DR. GAFFNEY'S COACHING GUIDE FOR
BETTER PARENTS AND STRONGER KIDS
Copyright 1997 Dr. Carol Renaud Gaffney
"THE NEW RULES" FOR RAISING
AND PRODUCTIVE CHILDREN IN ANY ENVIRONMENT
With dilemmas like drugs, guns, gangs
and teenage pregnancy plaguing today's children
in nearly every facet of society, a common cry
among parents has become, "I wish there was
some sort of manual that taught the basics of
being a good parent!"
Dr. Carol Gaffney heard the cry and responded
with "Dr.Gaffney’s Coaching Guide for
Better Parents and Stronger Kids" which presents
step-by-step guidelines for empowering the parent
and the child to produce a healthy and productive
lifestyle. Dr. Gaffney is a Psychologist/parenting
coach whose work centers around creating successes
for parents and their children.
"After helping literally thousands of individuals
to obtain parental triumphs, I know there are
numerous factors that influence behavior. I also
believe that parental influence can wield more
power than the immediate environment," says
Dr. Gaffney. "If parents can understand what
input to provide and how to provide it at each
age and can come with understanding, realistic
expectations and love, the problems during the
child’s growth period can be minimized and
the odds of having stronger children maximized."
Among the guidelines that Dr. Gaffney offers in
her new book:
can take your kids only as far as you have been.
Your children learn from you, not just from what
you tell them, but how you behave, which is a
projection of your values and beliefs. According
to Dr. Gaffney, knowing yourself is the first
step in helping you to assess whether you are
the model you want your kids to learn from.
must be held accountable. Go into the grocery
store on any given day and there is bound to be
some child acting unruly or ignoring their parent’s
wishes. However, as Dr. Gaffney put it, "As
kids grow up they must learn that life is not
about having other people put up with them and
their bad moods or testy, sarcastic comments.
If they don't learn this they can become infected
with the "center of the universe"
attention to limit testing. Limit testing, according
to Dr. Gaffney, is normal. Most parents acknowledge
it only as poor behavior when actually it can
provide important information about how the child
is developing and what needs are present. Sometimes
it is simply a way for children to know that they
are safe with the adults in their lives. At other
times "What looks like limit testing can
also be a cry for help due to unhappiness, depression
or discouragement," says Dr. Gaffney.
Table of Contents
I. KNOW YOURSELF
- You Can Take Your Kids Only As Far As You
- The "Know Yourself" Questions
- Self-Care Versus Selfish
- All-Or-Nothing Thinking
- Physical Illness and Stress
- Using The Breath
- Hot Buttons
- Family of Origin
- Life's Purpose
- Living Intentionally
- Goal Setting
II. KNOW YOUR KIDS
- Raising Children To Adulthood Is A Gradual
Process Of Their Learning And Our Letting Go
- Kids Are People, Too
- Letting Them Go, Letting Them Grow
- The "Know Your Kid" Questions
- Reasonable Expectations
- Limit Testing
- Kids Who Can't And Kids Who Won't
III. KNOW THE ROPES
- The Basic Principles
- Skills For Immediate Action
- Tools Of The Trade
- Planning Ahead - Speaker/Listener Technique
- Create A Great Place To Live
Times have changed!! It does not seem so long
ago that parents could feel confident that providing
structure, discipline and information as sufficient
to keep their kids safe as they grew up. In a
few short years parents have found they can no
longer take for granted that presence and love
alone are sufficient to ensure the safety of their
children. Parents cannot take for granted that
their kids will be attracted to mentors and other
important people who will take them under their
wing and help them develop safely. Of course,
guidance, support and love have always been the
parents' responsibility, but there has been a
feeling of confidence and trust that "things will
eventually turn out okay."
That times have changed and danger lurks in
close places was seeping into my consciousness
almost six years ago when the reality of our twenty-year
old son lying in an emergency room with skull
damage, the victim of a vicious attack, made me
open my eyes.
We received the Saturday morning call that Chris
had been taken to the emergency room after being
in a "fight" the night before. It turned out that
the "fight" was a one-way affair when two people
emerged from the shadows of a building with shovels,
ready to attack Chris and his three college buddies,
who were on their way back to their apartments.
Chris was the easiest target of the thugs and
they struck him viciously on the side of his head.
It was only good fortune that one of Chris's friends
turned, saw Chris fall, and chased his assailant
away before the raised shovel could give another
The next several months were difficult as we
waited through surgery and recovery, hoping and
praying that when the healing was complete, Chris's
function would be normal. Again, we were lucky.
Chris has had no residual functional problem.
But no matter how well his body healed, life and
my beliefs about life have never been quite the
same. An emotional wound remains. It is a daily
reminder that the world I took for granted has
A change occurred deep within me. I can remember
how angry I was and how, because there was no
legal resolution (the assailants were never found),
I had no place to direct my anger. I thought at
first that if I could ever get my hands on the
guys that did this to my son, I would rip them
apart. With the passage of time, I decided that
if I were able to confront them, anger and violence
would henceforth be part of my being, not just
in my life. I chose not to let that happen. I
remember consciously making the decision to put
whatever energy I had into Chris' healing, not
into retribution. I decided to stand for something
of value. I wanted this atrocious event to make
a positive difference.
In 1990, I had been in the mental health field
for several years, providing therapy for children,
adults and families. When Chris was assaulted
I became more determined to crystallize my thinking
and techniques towards developing ways families
can protect against violence happening to them.
