Episode 103: Raising Children – Interview with Author Jamie Raser

Having trouble raising your children? Join the crowd. There are lots of parenting books, but here’s one you should know about: "Raising Children You Can Live With" by Jamie Raser. He has an approach to parenting that is not about "picking your battles", but about staying out of battles altogether and talking with your child in a way that doesn’t lead to shouting, screaming and anger. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. Listen to Jamie Raser talk about his ideas in this episode of The Psych Files.

Parenting is not a series of "techniques" or "manipulations" designed to gain control over another human being. When parents are in control of themselves and [the way they interact with their children], children will learn to control themselves. – Jamie Raser, Raising Children You Can Live With


Give me a dozen healthy infants, well-formed, and my own specified world to bring them up in and I’ll guarantee to take any one at random and train him to become any type of specialist I might select–doctor, lawyer, artist, merchant-chief and, yes, even beggar-man and thief, regardless of his talents, penchants, tendencies, abilities, vocations, and race of his ancestors. I am going beyond my facts and I admit it, but so have the advocates of the contrary and they have been doing it for many thousands of years. John Watson, Behaviorism (1930). Thanks to the Wisconsin Association for Behavior Analysis for the complete quote (see the final sentence – italics mine).

Resources on Parenting

  • You can contact Jamie using his email address: jraser AT dpisd DOT org.
  • Research showing that spanking children does not work:
  • Gershoff, I. (2002). Corporal punishment by parents and associated child behaviors and experiences: A meta-analytic and theoretical review. Psychological Bulletin, 128, 539-579.
  • Kazdin, A. E., & Benjet, C. (2003). Spanking children: Evidence and Issues. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 12, 99-103.


Although physical punishment may produce immediate compliance – children typically stop the behavior spanking is meant to end – there are a number of serious long-term side effects. For example, spanking is associated with lower quality parent-child relationships, poorer mental health for both child and parent, higher levels of delinquency, and more antisocial behavior. In addition, children who experience higher levels of spanking are less able to develop their own inner sense of right and wrong…Spanking also teaches children that violence is an acceptable solution to prolems by serving as a model of violent, aggressive behavior. – Robert Feldman, Development Across the Life Span

Comments

  1. Alex Brown says:

    Thank you for sharing Jamie Raser’s book in your podcast – definitely a book worthy of investigating further. As a mother of a 2, 3, and 15 year old, I can relate well to how easily one can get easily entangled into a battle of the wills. Typically, no one ‘wins’ these battles… I like the approach Raser suggests and will try something different the next time the kids and I are approaching a melt-down! Thanks for bringing this book to my attention. As always, a great podcast.

  2. April Montana says:

    Really interesting interview. I like the idea of “doing something different” and not just picking my battles. My son is 2 years old and we’re starting to get into those “terrible” years. I hope I can remember your advice and avoid a lot of those situations I see a lot of parents going through with kids at this age.

  3. I loved Jamie’s views on the power struggle which I see between my mom and little sisters the best info. on child raising I’ve ever seen. I’m considering picking this book up as it seems interesting. :-)

  4. The quote at the beginning of the podcast about raising children is attributed to Skinner, but the quote was actually from John Watson.

  5. Michael,

    Great episode! The conversation was so good for hitting on some of the most common issues that parents struggle with when dealing with their kids. Great tips and ideas. I’ve listened to this episode a few times. :-)

    That said, I also feel like the whole issue of power struggles is missing some observations that could be helpful. Parents really need to look at their own behavior just as much as their child’s when dealing with disciplining them. When a child isn’t following directions or is having a melt down, you have to consider that situation on multiple levels.

    1) Without the parent being present (or another person), there is no melt down.
    2) When the parent is present, that’s another variable that contributes to how the situation plays out.
    3) Parents typically take an offensive/oppositional stance in the situation when disciplining or expressing expectations to he child which instantly influences the child’s reaction.
    4) Challenging situation, if handled carefully, should always reaffirm love and security, while also showing firmness when necessary.

    Now, about the power struggles…

    When I was working with kids who had behavioral disorders, they could be triggered by anything for any reason and suddenly become enraged and dangerous. Many of the kids had shattered home lives filled with abuse, anger, poor parenting (or no parenting), and chaos at all levels. It takes time to build trust when you’re working with kids like this. They’re great kids with HUGE obstacles to overcome in life.

