one and only one gift to your child, what would it be? Would you give your child financial riches? Would you give her beauty? Would you give him intelligence? If you could give only one thing that would give your child a leg up in life, what would it be?

I frequently read in the newspaper about the movie star who finds fame and fortune, only to end up in a drug treatment hospital. Or, the business money mogul who has three ex-wives and a few estranged children. We have heard of generals indicted for being stupid, presidents shamed into retirement, or the religious leaders who lead two different life-styles.

So, what is the best thing we can give our children? What "gift" can help a child in good and bad times? What one "gift" will help our children to avoid the horrors of drugs, stay level headed when good times roll in and keep perspective during life's pitfalls?

I propose that the best gift a parent can give a child is the home environment that allows their child to build a high self esteem. Research has shown us that children who possess a healthy self esteem deal with life in the safest ways.

If we as parents help our children to build a strong self esteem we give them the best internal tool to deal with their world. With the internal awareness of their own self worth, our children interact with the world with inner contentment and self assuredness. The side effect of our children having high self esteem is that they view the world through this high self esteem. As I will discuss later, high self esteem is an emotional force field protecting our children in the chaos we call life.


Excerpt from Chapter 3:


Punishment versus discipline

Punishment is the presentation of an aversive stimulus, following an undesired response, that decreases the likelihood of that undesired response. Discipline is learned choices, self control. With punishment we force our demands on our child, but when we teach our children to be disciplined we teach them how to make choices and let them build character.

Over the years I have seen many children in my practice who understood right from wrong, but chose wrong to prove to themselves that they could. These children tended to be from families that used punishment as their main parenting tool. As these children developed into adolescence, disobeying parental authority was their measure of their own budding adulthood.

Ruby is a good example of how punishment can backfire. Ruby was 16 years old when I first met her. She had run away from her family but had no specific reason for doing so. Ruby told me, "They don't understand me. My dad just tells me what to think. He is so mean." Mr. and Mrs. Stein were at a loss. "Ruby was a good girl. She never gave us any trouble," Mrs. Stein said. "Then she started to argue about everything. It was as if she wanted us to punish her. She went out of her way to cause problems."

As Ruby got older she had a need to voice her opinions. When this happened, her parents tried to talk calmly and logically about the case at hand. For Ruby this was belittling. She was a cauldron of feelings. She wanted to change her parents' thoughts. She didn't want to discuss, she wanted to be right. When things got out of hand, Ruby would be sent to her room. "It used to make me so mad! They would just dismiss me like I was a servant. I would go to my room fuming. I would think of all sorts of hideous things that should happen to my parents. I even prayed to God to smite them for their insensitivity." (As you can tell, Ruby was a dramatic child.)

When Mr. and Mrs. Stein sent Ruby to her room, their goal was to teach her to calm down and talk to them in a civil tone. But, instead, the reason for the punishment was lost on Ruby. All she learned was to hate her parents for punishing her. Then she felt guilty for her hateful feelings. In the long run, Ruby ran away from home because she was angry at herself for having mean thoughts about her parents. Punishment misdirected the issue. What Ruby needed was to share her feelings without her emotions alienating her parents. Mom and dad wanted Ruby to learn how to argue sociably. An important life lesson for Ruby to learn.

As parents, we want our children to be disciplined, to possess self control. By using Time Outs with a child we help that child develop personal monitoring skills, internal checks and balances that will serve the child for a lifetime.

Time Out is not just for children. On a regular basis I find a "long walk" or "sitting on the porch" to be good for my decision making skills. Most adults find that ponder time is important in keeping perspective. I have also used Time Outs to help negotiate business deals.

