A Conversation with Elizabeth Pantley

October 23, 2007

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nocrydiscipline.jpgI thought you might like reading a transcript of the conversation with Elizabeth Pantley that was last week’s show. If you would like a pdf version to keep or to share, you can download it here: Elizabeth Pantley interview.


C: Elizabeth was my very first guest back in February 2006. That was wonderful, talking about your No Cry Sleep Solution. And once again you’ve written a wonderful book that not only gives parents inspiration with an overall philosophy of discipline and what it really is, but you’ve also given them tons of practical examples of how to apply that philosophy, which I really appreciated.

E: Discipline’s a difficult topic because when people think of discipline, they think of a child crying in a corner and an angry parent. It’s not about punishment, it shouldn’t be about anger, it’s all about teaching If parents can understand that their role is guide and teacher, then it really changes the feeling of discipline to something that’s good and not bad.

C: I like to point out that the word discipline comes from disciple, which means “taught one”. Teaching should be the focus.

I really appreciate about your book that you give a lot of thought to the fact that normal parents get angry and have to deal with their anger. I was thinking when I read through that section, that parents make it difficult on themselves when they set this standard so high and think “I’m never going to get angry”. Or “I shouldn’t be angry”. What do you say to that?

E: I’ve had a tremendous amount of response to that section of the book because we all get angry and we all feel guilty and just horrible about that anger. First I want parents to know that it’s normal. You can’t possibly raise a child from birth to 18 and beyond, without ever getting angry.

No child is perfect. They’re all going to misbehave, they’re all going to push your buttons, and so therefore, getting angry and frustrated is normal. It’s not fun, but it’s very normal. And then helping parents work though a step by step plan so they when they do feel that anger rising, they can rein that in and then proceed with discipline as teaching rather than d as angry out of control.

C: I think it’s easy for us to actually lose our children’s respect when we deal with them from a place of anger. They see us ranting and raving, and they’re kind of like, “Man, Mom’s crazy.”

E: I find that’s a common thought of parents, “Oh my goodness my children are never going to forgive me, they’re going to be permanently damaged, they’re going to be on that Psychiatrist’s couch because I yelled at them.”

And yet the reality is, if you’re a really good parent 70% of the time, everything’s going to be fine, your children will forgive you, you’ll work through the problems, and as long as you have an underlying philosophy and goals about raising your children, what kind of people you want them to be, and you love them and you teach them day by day and work with them and talk to them, you can get through those bad moments, because everyone has them, and you do work through those.

C: And that’s comforting to know, certainly. One thing I appreciated about your book is that you talk about how so many parents complain that their child doesn’t seem to respond when they’re asked to do something. The parent finds themselves repeating it over and over, and your take on that is that it’s often because parents are not requiring their children to listen and they kind of create this cycle of saying things over and over.

E: Absolutely, children get used to the fact that by the 4th or 5th time, when Mom uses my middle name, that’s when I should respond. But the other thing we need to remember is, that discipline is not a one time maneuver. You can’t do it once, and then your job is done, just like a musician practices or an athlete practices, or an actor has rehearsals.

Children require lessons to be taught over and over until they make them their own. So just because you tell your child one time, don’t pull the cat’s tail, doesn’t mean that’s the last time you’re going to say it. It’s going to have to be a repeated lesson before your child actually understands why and changes his behavior.

C: Yes, and we’re the same way even as adults, sometimes we have to learn the same lessons over and over.

E: That’s a good point, even as an adult we know what we should do, but do we always do it? Do we always eat the right things? Do we always exercise? Do we always drive the speed limits? No we don’t, and children are no different. Even when they know the rules, they’re going to break them. And that doesn’t mean your child is bad, and neither are you, it just means that it’s a normal part of life.

 angryboy.jpg C: You talk about how children are emotion in motion, untamed emotion in constant motion. That’s one thing that’s difficult for parents to put in perspective. They get wrapped up in their children’s emotions. What suggestions do you have who a parent who is struggling with that?

E: First, remind yourself that misbehavior is the symptom. The misbehavior of your children is the symptom. The real problem is their immaturity, their inability to handle their strong emotions, their inability to deal with their frustration, confusion or helplessness.

And then when they’re tired, or hungry or bored, that just adds fuel to the fire. So you know that even the smartest, most peaceful child isn’t born with wisdom, and an ability to control his emotions. That’s again one of your teaching jobs. “Wow, I can see you’re very frustrated. Let’s see what we can do to solve the problem.”