    When I was working with a student who had suddenly become angry, I knew that it was important for me to demonstrate, at all times, the kind of behavior I was expecting from him. If I wanted him to trust me, I had to show that I trusted him. If I wanted him to feel secure, I acted stable and was obvious with my actions (predictability). If I wanted him to feel safe, I acted calm and non-threatening.

    Almost any other behavior would cause or prolong a power struggle. I had to learn how to make them feel that I was on their side, that I was there for them. Even in extreme cases when I had to physically manage them to keep them from hurting someone (including themselves), I was constantly reaffirming that I cared about them and that they were safe. I would even sometimes calmly whisper in the student’s ear that I was there for him, that I cared about him and that I wanted to keep him safe.

    Now, obviously, that’s an extreme case. But the way to handle difficult kids doesn’t change that much simply because they aren’t aggressive. For example, if a child feels like you are there for them, even when they don’t want to do what you ask, that changes the way they react to you. When a child feels like you and she both want peace and harmony and that you’re on the same side, the power struggle isn’t a tool that they’re likely to use.

    In my opinion, the key is that you shouldn’t have a power struggle unless the parent is being oppositional either alone or just like the child is being.

    I know that some people who read this might be thinking, “What, am I just supposed to give in and not tell my child what to do and let him has his own way? So how does a parent maintain control of the situation if you’re not supposed to act like a parent?”

    Parents typically act the only way they are familiar with acting, when it comes to parenting. When the technique runs into problems and kids start getting difficult, that is very important information telling you that some part of your technique needs to be adjusted. Don’t take it personally. Just take a different approach.

    Find a way to empathize with your child. Let him know you have common goals and that you’re on the same side. Here’s an example:
    ————
    Your child doesn’t want to turn the TV off and go to bed. The conversation could go something like this…
    ————
    “You don’t want to turn the TV off? Well, geez, I don’t either. But the thing is, when Daddy/Mommy doesn’t turn the TV off and I stay up past my bedtime so I can watch TV, I wake up the next day like a grumpy bear and then….if there’s any kids around, I growl at them…and I growl at my friends…and I growl at everyone. And you know what happens? Nobody want’s to be my friend. Everybody gets scared of me and doesn’t want to play with me.

    “I bet you like playing with your friends, don’t you? Me too. I bet you have a lot of fun with your friends, right? I do too. But you know what isn’t fun? When I want to play with my friends but they don’t want to come around. And you know what they’ll say? They’ll say, ‘I guess Scott stayed up too late watching TV.’

    “So, you know what? I think you should probably turn the TV off so you don’t become a bear and growl at your friends. That means tomorrow, you can have fun playing. Okay?”
    ————
    This is just an example, but instead of “You turn that TV off because I said so!”, you’re shifting the situation and sitting on the same side of the negotiating table as your child. He’ll know by your mitigating tone of voice that you’re not taking the same approach that you usually do and that you’re in the same boat that he is…you’re on the same side. Therefore, no power struggle if you’re not on opposing sides.

    There’s so much more to the subject of power struggles. I hope what I’ve said makes sense and is helpful. Of course, this is just my opinion and it’s okay if you don’t agree.

    Michael, just keep doing what you’re doing with the podcast. It’s a great resource.

    All the best!
    Scott

  6. Michael says:

    Excellent comment Scott. I appreciate you taking the time to express your thoughts on this issue. It’s a tough one for me at times for sure. My parents were of the “Because I said so!” school, so of course this was pretty much my approach as well when I became a parent (and even now I can hear those voices in my head). I hear that this old school approach works for some kids but it didn’t work for mine so I had to, as you say, learn to use a different approach in which I align with my child. Letting him or her know that I understand her feeling and I see that there’s a problem that we need to talk about.

    Then I usually try to assume a physical position that is similar to the one my child is in (I think this helps to show her that I’m aligned with her) and then start problem solving as you outline above.

    Common goals – I agree. We need to work WITH our kids more than we often do, trying to find a solution that meets both needs if possible – though it’s not always possible, in which case if you align and problem solve at least you’re more likely to avoid a power struggle than if you take an oppositional approach as you mention above.

    Good stuff Scott. Thanks for the insightful comment!

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