The Pocket Parent

The Pocket Parent


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The Pocket Parent by Gail Reichlin, Caroline Winkler

It's instant relief for when your 2-year-old is on the floor of the toy store, pitching a fit. Or when brother and sister discover that they can't stand each other. Or when your son can't say no to video games.

The Pocket Parent is, literally, a pocket-size book of tried-and-true advice, common sense, parental wisdom, and sanity. Written by two professionals who've reared six children between them and made a career out of helping others with parenting issues, this handy book will be a lifesaver for every parent of a 2-to-5-year-old. It begins with an overall view of the Pocket Parent approach to discipline. Based on unconditional love but firm limits, and aimed at keeping the child's dignity and self-esteem intact, here are strategies that include "I" statements, modeling, family meetings, and "one word" requests. Once the ground rules are set, the guide moves to an A-to-Z compendium of common problems. Just look it up-Anger, Bad Words, Biting, Chores, Doctor Visits, Fears at Night, Lying, Separation Anxiety-and find the "Sanity Savers" list of suggestions, easy-to-follow bullets, anecdotes, and more.

For the bag, glove compartment, backpack, or shelf in the kitchen, it's there for you whenever you need it.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780761121824
Publisher: Workman Publishing Company, Inc.
Publication date: 04/01/2001
Pages: 400
Sales rank: 292,655
Product dimensions: 4.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.88(d)

About the Author

Gail Reichlin , a preschool teacher for 30 years, is founder and executive director of the Parents Resource Network. She cohosted a cable television program on parenting in Chicago with Caroline Winkler and is the mother of three children.

Caroline Winkler is a writer who, with Gail Reichlin, cohosted a cable television program on parenting in Chicago. She is the mother of three children.

Read an Excerpt


Q: My daughter has started whining every time she wants something. If I don't give in, the whining escalates to screaming and crying. Just the pitch of her voice is driving me crazy! What can I do to discourage this?

A: Many young children go through a whining, shrieking phase. Sometimes whining may be the only way your child can express herself when she is feeling tired, frustrated, cranky, hungry, or ill. At other times, she may be trying to get your attention or whittle down your resolve. The unrelenting tone can certainly feel like torture to even the most patient parent! The key is to stand your ground and not give in to whining and other annoying behavior-or you may find you're actually encouraging it to continue.

Immediate Response

- Refuse to give in to those annoying tones so the child learns he will not get what he wants by whining.

- Use an "I" statement to express your feelings. Say, "I cannot listen to that voice, it hurts my ears.'' (Then, with your hands over your ears, leave the room.)

- Try some humor, and whine right back! The child will often get the message and will begin talking in his regular voice again after a good laugh.

- Take a deep breath, then ask yourself if your child is frustrated because you have become inappropriately demanding due to your very bad mood. If so, try to restore good feelings and consider apologizing to your child.

- Try giving your child a quick hug or cuddle (while ignoring the whining); this won't work for every child, but for some it's just enough of the right kind of attention to reset the mood and enable you to mollify "the whiner."

- Treat your child as if he were speaking a foreign language-and if you know one, consider responding in a foreign tongue. Your child will wonder what you're saying and, for the moment, may stop whining!

Sanity Savers

Acknowledge your child's feelings without attacking her character.

- When Daniel was little, he hated the way his father attacked his character and made threats to get his point across, "You big baby, you'd better stop whining this instant or I'll really give you something to cry about!" he'd say. That's why Daniel consciously chose to tell his daughter, "Samantha, that's enough! I can see how tired you are, but I still don't like whining and I simply won't listen to it!"

Ask your child to speak in his "big boy" or "big girl'' voice.

- Mom told Caitlin, "I can't understand you when you whine. I'll bet you can make a really big voice and talk to me. Take a big breath and tell me like this," Mom puffed up her chest and deepened her voice, which Caitlin seemed to enjoy imitating.

Praise your child when she speaks in an acceptable voice.

- "I'd be happy to get you a glass of juice since you ask so politely," Mom told Cody.

When your child is caught in a cycle of whining, be absolutely consistent in your refusal to reward the whining. It's not always easy to hold your ground, but it is necessary in breaking bad habits. Be forewarned, your kids will test you to the "nth" degree. And on a bad day, you may feel like a broken record!

