September 19, 2011
Create Happy Kids:
New Book Gives Secrets to Make Kids Happy and Keep Parents Sane and in Control
I love the title of “Create Happy Kids” because, ultimately, every good parent wants his or her kids to be happy. But the subtitle clarifies that this book isn’t solely about pleasing your children. It’s about parenting them in a way that short-term will make being a parent easier for you, and long-term will assist your children in growing up to be well-adjusted and able to operate in the adult world. I also love that author Shirin Sherkat describes herself as a “Parent Strategist,” and she fully deserves that title for how in this book she provides useful strategies for parents to raise happy, responsible, motivated, and respectful children who not only listen to their parents, but who believe their parents listen and respect them and are on their sides in wanting what is best for them.
“Create Happy Kids” is not a big book, but it is big enough to convey simple strategies to help parents do what needs to be done. Its seventeen short chapters will lend themselves to quick and easy repeated reference, with topics such as “Say It Only Once,” “Reduce Power Struggles through the Art of Negotiation,” and “Share Control But Stay in Charge.”
Let me note here that I am not a parent, but I have spent plenty of time watching kids and observing how parents succeed or fail at disciplining or treating their children properly, and I have made some of the same mistakes as parents make, such as ending a statement with a word like “okay?” that asks permission of the child and defeats the whole purpose of the sentence, something Sherkat warns against. But perhaps more importantly, as I read this book, I remembered what it felt like to be a child and to think an adult would not listen to me or to feel a teacher or parent was unfair about some decision. For that reason, I could relate to the examples Sherkat gave of what parents say to their children that isn’t helpful, and I understand why the phrases and lessons she teaches parents in this book would work.
One point Sherkat makes that I think really sums up her message in a nutshell is, “Show me a child who acts ‘spoiled,’ and I’ll show you a child who is ‘confused’ every time.” What parenting problems usually boil down to is that parents are not always consistent; they may send mixed messages to their children, or the parents (whether married, divorced, or remarried) do not operate as a team to send clear expectations of behavior to the child. Sherkat adds, “Kids who know what is expected from them and what to expect from their environment have a sense of security and stability that is essential for their wellbeing and happiness.”
Sherkat goes through explaining what kids need to know so they aren’t confused and so they will do what their parents want; such clarity will make them happier because they have less anxiety and fear, and they have a sense of structure that provides comfort and stability. One such principle that can create this clarity, as Sherkat emphasizes, is teaching kids to understand the difference between a right and a privilege, something she believes you can teach a child as early as age two or three. She also makes it clear that kids must earn their privileges.
Throughout “Create Happy Kids,” Sherkat provides effective phrases to use, including what she terms “the Magical Sentence” so children will understand what is required of them, while offering incentives to children to do what is required. Use of the Premack’s Principle and the many other processes described in the book will work for teenagers as well as toddlers, and it’s never too late or too early to start making your expectations clear with your children.
Some of Sherkat’s wisest advice is on team parenting. Sherkat realizes many children grow up in single parent homes, or with divorced parents or step-parents. She addresses how the parents and step-parents can all participate in effective parenting as part of a parenting team, and she has a great list of “Don’ts” for parents. Just one that I found powerful and never considered the full effects of before is:
[Don’t] Point out your co-parent’s flaws to your kids. Badmouthing the other guy historically always backfires, and it results in making the parent who is being negative look weak. Plus, it sets a bad example. I believe the most harmful outcome is that if the so-called “flaws” belong to the children’s biological parent, then the children believe that part of them is genetically faulty and bad! Creating this impression of a “faulty genetic factor” is especially harmful to your kids’ personality development.
Such advice shows that Sherkat not only understands parents but also the psychology of children and how children misinterpret parents’ messages.
“Create Happy Kids” is a book I feel every parent should read. It is a book to return to again and again for practical advice that will make a difference in every parent and child’s life. Following the parental strategies in this book will improve communication between parents and children, provide clear expectations for children, and ultimately, create happier kids and happier families.
For more information about Shirin Sherkat and “Create Happy Kids,” visit www.CreateHappyKids.com.— Tyler R. Tichelaar, Ph.D., and author of the award-winning “Narrow Lives”
Superior Book Productions • 1202 Pine Street
Marquette, MI 49855 • (906) 226-1543 • email@example.com