To illustrate this I get to tell a story. I was once asked by a company to help them finalize a deal that they were desperately trying to broker. Acme Company wanted to buy what Beta Company had to offer. The problem was that Beta Company wanted about forty percent more for its product than the going rate. Usually, this is not a problem. Acme would just find a different company to buy from. But, life being what it is, challenging, there were problems. There was a nationwide courier strike. So, even though Acme could find the product at a much better price they had no idea when the product would be delivered. Also, Acme had let Beta know that they really needed the product by next Thursday or they were going to default on a big contract with a retailer. This was a problem. Acme was up the creek and on the way to a waterfall and Beta knew it. Beta liked the idea of selling at such a high profit. My job was to get the deal closed within forty-eight hours, and cost was not the primary motivation. The middle managers at Acme did not want the upper managers at Acme to know that their actions cost the company an additional 40%. The concern was not the money, the concern was saving face.

The table was set. Their negotiator was a well dressed, well educated attorney. I point out the dress because I think her outfit cost as much as my mortgage. I was escorted to the Beta corporate conference room. The table was adorned with piles of papers and French bottled water. I surmised that my fellow negotiator was planning to sit at the far side of the table. So I sat at her spot and started to thumb through her notes.

When their negotiator entered the room, flagged by a staff of four, she was outwardly unhappy with my invasion of her space. She used her eyes and nose to direct one of her teammates to gather her belongings. She sat across from me. Her staff sat behind her against the fabric covered wall. (No kid was ever allowed into this room, that was for sure.)

Following the pleasantries we got down to business. She talked about product and price. I asked questions about protocol and Diet Coke. (All they had was fancy water.) After about ten minutes, I relocated to the chair next to her. She was not at all comfortable with my lack of corporate manners or sophistication. Over the next two and one half hours, whenever the topic did not go my way, I politely excused myself to the bathroom. I went eleven times in two and one half hours. Each time taking at least five minutes.

At the end of our meeting, Mrs. Fancy Attorney said, "I'm glad that we agree. We will sell lot number 123456 at the fair market price as stated in our July sales sheet. I will draw up the documents and have them delivered by 9 AM." I thanked her for her assistance and wished her and her staff well. The July sales sheet was the price sheet before the 40% increase.

As I was walking out, one of her staff members escorted me to the lobby. In the elevator he handed me a small scrap of paper with a telephone number on it. He softly said, "Mrs. Fancy Attorney is concerned about your prostate. This is the number for her father-in-law. He is the best urologist in the state."

So, what happened? I gave myself a Time Out every time I got off track. When my behavior was not correct I earned a Time Out. I have to be in control of my behavior or no one will be. So, when the conversation turned to money, I earned a Time Out. If the conversation turned to limited options, I earned a Time Out. Boy, I was a bad little negotiator. I earned a lot of Time Outs. Oh, I also used the teaching process of shaping and shaped Beta's negotiator away from certain topics. I only talked about appropriate topics such as "fair market" and "working well together." The negotiation was never heated. In fact, the only way she could win my presence in the room, was to talk about us working well together. My leaving was a mild punisher. My return a soft reward. My presence was down right frustrating for her. I personally, my body, became a negative reinforcement. The Beta team wanted to remove this adverse stimulus, lovable old me, and the only way they could was to close the deal fairly. What they thought was a prostate problem was my way of not getting caught up in the emotions of the moment. Time Out is your child's way to help himself not get caught up in the emotion of the moment. It builds self discipline. It gives your child choices. [I later found out that the Beta team had planned to camp out at their offices. They laid in provisions for four days, expecting to finalize the deal late Sunday night. The way I found out was that Beta hired me to teach a seminar called "Negotiating The Close." Mrs. Fancy Attorney turned out to be a wonderful person to work for, but to this day she has never asked me if I went to see her father-in-law. I hope she doesn't read this book!]


Excerpt from Chapter 4:


The Art of Discipline

I would like to take a moment to further investigate the relationship between two words: punishment versus discipline. As we initially discussed in the first chapter, punishment is something that decreases the likelihood of a behavior. In Chapter 3 we explored both punishment and discipline.

