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The Twenty-four-Karat Golden Rule: Why It Is Important to Build Self-Discipline, Responsibility, and Emotional Health in Children
Do you know the Golden Rule? Most people do. Usually, it is quoted, "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you." We call this "the Fourteen-Karat Golden Rule." Why? Because there is a better one, one that reflects what we call Emotionally Intelligent Parenting: Do unto your children as you would have other people do unto your children.
We insist that others honor and respect our children, talk to them with courtesy and consideration, and not physically hurt them. How have you reacted when someone has dishonored your children in some way? Perhaps it was a teacher, or someone in a store, or the parent of another child. We are sure you were upset and asked, among other things, what they thought they were doing and how dare they do that. Yet a moment of honest reflection might reveal times when we have said and done things to our own children for which, if an outsider tried them, we would want them arrested and imprisoned.
The difference between the Fourteen- and Twenty-four-Karat Golden Rules is Emotionally Intelligent Parenting. The Twenty-four-Karat Rule requires us to know our feelings well, to take our child's perspective with empathy, to control our own impulses, to monitor carefully what we are doing as parents, to work in a dedicated way to improve our parenting, and to use social skill in carrying out ideas.
The Fourteen-Karat Rule is not strong enough to serve as a guide for parenting now. Times have changed. Life is hectic, complicated, exciting, challenging, and exhausting. We have ever-increasing information overload. The time is right for a new Golden Rule for parenting. We haven't had one since Benjamin Spock and Haim Ginott came on the scene--over three decades ago. It's time for a new paradigm for parenting, for a new century and millennium: Emotionally Intelligent Parenting.
What can Emotionally Intelligent Parenting do for your household? First, it will help bring about more peace with less stress. It is a way to restore a sense of balance when stress takes its toll and the kids start fighting, cooperation turns to conflict, your teenagers rebel, and members of the family get frustrated with everything that seems to need to be done immediately. Some stress can be motivating, but too much keeps us from being at our best. It is difficult for individuals under stress to do what, in calmer circumstances, they know is right.
It's a Difficult Time to Be a Parent--or a Child
This is a very demanding time during which to be a parent. Maybe the only thing more difficult is to be a child. There are more influences than ever on children, and more sources of distraction. James Comer--a professor of child psychiatry at the Yale Child Study Center and the author of the books School Power and Waiting for a Miracle: Schools Can't Solve Our Problems, But We Can, and a leader in addressing the concerns of all youth, especially those in our urban centers--pointed out in a 1997 interview that never before in human history has there been so much information going directly to children that is unfiltered by adult caregivers. Cornell University child development specialist Uri Bronfenbrenner observed that we are in the age of hectic activity; we are busy planning how to get our kids to where they have to be next, to get ourselves where we have to be, rushing from one thing to another, wondering if all of our arrangements will work out. Put this all together and you have a parenting situation with all the calmness and order of the inside of a blender making a mixed fruit drink.
There is a profusion of parenting fads. And just about every idea that comes along gets cloned, usually without authenticity or any hope of delivering on promises made. The stress does not seem to diminish. Parents do not know where to turn. What we must not lose sight of, however, is that the basics of human biology, child rearing, and parent-child relationships have not changed. Daniel Goleman's international best-seller, Emotional Intelligence, makes the point that we have neglected the biology of our feelings as adults and as parents, and we have neglected the role of feelings in our children's healthy growth. We are now paying the price, as families and as a society, with a higher incidence of violence and disrespectful behavior. We are paying for it when we see seemingly sensible teenagers becoming parents, then getting rid of newborns as if they were unwanted supermarket purchases. We are paying when we emphasize the intellect of students but forget their hearts. And of course, our children pay as well, as their unhappiness and troubled behaviors continue to grow.
Let's Bring Emotional Intelligence to Everyday Parenting
This book picks up where Daniel Goleman's book leaves off. In it, we intend to help parents understand why emotional intelligence is so important to the task of everyday parenting and creating household peace and harmony. We do this with authenticity, having worked with Daniel Goleman. In fact, the theory of emotional intelligence is based on decades of research and professional practice, including our own. In addition, as parents, we understand what parents go through. We know that Emotionally Intelligent Parenting must respect everyday parenting pressures and deal realistically with time. Parents' time is extremely valuable; they cannot afford to lose time and emotional energy to household turmoil, poor relationships with their kids, or kids who are out of control and lack responsibility, self-discipline, and the ability to separate what is genuinely in their interest from values dictated by peer pressure and the media.
Emotionally Intelligent Parenting uses specific, simple, important techniques that can make a major contribution to household peace and harmony. All these techniques have been developed from the authors' hands-on work with parents, families, and schools. The concept is founded on parents working with their own and their children's emotions in intelligent, constructive, positive, creative ways, respecting biological realities and the role of feelings in human nature. It draws its strength from small changes, repeated day after day, in our relationships with our children. Emotionally Intelligent Parenting is both a new paradigm for parenting and a highly realistic and practical approach to it. And a big part of Emotionally Intelligent Parenting is to remove a little stress and bring more fun into our families and our relationships with our children.
We Are Not Talking About Bad Parents or Bad Kids
Some children are born with particularly difficult temperaments, while other children seem to acquire them through painful experiences in life. It is important to keep in mind that children do not want to be bad. A bad child is not happy, no matter how it may seem to the parents and others. A child who misbehaves is seeking, though unsuccessfully, to learn ways to be viable in the world, which means to learn self-discipline, responsibility, and social and emotional intelligence.
In this book we will not be talking about "bad" parents or "bad" kids, nor will we ever suggest that you should feel guilt for being an inadequate parent, or blame your spouse or society or the child. Instead, we plan to teach you how to build concrete skills. Learning new parenting skills and teaching new emotional and social skills to your child--the skills of emotional intelligence--can be exciting, because it can improve the quality of life in your household and better prepare your children for the future. And, even though we are not blaming anyone, we are placing the responsibility for doing something about it on parents. To be a parent means to take responsibility for acting as a household leader, for helping children grow up to be emotionally intelligent. It is up to parents to use and to teach the skills that will enable children to achieve the goals parents have set for them.