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The Big Answer


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Tears and Tantrums

a book by Aletha J. Solter

(our site's book review)

Aware Parenting is one of the few visible parenting methods that prohibits parents employing logical consequences. The others are P.E.T., Connection Parenting, Discipline Without Distress, Nonviolent Communication (N.V.C.), and Alfie Kohn's Unconditional Parenting. None of these methods use logical consequences since they believe that all logical consequences are punitive by definition and are experienced at least partially as punishments by children. P.E.T.’s founder, Dr. Thomas Gordon, has contributed a forward to Dr. Solter’s book, Tears and Tantrums, which is full of her Aware Parenting philosophy. He agrees with her that tears and tantrums reflect genuine needs and parents shouldn’t try to stop them or consider them “misbehavior.” Parents should listen to the crying and accept it—as in active listening. Gordon supports few other parenting theories except Aware Parenting and P.E.T and obviously supports this one only because she is against any kind of punishment as well as logical consequences.

Aware parenting has lists of certified Aware Parenting instructors, workbooks, periodic workshops, and two other texts (besides Tears and Tantrums) by Solter that support her ideas: The Aware Baby and Helping Young Children Flourish.

In Tears and Tantrums, the author gives more space to young people’s feelings and emotions than any other parenting methodology in history. Time will tell whether this is overdone to the point of permissiveness. Her program is still young—which normally means that the bugs are still being worked out. The jury is still out, as it were. (There are no known studies that contrast her method with others or examine the potentials for the ugly symptoms of permissive parenting and/or overprotectiveness to be elicited by her method. It is reasonable to reserve judgement until such data is available.)

Crying or raging should be allowed—it is a necessary, healthy release
Crying or raging should be allowed—it is a necessary, healthy release

She studied under the famous child psychologist Jean Piaget in Switzerland, who authored The Moral Judgement of the Child and many other cognitive-developmentalist tomes and promoted democratic rather than authoritarian discipline and relationships. Solter promotes attachment-based parenting based on the researches of developmental psychologists John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth and others. Their research was critical stuff—very solid and revealing, insightfully and responsibly done. Parenting methods stemming from such sources are unlikely to be far off the mark.

Her advice covers a wide range of situations, and is very specific and clear. The exact response to crying and tantrums has never been spelled out in such detail before. The basis for her ideas is the fact that people have been shown to either relieve stress or store it—turn it inwards. The latter patterns cause later behavioral, psychological and physical problems. On the other hand, being a feeling person (à la Arthur Janov of Primal Therapy fame, for instance) that expresses feelings and relieves stresses in the process of living can prevent the onset of such problems.

By teaching parents to do this for themselves and their children, the legacy of emotional oppression passed on from generation to generation can be avoided. In other words, if parents are taught to repress/oppress feelings during their childhoods, they’ll repress them in their own kids as well, since the sound of crying presses their buttons (restimulates past engrams about having feelings shoved back down their throats) and makes them cringe, so they stop it, considering it “misbehavior.” It is a fact that much child abuse results when parents overreact to kids’ crying and tantrums. These parents experience such emotional pain and rage—precipitated by the kids’ upsets—that they lose control.

Parents can experience such emotional pain and rage—precipitated by the kids’ upsets—that they lose control
Parents can experience such emotional pain and rage—precipitated by the kids’ upsets—that they lose control

Aware Parenting is a good start at turning this situation around. It’s certainly a cheaper and easier strategy than Primal Therapy, but Harvey Jackins’ Re-evaluation Counseling, John Pollard’s Self-Parenting, Shad Helmstetter’s self-talk, and Nancy Napier’s self-esteem building or John Bradshaw’s real-self recovery processes are great supplements to this endeavor as well.

In truth, if one is brought up right in the first place, one needn’t find ways to clean up one’s inner mess later, and MCs are precisely designed to produce an environment to empower good nurturing of all. (See Why Register for an MC?.)

Registering for MC search and match
Registering for MC search and match

Any of the above methods can work in preventative capacities as well as therapeutic capacities, since the more a person is feelingful, real, alive, centered, aware, conscious and emotionally in touch, the more that person will raise the next generation without oppression and abuse.

There are many situations of sibling battles that she advises parents to get involved in that most parenting methods would argue for parents to avoid—since they’re in parents’ “no-problem area.” It’s too easy for kids to fail to learn to handle such things if parents intervene. Most authoritative parenting methods want the kids to learn to take the responsibility for sibling relationships themselves—discovering the natural consequences of mistreatment and fighting as part of their learning experiences. As Dreikurs and others have pointed out, kids will fight to manipulate attention from parents, and will often quit if parents refuse to take the bait.

Kids will fight to manipulate attention from parents, and will often quit if parents refuse to take the bait
Kids will fight to manipulate attention from parents, and will often quit if parents refuse to take the bait

One thing is sure: If we had to choose between her space-for-feelings methods and modern civilization’s obsession with drugging away strong feelings in kids and drugging adult emotional discomforts every time they arise, it would be a no-brainer. We’d go with her methods (or Alfie Kohn's or Thomas Gordon's).