Tell your child that you will ignore him when he chooses to whine. Even scolding him for the whining serves as a form of attention he may be seeking. Adopt a "neutral" facial expression, avoid direct eye contact, and direct your attention elsewhere.

Distract the child by directing her attention to something else. As you walk to the window, pretend to be a little bird in the tree and start "talking" to her in your best bird voice: "Dana, come and see my nest. I have two little baby birds in here. I wonder if you can see them?''

Take Heart - You're not the only parent who's ever found it impossible to ignore something that nearly drives you crazy!

Admit when you've simply "had it!" Tell your child that you just can't stay in the same room with him while he's whining. Either you take a time-out by leaving the room yourself or give a time-out to your child. (See "Time-Out," page 299, and "Wits' End," page 331, for helpful strategies.)

Try taking a breather when your child is whining in public. Tell him that you are both leaving for a little while, until he gets control of his voice.

Use humor to jog your child out of his whiny mood.

- When Nolan ran into the kitchen whining about getting another cookie, something in his dramatically contorted face struck Caroline as funny. She whined right back, "Oh, no-o-o-o, not you-o-o-o again! I just started washing these dishes and there's so-o-o-o-o many of them." Nolan looked startled for a second. Then, to Caroline's amazement, he put his hands on his hips, wagged his finger in her face, and firmly said, "Mommy! You know I can't understand you when you whine!"

Tape-record your child whining so he can hear how he sounds. This is often surprising to the child and often gets a big laugh! You might also tape-record your child asking for something in an acceptable way, though this isn't quite as much fun.

Practice ways to ask for something without whining with your child. (Try role-playing, using puppets, or telling stories to make your point. See the role-playing box on page 25 for more ideas.)

- While Manny was on the phone, his three-year-old daughter, Christa, rudely interrupted him by whining incessantly for a cookie. The next day, Manny had some one-on-one time with his daughter. He chose to discuss the previous day's incident as they gathered her dolls for a "picnic." Manny said, "You know, yesterday, I couldn't listen to you when you were whining for a cookie. Here's how I like to be asked: 'Excuse me, Daddy, may I please have a cookie?' I'll bet you can make one of your dolls ask for a cookie just the right way." When Christa complied, Manny complimented "the doll" on how politely she had asked, without whining.

Expect your child's whining to actually increase temporarily when he doesn't get his way. Hold your ground! Thankfully it will lessen as he realizes you won't give in.

Go all out and if you can't beat 'em, join 'em! Declare an "all-whining" day.

- Gus and Jan tried an idea suggested by author and parent educator Fred Gosman. They called the kids together and organized an all-whining Sunday! Gus and Jan started out the day by painstakingly demonstrating the annoying decibels and shrill tones that were required. Any pleasant-toned conversation was strictly forbidden. Although Gus and Jan had great fun with their little charade, the kids soon grew tired of it. They called everyone together in exasperation and begged, "Please, no more whining!" Everyone in the family got the point, and there was no more whining in their house for a while.

Help your child come up with "non-whiny" ways of expressing herself. Brainstorm ideas outside of the heat of the moment, perhaps in a family meeting or "quiet time."

- Chelsea came up with a nonverbal signal that only she and her shy child understood. Instead of interrupting Chelsea with her familiar whine, Melissa came right up to her mother and pulled twice on Mom's little finger to get her attention.

Periodically "check in" with your child during times when you're particularly busy with a project, so she won't be as tempted to use annoying behavior to get your attention.

See if you can determine an underlying problem when your child is whining that is easily addressed. Is she tired, hungry, sick? Some children resort to whining only when they are overtired; a little more sleep just might do the trick!

Take an honest look at your own behavior; are you modeling the correct way to speak and minimizing your own complaining? Remember, children tend to do as you do, not as you say.

Develop the patience you need to "stay cool" by remembering to take the time to address your own needs. A good mood promotes tolerance. Rest assured that even a two-year-old who seems to whine for just about everything he wants will pass out of this stage as his verbal/language skills develop.

The Bottom Line

Discourage persistent whining by giving your child the clear message that it will never get him what he wants. Remember, children continue to do only what works.

Table of Contents

Anger New baby

Bad words




Comparing and labeling children



Doctor and dentist visits

Fears at night

Fighting in front of your kids

First days of preschool




"I hate you!"