Punishment is the presentation of an adversive stimulus, following an undesired response, that decreases the likelihood of that undesired response. Discipline is learned choices, self control. With punishment we force our demands on our child, but when we teach our children to be disciplined we teach them how to make choices and let them build character.

Now we look at the essence of our choice to use punishment verses develop discipline within our children. Both punishment and discipline have their place in child rearing. What I would like to look at is the art of parenting that allows us to know when we should punish and when we should develop discipline.

In Chapter 1 we looked at the negative side effects of punishment:

Punishment is a powerful teaching tool. However, it has two major drawbacks to its efficiency. First, for punishment to be effective it must be severe. If not, its efficiency is only temporary. Second, punishment brings to the relationship powerful feelings such as anger and revenge, which can destroy a positive learning situation.

These side effects can severely undermine the parent/child relationship. Thus, I advocate that we use punishment sparingly.

The definition for discipline is often misunderstood. Many people think of it as authoritarian, such as the way a Marine drill sergeant treats a new recruit. This is a very narrow view of the word. Discipline comes from the Latin word discipulus for "learner." It is related to disciple, doctor, and document. In Anglo-Saxon times the Latin root and Old French merged to become deciple, meaning instruction or knowledge. Over the centuries the meaning developed into "maintenance of order."

For me, I perceive discipline as "self control." The act of my child learning to accept personal responsibility for his behavior. The act of taking individual responsibility for emotional and behavioral self regulation. It is my goal as a parent to systematically relinquish my external control over my child, while my child systematically takes over his own self control.

This systematic release and acceptance of control is the art of parenting that most of us find so difficult. We want to protect our children from harm or even discomfort. Unfortunately, this virtuous goal tends to allow us to be overly protective and, in the long run, we inadvertently hinder our own children.

When I was an undergraduate student, I watched a rat experiment that some graduate students were conducting. The experiment consisted of teaching two groups of rats how to find food at the end of a maze. The large maze was constructed out of wood in the basement of the psychology building. The experiment was interesting as well as hilarious to watch. The graduate students had two groups of rats. Both groups were treated the same in all aspects, except one.

Group 1 members were placed at the starting point of the maze and then observed. Each rat nosed around the maze eventually finding the "reward" food at the end of the maze. Each member of Group 1 experienced the process of finding food twenty times. Each time the rats got faster at finding their way through the maze. Basic rat learning in progress. Then the funny stuff happened. Group 2 also got 20 trips through the maze. The graduate students had concocted a little "rat wagon" that the rats got to ride in. Twenty times each member of Group 2 was pulled along through the maze and was rewarded with food at the end. (The rat, not the student.)

The graduate students were investigating passive versus active learning. They wanted to see which group could run the maze the fastest, which group learned the maze the best. The next day, (so the rats would be hungry and motivated to play maze with the graduate students) each of the rats were timed as they ran the maze. The rats in Group 1 were very fast. They dashed through the maze and gobbled up their reward. The rats in Group 2 just sat there at the starting gate. Most didn't even explore much. They just sat there, hungry, waiting for a ride. When they finally did start to explore they were very tentative. They were substantially slower than Group 1 rats were their first time through the maze. How interesting, helping the Group 2 rats through the maze subsequently hindered their ability to learn. But it sure was funny to watch.

I assure you that I am not equating our children to rats. But, we can learn a lot from experimental evidence.

Albert was a small framed, angelic looking boy of nine. A few minutes into a therapy session, Albert's watch fell off. He picked up his watch from the carpet and stated, "Dr. Phil, put this on for me." When I explained that he was able to put his own watch on he matter of factly marched off to the waiting room and barked his order at his mom. "Mom, put my watch on!" As I got to the waiting room door I got Mrs. Warren's attention and nodded "no" to her. She understood and politely told Albert, "I think you can put your own watch on," and handed it back to him. Albert took the watch and threw it on the ground screaming, "I want you to put it on for me! I want you to put it on for me!" I motioned to mom to come with me and we went back to the therapy room and sat down. I reminded mom about last week's session when we discussed that she should have more age appropriate expectations of Albert. The week prior we had discussed how she was not truly helping Albert if she did everything for him. We had the following conversation:


Mrs. Warren: (looking worried) If I don't put his watch on he may lose it.