So just because your child is making a major meltdown because his red crayon broke, doesn’t mean you need to take it that seriously. One of us needs to be the adult here, and understand that it is just a crayon, and we will get through this.

But also to understand that it’s a very real pain to your child, dealing with those emotions and those frustrations, and acknowledging where he’s coming from as a child and then and then coming in as the adult teacher, and saying ok, here’s the problem, and let’s deal with it this way.

C: I read something recently reminds me of what you’re saying and it was talking about some brain research that showed that when one person has a calmer disposition in their brain, that they actually have more influence over the person who is kind of losing it, and so I try to remind myself of that: that my calm brain can help influence the out of control emotion of the child at that moment in time. So it helps me step away.

E: In the same vein, that’s why children tend to act up in public, when you’re at a party or a mall or the zoo or the fair. Because they’re soaking in all the emotions around them, al the anxiety and tension and stress and activity, and they make that their own. So we need to understand that children are very vulnerable to what’s going on around them and inside them. We need to help them sift through those emotions so that they can gain control of themselves, and as you say, we need to be calm and in control in order to help them reach that point as well.

C: Your book starts off with some common myths that parents have, expectations that they come into parenting with that can make it difficult for them to have realistic expectations. Do you want to talk abut that – some of those beliefs?

E: There are so many myths that spoil the fun of raising your children. For instance: If I really love my child and I’m really committed, my child will behave. Well the truth is, all children misbehave it doesn’t matter if you’re a perfect saint as a parent. And along those lines, the myth that good parents don’t yell at their children. Well I have news for you. Even the most peaceful, easygoing parents can lose patience and yell from time to time, because loving your children is very easy, but raising them is very hard. Pressure s on ourselves to be perfect, and I tell parents if you do the right thing 70% of the time, you can raise great children and feel proud of the job you’re doing. Don’t aim for 100%.

 565496_mother_and_daughter.jpg C: That’s great. Well again your book is full of a lot of practical examples and I really enjoyed reading the personal stores that were sent to you by Moms and Dads that illustrate some of the things that you talk about in the book. Specific things that parents were able to learn about their children, and they shared different ways of dealing with problem behaviors. All kinds of things – it was a lot of fun to read those.

E: I had 242 test parents when I wrote the book and they became like my pen pals. Their experiences in their homes with their children are no different than yours or mine. So it was a great experience to be able to have them correspond with me daily and say, “We had a tantrum, here’s what I did and here’s what happened.” And their little quotes and stories and pictures of their children I think add a lot, because they remind us that we’re all in the same boat.

C: One other thing I have dog eared here that I wanted to talk about was the importance of creating routines and how those are so comforting to children. I was thinking about something that happened just in my life last night. We’ve been listening to this audio book, Julie of the Wolves for the last week and a half at bedtime, and my 9 year old son asked for me to put it on last night, and I said “I’m sorry but I had to take it back to the library, it was going to be due in a little while.” And I could just see the disappointment on his face, just one week of that routine, and he had that expectation. So it just reminded me of what you were talking about, about how children really do best in an environment that’s predictable.

E: Oh they thrive on routine and they look for set patterns. And the problem is a lot of our routines are very negative. That bedtime battle, or rushing around in the morning to get out the door on time. We don’t realize we’ve created that as our routine.

So if we can be thoughtful and plan, as you have, a bedtime ritual of listening to an audio book, and there’s a little bit of a shift when you end one book and started another. But you’ve retained that rhythm, and that’s a lovely idea by the way. Your child can lay in the dark and listen, instead of eyes open looking at pictures in a book. It can help him fall asleep and create lovely lifetime habits.

C: That’s been a routine for us for years, and we’ve really enjoyed that. I might have gotten that from your first book the No Cry Sleep Solution.

E: We do talk about that, absolutely.

C: Thanks so much for coming back on the show and sharing your newest book. I really appreciate it.

E: Thank you, anytime Carrie, it was a pleasure.

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One Response to “A Conversation with Elizabeth Pantley”

  1. Mom Is Teaching » Blog Archive » Carnival of SAHMs - New Weekly Edition! on November 5th, 2007 2:29 pm

    [...] Carrie Lauth presents A Conversation with Elizabeth Pantley posted at Natural Moms Talk Radio. [...]

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