Hitting and hurting others






Morning "crazies"

Picking up toys

Potty training

Power struggles


Separation anxiety


Sibling rivalry



Television, video, and computers

Thumb sucking


Traveling with the kids



Wits' end

Recommended Children's Books


Customer Reviews

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Pocket Parent 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 18 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you have a normal but sometimes challenging 2- to 5-year-old, this is the upbeat A-Z reference guide that can restore your sanity. I currently have twins about to turn 3, as well as a 6 year old and a 1 year old. Needless to say, the practical advice found in this book is priceless. Having looked at several books on parenting, this book stands out because of it's simple style, yet completeness in covering the topics addressed. For all of the main areas that most parents have to deal with (tantrums, whining, lying, sibling fights, morning crazies, bad words, mealtime, potty training, getting kids to bed, etc) this book has a section devoted to it - first with a simple question and answer dealing with the issue. Then, a list of tons of practical suggestions, briefly written with entertaining examples - this is the real meat of the book in my opinion - it's like all of the practical advice everyone has ever given on a topic is condensed into that part of this book. Then, each section ends with a bottom line conclusion. These 'bottom lines' basically act as that little bit of support every parent needs to deal with the frustration of having kids. My bottom line is: this book is a really great resource. It definitely makes the perfect gift for new parents, or even as a parent gift for the kids' birthdays. Believe me, parents with 2-, 3-, 4-, or 5-year-olds will appreciate it!
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Pocket Parent is a book that every parent of a young child should have in an easily accessible place. When you're being challenged or coming up on a behavior you've seen before but that you'd like to deal with differently this time, you can grab this book and get some fun, practical, useable options. It's an honest approach acknowledging that it's frustrating to be a parent at times, but there's always something you can do. This book offers so many tips and ideas on so many different subjects, from common place expereinces every parent will encounter to more unique situations that may challenge a smaller number of parents. You can read it cover to cover or pick it up as you need it. I suggest an initial cover to cover read and then keep it handy, because you can't possibly remember everything in this wonderful book. You'll want to refer back to it again and again.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I find this book to be immensely helpful with the everyday struggles I face as a parent. The authors give multiple strategies so I can find the ones that will suit my situation. Aside from the appropriate and helpful advice, the book's greatest selling point is how easy it is to use. It literally provides parenting problems with excellent solutions in accessible alphabetical order (in a convenient size to carry in your bag).
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is very helpful for new parents and new grandparents. A lot of good ideas and information to help you think out a problem.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Don't let the size of this book fool you. It offers wonderful and creative advice plus humor for toddlers and preschoolers. We love it. With toddler twin girls, it has help immensely. We also use this book along with Jodie Lynn's book, Mommy-CEO and The Happiest Toddler on the Block. They are a great combo for any home and work well together.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Reviewer: As a parent of a strong-willed preschooler, The Pocket Parent is THE place to go for all the answers! The A to Z format allows me to pinpoint an issue I'm having with my child, whether it's anger, mealtime issues, tantrums etc., then I flip to the right page for some very positive and easy-to-follow advice with a touch of humor. The book is filled with personal anecdotes...some made me laugh, some touched me profoundly..all were very insightful. This is the best parenting resource book I've found. It's easy and enjoyable to read. Best of all, it's so warmly-written and supportive, it's like getting a big reassuring hug with every turn of the page. Thanks to Gail Reichlin and Caroline Winkler for a terrific book filled with practical, sanity-saving wisdom. It's perfect for any parent or caregiver of young children!
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Guest More than 1 year ago
I have twin 3-year-olds and a new baby. Needless to say, I find my patience and parenting skills being tested daily! Annoying sibling fights, anger towards me and the new baby, parent "deafness", whining tantrums in public--On a bad day, I defintely can use some friendly support. "The Pocket Parent" offers more than 1,000 sanity saving suggestions to try for the most common challenging moments with preschoolers. The alphabetical listing of topics enables me to quickly flip to the pages I need. This book does not preach with things you "must" do or "never" do. The topics addressed range from the very practical--surviving morning "crazies", bedtime, and mealtime to more profound issues, such as explaining death, nurturing self-esteem, and teaching values. The authors includes an interesting way of defining and using "Time-out" that has worked for us. "Pocket Parent" lifts my spirits with tips, humor and lots of reassurance that I AM going to make it!--(at least until tomorrow). My husband also appreciates the fact that there are many specific "Daddy" anecdotes that he can relate to. The book is fun to read and reasonably priced under $10. GREAT GIFT!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Some great ideas but too bad its not longer. 40 topics is helpful, but there are lots of other issues I'd like to see included. The authors include lots of ideas through short easy to read suggestions.