Dr. Phil: That may be so ...


Mrs. Warren: If I don't help, he may think I don't love him.


Dr. Phil: That may be so ...


Mrs. Warren: He will have a temper tantrum. (She put both hands on her head and rocked it in despair.)


Dr. Phil: That may be so ...


Mrs. Warren: Albert loses everything!


Dr. Phil: That may be so ...


At this point Albert found his way to the therapy room. He was calm, collected and just a little red faced from all of his screaming. "You guys left me out there ... I was having a temper tantrum you know!!!"

"That may be so," smiled Mrs. Warren, "but you haven't put your watch on." Albert looked at his feet. "I broke it when I threw it on the ground," he said softly.

Over the next few weeks Albert trotted into session excitedly telling me all the new things he could now do. "I took out the garbage, I made my bed, I walked to the store." He quickly started to act like a nine year old.

At the end of three months the family didn't need therapy any longer. Mrs. Warren wrote me a nice thank you letter. One part caught my attention. "It is nice to see Albert playing with the neighborhood children. I saw him pulling the neighbor's six year old in a wagon this morning. He was so happy. He is getting so big. Thanks for making me stop pulling Albert in the rat wagon." (I always get warm fuzzies when people remember my stories.)

In this section we are going to explore the process of developing a home that encourages individuals to develop discipline and self control. Only when our children have self control, can we stop being police officers, judges, and probation officers and be what we are ... loving parents. Our goal should be to provide a home not just a house.

If you ask children what they want, they sing out, "Freedom," as it should be. As your children grow they should want to be adults. Through the eyes of minors, adults have it made. We can do whatever we want to. We go to bed when we desire. We eat whatever crosses our fancy. We can say and do whatever we want. Boy, are kids uninformed. They don't know about taxes, bosses, and adult responsibilities. They don't know that we go to bed so we can get up to go to work. That we eat cardboard fiber and low fat, tasteless stuff because of our waist lines and our clogging arteries. In fact, kids have it made. We protect them. But, nonetheless, kids want freedom.

As parents we really want realistic freedom for our children. Our long term goal is for our children to develop self control so we can relinquish our limited control over them. We want our children to have respect for themselves and others. We desire that our children use good judgment to direct their lives. When babies enter the world they are, by design, self centered. They know nothing about the rights and self responsibility of others. As they grow and mature, they build awareness of others and eventually respect for self and others. Within the limits of our society, children learn how to be free.

I like to think of degrees of freedom as the size of the envelope our children live within. By envelope I mean the limitations within which our children can perform safely and effectively. When our children are very young, the envelope is the crib, our arms or the area that has been made safe on the living room floor. As our infants grow into toddlers, the envelope may be the "baby safe" living room and the car-seat. Preschoolers get the run of part of the house or the enclosed playground. The size of the envelope grows with the child. School children expand to the classroom, most of the house, and parts of the neighborhood. The envelope is the limitations we place on our children.

The size of this envelope is very important in helping our children learn what freedom is. As our child teaches us that they can handle more freedom, we enlarge the envelope. If they teach us that the freedom is more responsibility than they can control, we limit the envelope. The art of parenting is "knowing" when to enlarge or reduce the envelope.

I advise that parents help children (especially teens) to see growing up as proving that they can handle increases in freedom. This leads us to four major factors.


1. Parents need to define, within themselves and their marriage, what they believe the size of the envelope should be. Parents need to talk openly about what is and is not allowed within each child's envelope of freedom. This process will be mapped out for you in the following pages.


2. After the parents have defined the size of the envelope for each child, the limitations must be clearly defined for that child. Children need well defined limitations to feel safe and secure in their lives.


