Calmer, Easier, Happier Parenting
Hodder and Stoughton
Raising children can be trickier than managing money for high net worth individuals in tough economic times. As a legend in the parenting world, Noel Janis-Norton has been providing a lifeline to families with difficult children since Queen had us thinking that We were the Champions. So I looked forward to reading Calmer, Easier, Happier Parenting, eager to become acquainted with the latest advice from this wise sage of parenting.
The core strategies Janis-Norton recommends, Descriptive Praise, Reflective Listening, Preparing for Success and Never Ask Twice will certainly help any parent. Take Descriptive Praise, the first technique she puts forward. It’s about praising children by describing exactly what they do right. Instead of giving vague, exaggerated praise like, “Wow, your homework is brilliant!” it works much better if you are specific, “You answered all the questions on this worksheet, even though you weren’t sure about some of the answers.”
Janis-Norton couldn’t be more right when she says it’s the best motivator for children. It is a brilliant way of increasing the behaviour you want and decreasing that you don’t, while getting your child to cooperate and do their best.
However, I was somewhat disappointed that there are no new techniques introduced, the ones here being widely accepted in the parenting world already. I remember using them with my own little children and discovering that implementing them wasn’t so simple. At that time I felt only Britney Spears understood me: Oops! I Did It Again. In the heat of the moment when something was going wrong, I couldn’t remember the new trick for the life of me.
At first I put it down to my own shortcomings – exhausted after having four children and broken sleep for five years. But I later realised it wasn’t just me. These techniques are more textbook than intuitive and they’re unlikely to miraculously pop into your head when your child is in the throes of mutiny. You’d need to stand there with your book in hand and look up your prescribed reaction.
Some of Janis-Norton’s strategies, like Never Ask Twice and the recommended constant Think Throughs, are very helpful for very difficult children and those with extreme temperaments. Most should only use them sparingly or they can become at best very annoying and potentially quite patronising.
Janis-Norton deserves a lot of credit for having devoted her life to helping families lead happier, more harmonious lives and her positive intent can be felt throughout Calmer, Easier, Happier Parenting. But if you are experiencing discord with your little darlings, don’t be surprised if you find it difficult to implement these strategies on your own; that’s where parenting classes come in. I would highly recommend them. If you have particularly difficult children, Janis-Norton’s classes are particularly helpful. Or if you’d prefer confidential advice, you can always book a private house call.
Karen Doherty is the author of Seven Secrets of Successful Parenting and Sibling Rivalry – Seven Simple Solutions (Bantam Press, London)