Parenting skills taught

October 14, 1997|By LISA GRAYBEAL

Staff Writer, Chambersburg

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Nearly 200 adults went to school Monday night to learn how to be better parents.

Michael R. Valentine, the California author, lecturer and consultant who developed the Valentine Discipline method, gave tips and techniques on successful parenting and communicating effectively with children during a two-hour presentation in Chambersburg Area Middle School's auditorium.

In his rapid-fire speech interlaced with humor and real-life examples, Valentine outlined his discipline method, which basically came down to one crucial message:

"Be clear, be specific and solve the problem," he told the crowd, adding that it's OK to be in charge as long as you do it with love in your heart.


The discipline method advises parents to give their children clear, direct messages when relaying expectations, and when they're capable enough to handle things themselves, parents should back off and leave them alone, Valentine said.

"Most of the time we're not clear and specific," he said, citing numerous everyday examples most parents in the audience could relate to.

Instead of telling your child to "try" to do something, like "try to get to school on time," Valentine said parents should drop the "try" and simply state the fact.

"Would you like them to try to do it or do it? If you can't expect it, then it won't happen," he said.

A mistake parents and teachers often make is giving children mixed messages rather than being direct, he said.

Popular phrases like, "don't ever let me catch you doing that again," or "if you do this one more time, I'm going to do this," are just invitations for the child to try it again to see what happens, Valentine said.

Today's society has also made the mistake of labeling children and creating excuses for them, he said.

For example, children who have behavioral problems or who aren't doing well in school may be excused by a parent because he or she is the oldest child, the youngest child, the child of a broken family, or an only child, Valentine said.

"Now we've all heard this one, check it out, the `full moon syndrome,'" Valentine said, to laughter in the audience.

Rather than labeling children, parents need to accept the differences among their children and work with them.

"The issue for you as a parent is how much structure must you place around the child?" Valentine asked, using toilet training as an example.

After the lecture, several parents said it wasn't a matter of learning anything new, but more of a reinforcement in common sense.

"We came here probably for the same reason everyone else did. We wanted to get some tips ... about how to help our son get through school," said Robert English of Chambersburg.

In dealing with their grade-school-aged son, English's wife, Terrie, said she's the type to "sort of let him go," but learned from the lecture to be more to the point and more direct.

Before the lecture to parents Monday night, Valentine spent the day with teachers in the Chambersburg school district in a series of workshops during an in-service day.

Teachers examined issues like setting up student rules, belief systems, why children behave as they do, and communication skills with parents.

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