I recently finished listening to Susan Crawford’s Children, Parents, and Power Struggles lectures. Susan runs a parenting e-mail list that I subscribe to called the Rational Parenting List, and these lectures were given at the 2004 Objectivist Summer Conference.
This course was a great complement to my other reading on parenting. Much of the material Susan covers is similar to what you would find in my favorite How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk. I’d definitely put Susan in the Positive Discipline camp, although I don’t think she uses that term. She does give the best explanation of “consequences” that I’ve heard. I’m paraphrasing, but she says that choices have consequences, and that consequences are logically related to the choice. Further, natural consequences are the ones that follow automatically, while logical consequences are the ones that parents impose, but which attempt to maintain that connection between action and consequence. So, a natural consequence of a child’s forgetting to take his lunch to school would be that he would go without that meal. A logical consequence of a child’s not coming home on time would be for the parent to disallow him going out for a period of time, the connection being that the child can not be trusted. I liked this distinction because I think it will help me work on consequences. I now can always ask myself: Is there a sufficient natural consequence for this behavior? If not, do I need to impose a logical consequence? It’s occurring to me as I write this that the need for logical consequences probably arises mostly in connection with social requirements. It’s analogous to the difference between the laws of physics and the laws of man. I’ll have to think about that more – it’s just a germ of an idea.
I did find the course to be somewhat disorganized. I’m not good at listening without taking notes and I listened to this in the car over a few weeks, so that didn’t help. But Susan’s outline shows that what she’s really doing is covering a range of discrete issues in the context of power struggles. Here are just a few topics that she covers:
- Time Outs
- Picky Eaters
What I found very helpful was that she gives so many examples and concrete suggestions. She often lists off a dozen or more specific ways you can deal with a particular issue. The presentation can be dry because of this, but I feel like many of those ideas are lurking around in my subconscious now, ready to be pulled out when the moment arises. I suspect I’m going to listen to this course every couple of years just to restock my toolbox.
You can purchase the course from the Ayn Rand Bookstore. I do recommend it, especially if you have more time to listen than to read, or if you are an auditory learner. If you’re interested in signing up for the mailing list (for a small yearly fee), you can send an e-mail to rplist at aol dot com. If I recall, Susan does allow a trial membership.