by JoAnne Nordling, Fourth Edition, 2007
Reviewed by Regina
In The Hamlet, we have been discussing the topic of obedience. The specific question came up of just exactly how a parent, trying to raise children according to Catholic Montessori principles, deals with power struggles and misbehavior without spanking. When I was asked for a specific book recommendation, I had to choose from the many, many books on child raising that I have read over the past twenty years. Here is a review on my top choice.
In the Preface to her work Taking Charge: Caring Discipline That Works at Home and at School, JoAnne Nordling traces her own path of vetting many different disciplinary approaches. When I first read this book over ten years ago, I was struck by how closely her conclusion aligned with Montessori principles:
Through thirty-nine years of parenting, teaching, and counseling, I became increasingly aware that although children have a right to grow up as independent people in control of their own lives without being demeaned and humiliated by adults in the name of good discipline, adults have an equal right to expect certain kinds of behavior from children. An outcome of my personal struggle to balance the needs of both adults and children has been the gradual development of an approach to child discipline that allows adults to initiate specific action to change the disruptive behaviors exhibited by so many children in this culture, while still respecting the dignity of the child (p. xv, emphasis mine).
I appreciated Mrs. Nordling’s words on spanking, which were completely in line with the Montessori thought that children need help in developing personal self control (e.g., through Freedom within Limits), rather than being restrained through external control.
Some people think it is all right to spank as long as the spanking is not done in anger, but I have noticed in my years of working with families and schools, that children who are regularly disciplined by spankings, whether in anger or not, often do not develop adequate inner controls for regulating their own behavior. These children continue to misbehave in settings where they know spankings are not allowed, and may even continue the pattern into adulthood of always needing powerful forces outside themselves to set limits on their behaviors (p. 35-36).
Mrs. Nordling starts by having the parent consider his or her personal parenting style. Each parent has a tendency to wield a certain amount of authority in the parent-child relationship. Yet no matter the parent’s default approach, the techniques which she goes on to describe has worked for parents all along that continuum.
She then goes on to discuss different behaviors, classifying them as positive, neutral, and negative. Her take on how to react to these types of behaviors was quite eye-opening for me. Mrs. Nordling describes the effectiveness of giving positive, nonverbal attention to the child at neutral times, in order to strengthen one’s relationship with a child. This technique was new to me, and using this technique consistently with our children made a noticeable, positive impact on their behavior.
Of paramount importance is her treatment of the four ways in which parents frequently sabotage their child raising efforts, the four most common misbehaviors, and detailed, specific corrections for each misbehavior.
This book is not for the faint of heart. To successfully implement Mrs. Nordling’s suggestions, one must be willing to take a hard look at oneself and identify one’s weak points. However, she gives very detailed guidance and examples, so that the task becomes easier to know on which areas one needs to focus. After that, it becomes a matter of self-discipline, to carry out what one has learned in a consistent, persevering manner.
Please note that a Fifth Edition of this book was released in 2016, under the new title Caring Discipline: Practical Tools for Nurturing Happy Families & Classrooms. I have not read this Fifth Edition, but you may wish to consider it instead of the Fourth Edition which I reviewed.
I have personally purchased, used, and found helpful this book in our child raising efforts and home life. The photo is of my own personal copy.
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