3. Parents must give more freedom when their child teaches them that they have mastered the present limitations of their envelope. As your child develops you can only challenge her to grow with further freedoms.


4. If your child teaches you that the envelope is too large, you must respect your child's need for limitations. If your child breaks a rule that forces you to implement a consequence, you must respect your child's needs. When your child again teaches you that she is ready for an enlargement of the envelope, you can again give your child more freedom.


I often tell the following story to teens to help them see their involvement in the size of the envelope of freedom. Unfortunately, this story is sad, but like all the stories in the book, it is true. The lesson it teaches is important.

Mr. and Mrs. Peabody came to my office to talk about the stress their family had recently undergone. The problem centered around their sixteen year old son, Scott. Scott was a wonderful child and a respectful and talented teenager. He was on the high school football team and was interested in studying anthropology in college. As the Peabodys told me about their son I was impressed with his talents and social skills.

Six weeks prior to my first session with Mr. and Mrs. Peabody, a terrible thing happened. Three classmates were angry with Scott. They were jealous of his sport talents and his ease in social situations. So, as a prank (their words), they thought that they would bring Scott down off his high cloud. They wanted to publicly embarrass Scott and get teachers to not like him as much. The three boys conspired to put phencyclidine (PCP) in his drink. Scott drank the spiked drink and had a massive seizure. Scott suffered permanent brain damage. He now had the mind of a three year old. [See Chapter 5, What do I need to know about street drugs? for more information about PCP.]

I tell this story to teens and ask them how Scott's parents should treat him. Should they treat him as a sixteen year old or as a three year old?

Mr. and Mrs. Peabody had to learn how to treat Scott correctly. They had to learn to protect Scott from himself. They had to hold his hand when he was near a street. They had to "child proof" their home. I can honestly say that Mr. and Mrs. Peabody taught me much about compassion and parental love. I am honored to have known them.

We have to respect the needs of our children. The needs of our children define the size of the envelope of freedom we allow them to practice their lives in. The envelope is defined by the needs of the individual child.

If your child teaches you that he should be treated like a twenty-two year old, it would be disrespectful to treat him any other way. If your child teaches you that she should be treated as an eleven year old you must treat her like an eleven year old. Please note that we must treat our children as their behavior teaches us, not based on the chronological date of their birth. It would be unfair to treat Scott as a sixteen year old. It would endanger him to have the freedom of a sixteen year old. Conversely, it would be unfair for a parent to treat their fourteen year old as a ten year old if he is acting sixteen.


Now, let's look at how we can fairly and respectfully treat each other in the family.


Excerpt from Chapter 5:


Controlling Chaos: Basic Parenting 101 In Action:



My son is twelve. He is an uncomfortable child to be around. He whines constantly. He wears me down until I give in to his demands.

My daughter is very bright. She whines and whines until she gets her way. What can I do to teach her that when I say "no" I mean it. She just doesn't believe me!

As I said earlier, if you, the parent, say something twice you are nagging. The same is true about children. If they say it twice, or more likely twenty-seven times, they are committing the kid version of nagging, whining.

Whining is a learned behavior and anything that can be learned can be unlearned and replaced with a more mature and useful behavior. (See Chapter 1: How Children Learn)

For about the first four years of life a child needs to be demanding of her parents. As her communication skills develop she learns to speak her needs, versus cry, as a form of alert that she has a need. After age four, a child who does not communicate her needs, at an age appropriate level, is acting immaturely. This should be a concern for the child's parents.

I have seen teens that still expected their parents to cut their meat and make their bed. These teens exhibit clingy behaviors. It is interesting that most parents with overdependent children do not seem to notice the immature behavior.

Children from age four to eight tend to complain with the "Why can't? or Why does?" "Why can't I stay up and watch the show?" "Why can't Bobby come over?" "Why does Mary get tooooooo ..." This is normal manipulation for their age. It becomes whining when the child refuses to accept your answer and keeps asking the same question.

