PEP Blog


The Good News About Bad Behavior

By Lynne Ticknor

Look around any grocery store across the country and you’ll find preschoolers having full-blown temper tantrums, young children yelling at their parents and teenagers refusing to look up from their phones to help the elderly. Where have respect for others and manners gone? And why has rampant misbehavior replaced common decency?

These questions sent author and PEP Parent Educator Katherine Reynolds Lewis on a quest for answers that resulted in her bestselling book, The Good News about Bad Behavior: Why Kids Are Less Disciplined Than Ever and What to Do About It.

Lewis was surprised that no matter where she went and to whom she talked, almost all parents agreed that we have an epidemic of misbehavior on our hands. Most parents are struggling to understand what’s going on and, more importantly, how to raise kids in a way that teaches mutual respect, cooperation and self-regulation.

Q: What’s happening today that makes children less willing to cooperate?

A: Children today are different than they were a few decades ago. They have less self-control and fewer responsibilities, and our old ways of parenting and teaching aren’t working. No longer can you punish or reward your child to get them to behave. It just doesn’t work.

Q: You mentioned punishing a child doesn’t work anymore. Why not?

A: There used to be a time when yelling at children or washing their mouths out with soap was an effective short-term discipline strategy. I say “short-term” because punitive actions create more defiance and resentment later. Today, we must parent differently because our communities value collaboration and mutual respect more than the command-and-control model of the past.

Q: With all the conflicting parenting strategies touted by various experts, can you give us a few of your best ideas?

A: One of the most important aspects of parenting is connection. If you don’t already have a strong relationship with your child, start there. I remind myself frequently of the phrase “connection before correction”. Children cannot learn if they don’t feel connected to the person who is trying to guide them.

Q: What about communication? I often hear people say that their children won’t talk to them.

A: Yes, that’s a crucial part of the formula for effective parenting. Children and teens don’t want to talk to their parents for fear of being criticized or judged. We really need to listen to what our kids are saying. It’s our job to help them identify and express their feelings in an appropriate way rather than exploding with anger, annoyance, fear or helplessness.

Join us on May 15, 2019 at 8 PM ET for the last webinar in PEP’s Noted Parenting Author Series with Katherine Reynolds Lewis. This blog post was adapted from a May 2019 article in Washington Parent magazine written by PEP’s Director of Education Lynne Ticknor.

For more information about Katherine Reynolds Lewis, visit her website.


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