I realized there are two aspects to Chris's story:
1) He had put himself in a vulnerable position
through a number of choices he made, and as a
result he became a victim. 2) The perpetrators
had come to a point in their lives in which their
violent behavior, their contempt for human life,
was an everyday choice. My goal in the book is
to address the problem from both sides; to provide
ways for our children to keep out of harm's way
and to provide them with values and choices of
behavior that will keep them from resorting to
violence. The key to both sides is the parents,
their awareness, their knowledge, their involvement
in their children's lives and how they guide them
to becoming healthy adults.
We raised our children in a relatively protected
suburban environment. There were no gangs, and
if illegal drugs were present, they were not apparent.
Crime had not yet invaded our neighborhood; gunshots
were not heard. We took a lot for granted. Although
our children did not have the available corner
lot that I had growing up, I didn't worry about
their playing soccer, football and baseball games
on the front lawn or going to the neighbor's house.
We did not have an alarm system for our house
or care and we slept with the windows open on
the first floor.
Kids in high school got rowdy, got drunk at
times, got into fights, especially on the weekend
of the cross-town rivalry. This was not acceptable
but no unexpected, as the same things happened
when I was in school in the sixties.
We accepted the personal challenge to let the
kids go and to let them grow. We let the natural
consequences of their actions do the teaching,
until the natural consequences got life- threatening.
Of course, we were aware of drinking, driving,
drugs, but these seemed to be under our kids'
control and based on choices they made. We took
the opportunity for input when we became aware
of the presence of problems. However, except for
awareness of injury through driving, which was
so often the "other person's fault," our children
were not taught to live defensively.
Our eyes were opened that day in 1990 with Chris's
injury when random violence came into our lives
and our vulnerability became all too apparent.
Very quickly we learned that natural consequences
now involved real danger and that the "other guy"
had gotten out from behind the wheel of the car
and was prowling the streets and alleys wielding
shovels and, all too often, guns. The stakes had
risen enormously. It seemed to happen overnight.
As I became more aware of what kids were doing,
I also became aware that the "problems" were not
limited to "the other side of the tracks." Our
neighborhood looks the same as it always has;
well-kept homes, tidy yards, the sound of the
lawn-mower whining on Saturday morning. Our neighbors
are conscientious people who have their recycling
bins out twice a week. But today our nice neighborhood
has gangs, many of our neighbors have been robbed,
junior high and high school kids go through metal
detectors entering school, fights have become
brawls with victims requiring plastic surgery.
The teachers complain about the affluent, arrogant
students who think life owes them. Many of the
local kids don't "hang out" because there are
too many guns. Drug addiction is a pervasive disease.
The kids seem to be taking control in their world
which is out of control Violence and the effects
of violence no longer happen to the other guy.
Parenting in the nineties requires a more proactive
approach. Times have changed. It used to be that
social institutions provided for life's learning
experiences and for teaching lessons. Now, in
the absence of the social cohesiveness of the
past, parents must take back the responsibility
to coordinate their children's experiences. It
is their responsibility to help make sense of
what happens and to ensure that the experiences
their kids are exposed to are the ones the parents
want them to have.
I am not so naive as to think that parents have
total control over what their children experience.
The control diminishes from the day children are
born, and the children's perceptions of their
experiences are never up to the parent. What I
am recommending is that we parents increase the
odds that children choose experiences that are
good for them. Also, we must become "resource
parents" to whom our children can come for love,
understanding and wisdom when they have problems
that must be solved. When bad things happen our
children need us as a perspective that only experience
and maturity can bring. This is the responsibility
of the parents: to be the mature resource; the
ones with experience who can help the child come
to an understanding of what has happened.
Parenting in the nineties requires fostering
the development of independence and responsibility
and balancing that with an appropriate level of
guidance and limits. The goal as parents is to
produce emotionally strong, healthy, independent
adults. This can be done by providing our children
with the environment that supports their social,
physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual
development. To do this, parents themselves must
be emotionally strong, healthy, independent adults.
In the recent past years we have relied on others
to care for our children; the schools to care
for their intellect, the churches to care for
their souls, the doctors to care for their bodies,
the therapists to care for their emotions, and
organized athletics to care for their physical
development. It is time - it is imperative - that
parents take back the responsibility to be the
trainers, the coaches for all of these facets
of their children's growth. The time is "now".
For stronger kids, we must be better parents.
Providing the appropriate environment for your
children is your responsibility. To this end,
with the understanding that kids learn from our
behaviors and our values, there are three basic
1. You can take your kids only as far as you
have been. They may progress beyond where you
are in life, in learning and in personal standards
and values, but if they do, it will be because
of what they learn from others.
2. Raising children to adulthood is a gradual
process of their learning and our letting go.
Your decisions about how and whether you should
intercede are based on the age and stage of the
child at the time a problem is experienced. And
further, once you decide how much of the problem
you own as the adult, you solve your part of it
then support your child in his or her problem-solving.
3. Behavior, yours and your children's is an
expression of biology, psychology, social experience
and the yearnings of the soul. The medical and
behavioral health fields have been guided by the
idea that behavior is a result of the interactions
of our biology, psychology and social experiences.
The time has come to take the next step and add
the concept of the soul to the factors affecting
the expression of behavior. The closer your behavior
is to the expression of your soul's needs and
desires, the more relaxed, confident and healthy
you can be as an adult and your children can be
during their childhood.