Why do kids whine? Why do kids whine? Why do kids whine? Why do kids whine? Why do kids whine? (Sorry I couldn't resist. "Starting")

Kids whine because it works. They tend to get their way. And the more it works, the more they whine. Bluntly, you have taught your child to whine at you. Mr. and Mrs. Johnson came to my office because of a concern with their nine year old daughter, Nan. Mrs. Johnson explained:

Nan is a brilliant girl, her teachers have always said how smart she is. The problem, very simply is ... whatever I say she argues with and whatever Dick (Mr. Johnson) says she just does. No fuss. She is happy to listen to her dad.


Dr. Phil: Dad, any idea why your daughter listens to you?


Mr. Johnson: Not really, I guess it's because I mean it when I tell her to do something. I just won't get into an argument with her. She is too smart. She could sell a sin to the Pope. I just won't argue with her.


I think Mr. Johnson was correct. Nan had her mother's number. She knew that if she gently pushed, her mother would come around to see things her way. Mom saw it as whining, Nan saw it as winning. (See Dr. Phil's Rule of 10:1, 100:1, 1000:1 in Chapter 1.)


Ways parents are manipulated by their child's immature behaviors

Playing the baby


Some children learn that if they act charming or naive some adults will like them. For the adult this child's behavior makes them feel wiser, mature, and needed. Some parents are fearful about their child growing up, thus they reinforce childish behaviors that prove to them that they are still needed.


Childish power trips


Some children learn that by whining they can get attention from their parents. The reverse of this is when a child feels overpowered by his parents so he acts useless as a way of punishing (feeling power over) his parents.


Narcissistic behaviors


The self-centered child sees his parents as tools to control so he can get his own needs met. This is more common in teenagers. The self -centered teen sees anything that a parent wants to do for them as a weakness on the part of the parent. They feel that it is their parent's fault that they are weak, so exploiting them is only fair. The parent tends to feel overwhelmed with the self centered belief system of their child. (It is usually best to seek professional assistance for you and your child to deal with this type of emotional disorder.)


Parent has problem setting limits


One of the most important responsibilities of a parent is limit setting. Some parents are so concerned that their children like them that they become extremely inconsistent with their limit setting "to keep the children happy." I had a mother exclaim, "What do you mean that I am not supposed to be my child's best friend!" I explained, "You're supposed to be your children's mother. Part of being their mother is being their friend, but you do your children a true disservice if your goal is to make your children happy all the time.


This mother was uncomfortable with my belief that she could not be or should not be her children's friend first and parent second. In friendship it is not necessary to set parental limits on the other's behavior. In fact, if that is occurring between friends, wouldn't it be an unhealthy relationship? I do not wish to get caught up into the semantics of the word "friend," but parenting is much more than friendship. (See Chapter 4: Family Rules, The Art Of Discipline) It is important that a parent feel comfortable with the fact that their children will not always be happy with them.


From Chapter 5:


Controlling Chaos: Basic Parenting 101 In Action:


Sibling Rivalry


I live with the Bickersons. My three children argue about everything. It has gone on for years. I have talked to friends who tell me "it's normal, all kids bicker." Is it true? Do all kids bicker? My kids drive me nuts. And, even worse, I worry that when they grow up they will not like each other.

People that live under the same roof tend to bicker, sorry it's a species specific behavior. When it comes to our children we call it sibling rivalry. Sibling rivalry is the "normal" arguing, bickering, tattling, teasing and moderate hostility siblings express towards each other. Usually, it is a developmental stage children experience as they practice growing up. When your children are two - three years of age they tend to push, hit, bite and scream their displeasure. When they are five - seven sibling feuds become name calling, tattling, and silly teasing. By age eight your children become skilled at hateful teasing, angry hostility, and spiteful competition. On the surface this sounds horrifying, but it need not be. If this acting out behavior is dealt with correctly by parents and teachers it is merely a mild annoyance.

