In Pride and Joy, I describe lessons I have learned over the course of three decades of talking with children and parents, listening to their concerns, and seeking practical solutions to the daily problems that trouble many contemporary families. I also discuss lessons learned from colleagues engaged in clinical, developmental, and neuroscience research, and from my experience as a parent of two (now adult) children.
Pride and Joy offers guidance on how we can preserve and strengthen feelings of joyfulness and pride in our relationships with our children; how we can promote our children’s social and moral development; how we can ameliorate the conflicts and arguments that a source of distress to so many thoughtful and caring parents; and how we can foster our children’s optimism and resilience in the face of life’s inevitable disappointments.
For me, this is what being a parent is all about.
I also offer solutions to many common problems of daily family life – rules and limits, doing homework and going to sleep, winning and losing at games, our children’s reluctance to talk to us, their tantrums and lack of motivation, and their addiction to television and video games. I present recommendations for solving these common, but often difficult, problems – problems that, too often, erode the joyfulness of our children and our own pleasure in being parents.
My starting point is the importance of understanding our children’s emotions.
Parents often ask, “Why does he continue to act this way – to tease or hit his sister, to refuse to do his homework or clean up his room, to lie when we know that he is lying and he knows that he will be punished?” Many parents (and some child therapists) assume that, in these situations, they have not been consistent enough in setting limits or imposing consequences for their child’s bad behavior. But the correct answer is almost always, “He behaves this way because he is caught up in the emotion of the moment.” As we all are, at times.
The importance of children’s emotions may seem self-evident to many parents. Most advice to parents, however, continues to focus less on understanding children’s emotions and more on how to mange a child’s problematic behavior. In recent years, some cultural critics have argued that we now pay too much attention to our children’s feelings – and not enough attention to their competence and moral actions. The critics believe that we have gone too far – that we focus too much attention on helping our children “feel good” and not enough on helping them become “good people.”
But it is not either/or. We need to encourage our children’s self-expression and also teach them self-restraint. Our responsiveness to our children’s emotions strengthens their resilience and character. When we understand our children’s feelings, we not only help them feel better, we help them do better – in all aspects of their lives.