by Dr. Carol Renaud Gaffney
As reviewed in the Providence
Journal, Boulder Daily Camera, Scranton Tribune
and Portland Oregonian
HERE to read Dr. Gaffney's
letter that accompanies her Parents'
By C. Genia DeAraujo, Journal Staff Writer
Providence Journal - August 19, 1999
BRISTOL -- News about teen slayings fill air
waves. Childhood depression is rising. And parents
are uncertain of their role. "Tragic" is how Carol
Gaffney describes these circumstances affecting
Carol Renaud Gaffney, Ph.D., has created a kit
she believes may help parents raise stronger kids.
It's called The Parents' Success Kit , which includes
a coaching guide to help parents and children
understand one another.
Gaffney's book helps parents identify problems
their children may be having, develop a line of
communication with their children, and help their
children become more responsible for themselves.
Gaffney said she was inspired to write the book
after her son Chris was attacked at college. Traveling
one night with a group of friends, Chris was hit
from behind with a shovel by a man while another
man beat him.
Gaffney recalled receiving the telephone call
informing her that Chris was in the hospital.
"I was furious," she remembered.
Months after the incident, while Chris recovered
from his wounds, Gaffney's anger persisted. Because
the assailants were never found there was no legal
resolution. So Gaffney said she had no place to
direct her anger.
In the introduction to her book, Dr. Gaffney's
Coaching Guide for Better Parents and Stronger
Kids , Gaffney writes, "I thought at first that
if I could ever get my hands on the guys who 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's healing, not into retribution. I
decided to stand for something of value. I wanted
this atrocious event to make a positive difference."
"I decided to channel my anger into the book,"
"When Chris was assaulted I became more determined
to crystallize my thinking and techniques toward
developing ways families can protect against violence
happening to them," Gaffney writes.
"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 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
"For stronger kids," Gaffney writes, "we must
be better parents."
For example, Gaffney said, parents need to take
responsibility for what kinds of images children
"You can't have garbage go into a mind and not
have it affected," she said. She said that she
had noticed "the media change" in the early 80s
with the introduction of cable and channels such
as MTV. Eventually media images became more graphic
and children were seeing far more adult-oriented
subject matter than they had a decade before.
For her own children, Gaffney decided that "this
was not good for them" but it felt like "a sense
of having my finger in the dam."
A practicing psychologist for about 15 years,
Gaffney now works closely with corporations using
the Coaching Guide system. She says parents should
be aware of their children's routines because
any deviation from that routine could be a sign
"If you think there is something wrong, check
it out," Gaffney suggested. If parents believe
there is a problem, they should "have the problem
evaluated by a pediatrician, a family doctor"
and "talk with school teachers" to see if the
child is doing well.
She said parents "have to be honest with themselves
and find someone in the community to help them."
That someone, she said, should have the same values
they do. This doesn't mean that person must be
family members but that they must the same ethical
and moral values.
Community is key, said Gaffney. During a lecture,
Gaffney said, Gen. Colin Powell told the audience
that he "didn't have Netscape, he had Auntscape,"
a community of family members on his block who
watched out for him.
"Parents have to be willing to have that kind
of community," said Gaffney. In Dr. Gaffney's
Coaching Guide for Better Parents and Stronger
Kids , Gaffney outlines three basic principles:
"can only take their children as far as they [the
parents] have gone. 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."
children to adulthood is a gradual process of
their learning and our letting go."
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."
The Parents' Success Kit contains an audio tape
for relaxation and meditation, two Family Talk
Reports (two disc programs for the computer),
a journal for tracking progress, and the Coaching
Gaffney said that she designed each item to
be "easy to carry," so "parents could carry a
dog-eared copy" anywhere.
The kit can also be used by children, especially
the audio companion. "It will be easy for children
to use the tape," said Gaffney. "Children can
learn to breathe. They're great at it."