Guest More than 1 year ago
'The Pocket Parent' is a wonderful, easy-to-access resource, which parents of preschoolers will surely refer to again and again. It offers practical, hands-on suggestions for handling many challenging, everyday parenting situations-often even supplying the words that parents can use. Readers will recognize themselves and their children in the real-life anecdotes the authors have chosen to illustrate their sound advice. I love many features of this book, but one of my favorites is the 'Take Heart' section in every chapter. Each begins with 'You're not the only parent who...,' and offers reassurance (and alternative strategies) to parents who may feel they've 'blown' a parenting situation. I highly recommend this book. In fact, I predict that it will become a classic-trusted and frequently used by parents of two-to-five-year-olds. -- Blakely Bundy, M.Ed., Executive Director of the Winnetka Alliance for Early Childhood and President-Elect of the Chicago Metropolitan Association for the Education of Young Children
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Pocket Parent has taught me so much about better ways to communicate with my 4-year-old granddaughter. I even have used some of the strategies on Grandpa and he seems to cooperate more, too-the first time I ask. It seems like much of the time we just resort to yelling and threatening automatically, and we keep doing the things that don't work. Thanks Gail and Caroline for writing a book that clearly gives specific alternatives to try with great examples to follow. Although some of the tips take practice, many suggestions have already worked for me. I also appreciate the humor...we all need to know we are not the only ones that ocassionally have a really bad day! Raising children today is definitely not easy, but it's the most wonderful job in the world...especially the second time around with the grandchildren!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have finally found the book I have been looking for! It is perfectly sized to consult at a moment's notice; all you have to do is look it up...40 worrisome issues are addressed such as ANGER, BITING, BEDTIME, BAD WORDS, CHORES, DEATH, FEARS AT NIGHT, 'I HATE YOU!', THE 'GIMMES', INTERRUPTING, LYING, MEALTIME, MORNING 'CRAZIES', POTTY TRANING, SEPARATION ANXIETY, TANTRUMS, WHINING, and more. It is written the way friends talk to each other...with compassion, humor and excellent practical advice. The format is geared to busy parents-- hundreds of quick bits of wit and wisdom to help a parent restore his or her sanity! The authors call the bullets of tips...'Sanity Savers'. I love the short anecdotes that illustrate the skills, often demonstrating the exact words to try in order to communicate more effectively with a preschooler. I feel like I know the authors who shared many personal embarrassing moments with their own children, and I found myself laughing out loud as I recognized myself and my children in the many examples of daily battles. I love the 'Takeheart' section in each chapter that reassures parents that they are not the only ones who sometimes regret what they have said or done. We all need to hear that sort of thing over and over again. I feel as though I am no longer alone with my concerns, especially on a very bad day. I'm delighted that I can take my friendly advisor with me literally in my pocket! The ideas really work and I already feel much more confident that I am good parent. I highly recommend this book for parents and pre-school teachers; it is the only quick read A-Z book for parents of pre-schoolers that I have found on the market. And, it's reasonably priced, what a bargain!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a great book that has really helped me get more cooperation from my 4-year-old...the FIRST time I ask. I totally appreciated the author's humor! I love the size of the book and quick read format ...perfect to take with, always ready to give me a tip to try and at the same time a reassuring 'verbal hug' that no parent or child is perfect. Great gift for any mother or father of a 2- to 5-year-old that can use some sanity!! Just look it up...ANGER, BEDTIME, BITING, BAD WORDS, MORNING CRAZIES, SIBLING RIVALRY, TANTRUMS, WHINING AND MANY MORE!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Whether your child is 2 or 22, or whether you are still in the family planning stage, this book is must reading. The innovative format makes it easy to read for those with a hectic schedule. I hope this is the first in a series of 'Pocket' guides!
Guest More than 1 year ago
'Parenting can be a long, lonely road on those days when you're quite sure that no parent has ever gone through what you're going through. 'The Pocket Parent' gives you support and humor, in kind and caring suggestions and stories, to help you find your way. It doesn't preach. Instead, it points to options we may not have tried. As the father of three young children, I knew the moment I picked it up that it would be dog-eared and highlighted in a matter of days. 'The Pocket Parent' is simply the best book on parenting that I've ever read.''