Many parents want to know why their children seem to have the need to bicker all the time. The simple answer is competition. Children need lots of things from the very powerful people they call mom and dad. Anything that distracts mom and dad from taking care of them is a potential conflict for your children. The test of all relationships is conflict. To this end, if mom is taking sister to skating, mom is not taking care of me. It is only a small skip in thought for brother to growl, "You're always taking Sally places, you don't do stuff for me." When mom mistakenly gets caught up in the argument: "Bobby, I do lots for you," she feeds the emotional fire. In this situation it is necessary to read between the words and help Bobby experience and understand his feelings. The same situation:


Bobby: You're always taking Sally places, you don't do stuff for me.


Mom: You're not happy that I'm taking Sally to skating?


Bobby: No. I don't care about dumb skating! (Note the skillful dig at Sally's beloved skating.) I just want to... ah... you know.


Mom: I'm not sure, what do you want me to do?


Bobby: I want you to do stuff with me.


Mom: Me too. I want to do stuff with you. Do you want to ride with me to skating?, We can visit on the way.


This active listening on the part of mom will, over time, teach Bobby to keep perspective and to plan his needs. Most people need about thirty years of practice before this is a skill they have mastered. (I see your questioning look. We all know forty-five year olds that are selfish toad lickers, but most people tend to master this skill by thirty.)


For most families I work with I advocate the following Must Rule:


For parents of younger children:


Must Rule: Be nice to self and others


Consequence: Short Time Out to get your feelings in check. Followed by a discussion.


For parents of teenagers:


Must Rule: Be nice to self and others


Consequence: Teen is excused from the room until they feel that they can discuss their concerns in an appropriate manner. Followed by a discussion.


For me, be nice to self and others is the proverbial "Golden Rule." (One should behave toward others as one would have others behave toward oneself.) I expect people I am around to treat others kindly. I expect it out of myself as well as my family and friends. I point out to my children that this is one of the major factors in how I pick friends.


End of Excerpts


What parents are saying:


"Why wasn't this stuff taught in High School? I wish I'd read this book thirteen years ago!"


"Dr. Phil takes the babble out of psycho-babble."


"An authoritative look at parenting in a down to earth writing style."


"A college course without the college tuition."


"An easy must read for every parent. I found the stories interesting, fun, and informative."


"Dr. Phil focuses on solving problems with understanding, humor, and love.


Common Parental Concerns ... explained on page:


How do children learn? ... page 11

How can a parent "shape" their children's learning? ... page 33

How do parents build trust? ... page 56

How to motivate your child to accept responsibility ... page 174

How do parents teach honesty? ... page 57

How to raise children who are self disciplined ... page 80

How to motivate your children to do their chores ... page 180

For parents of teenagers, how do you avoid falling into the role of "jailer"? ... page 79

How to raise your child's self esteem ... page 47

Solutions for bed-wetting ... page 148

How to motivate your child to finish a task ... page 197

Why do children whine and how to put an end to whining forever? ... page 214

How to motivate your children to do their homework ... page 178

What every parent needs to know about street drugs ... page 200

How to teach your children to pick up after themselves (and really want to!) ... page 177

How to get your child to "allow" you to parent ... page 130

How to use child psychology effectively ... page 62



Plus more ... What are some of the "tricks" that get kids to listen and cooperate? How to avoid arguing ... Avoid fighting ... Avoid conflicts and parent more effectively! How to get cooperation from your children ... Kindness ... Love and respect ...


All this and much more ... clearly explained.


A must read for all parents, stepparents, teachers, and counselors.


More nice words from parents:


"This book taught me how not to fight with my sixteen year old!"


"I was a psychology major in college. But I didn't learn about loving and parenting my children until I read this book. Thanks!"


"I learned so much. I bought two more copies for my sisters."


"Thanks for Must Rules. With four children I think they have saved my mind!"


"Dr. Phil, thanks for showing my daughter and me how to respect each other. I like going home at night again."



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