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Once there was a bright young woman who was looking for an effective mother.
She wanted to learn the practical secrets of good parenting. And she knew she would find them only from someone who actually lived them.
The pregnant young woman had talked it over with her husband. They agreed that neither of them had ever really been taught how to raise children. Yet they would soon have a child of their own.
And so they decided to educate themselves, each in his or her own way.
The young woman took a leave of absence from her job. While she waited for her baby to arrive, she asked other mothers how they raised their children.
Over the next several months, she spoke with many women: young and old; traditional housewives and women who worked outside their homes; some with many children, others with only one child; married and single parents; mothers of toddlers and teenagers; those who took their parenting too seriously and those who had kept their sense of humor.
The young woman was beginning to see the many ways that women raise their children.
She noticed how much the mothers she spoke with cared about their children. She saw how hard they tried to be good mothers.
She often saw, however, what so many others did not want to see-the results of poor parenting: the common defiance or indifference in the children's eyes; the sorrow and frustration in the parents'. She didn't like a good deal of what she saw.
But she knew there was a better way.
She knew the results of good parenting were love and peace and joy in the home-for parents and childrenalike.
And she was determined to find it.
She had seen many women who had appeared to be " tough" parents-those who strictly disciplined their children.
Because they were such firm and consistent disciplinarians, some of these women's friends thought they were very good mothers.
Many of their children thought otherwise.
As the young woman sat in the homes of these " tough" parents, she asked, "What kind of a parent would you say you are ?"
Their answers varied only slightly.
" I'm a conservative parent," the visitor was told. "I'm old-fashioned." "Traditional."
She heard the pride in their voices and their interest in their children's good behavior.
The young woman also met many apparently " nice" mothers who seemed to consider their children's feelings above everything else.
Because they appeared to be so understanding and sympathetic, some people thought they were very good mothers.
Their children, however, felt very differently about them.
As the young woman sat and listened to these "nice" mothers answer the same question, "What kind of a parent are you?" she heard, "I'm a modern parent." " Understanding." " Supportive."
She heard the pride in their voices and their interest in their children's self-esteem.
But she was disturbed.
It was as though most mothers in the world were primarily interested either in their children's behavior or in their children's selfesteem-one or the other.
The mothers who were interested in getting good behavior from their children were often referred to as " authoritarian" parents, while those who wanted self-esteem for their children were often referred to as " permissive " parents.
The young woman thought each of these mothers-the authoritarian and the permissivewas only partially effective. She knew each of these women was trying her best, based on what she knew how to do. " But," she thought, " it seems like being half a mother."
She continued to speak with other motherssome in neighboring towns-but to no avail. She returned home from her search, tired and discouraged.
The young woman might have given up her search for an effective mother long ago, but she still had one great advantage. She knew exactly what she was looking for.
She told her husband later, "A truly effective mother somehow knows how to have the best of all worlds. She knows how to teach her children to like themselves and to behave themselves.
"And perhaps most important, she knows how to enjoy herself in the process."
Finally, as the young woman continued to talk to others, she began hearing marvelous stories about an active and interesting woman. In her older age, this woman was enjoying her life. She always seemed to find time for everything.
What caught the young woman's ear as she listened was the fact that the older woman was also a Special Mother-a woman who had an incredibly simple and effective method of childrearing.
The Special Mother she heard about had raised three marvelous children with seemingly little effort. Each child had apparently been a wellbehaved youngster and had since grown into a well-adjusted, prosperous, and happy adult.
Each of the older woman's three grown daughters had children of her own. And they were using the same parenting system with the same success.
The young woman wondered. if- these stories could really be true. And if so, she wondered if this mother would be willing to share her secrets with her.
She found the number in the telephone book and called her.
"I've heard that you have a very effective parenting system," the young woman said. "I wonder if I might come over and speak with you?"
"Of course," replied The Mother. "I'm flattered. I'd be happy to see you anytime."
When the young woman arrived at The Mother's home, she expected to meet a "grandmother." Instead, she was welcomed by a vibrant, attractive woman who looked much younger than her years. The expectant mother wondered, "Could her parenting method have something to do with it?"
After they were comfortable over a cup of tea, The Mother asked, "Now, how can I help you?"
The young woman hesitated and then said, "I understand that you did a wonderful job of raising your children-and that you did this through a very special parenting approach."