Ronald Kotkin, PhD and Aubrey Fine, EdD have received national recognition for their work with children and parents in general education and clinical settings. They recently wrote The Parent-Child Dance: Strategies and Techniques for Staying One Step Ahead. This book is a practical guide, drawn from combined 55 years of experience working with families.
I like the dance metaphor employed in the book. Both parent and child need to work together, and the child shouldn't take the lead, just as in dancing, because if two people are leading, it causes disharmony. The book offers many suggestions for children of all age levels, including family-friendly activities and discussion points to help strengthen the family as a whole. One tidbit not often included in parenting books - choosing a pet, not just for family-friendly aspects or cuteness, but to actually help enhance family dynamics as well.
I had a chance to interview the authors to learn more.
In our observations of parents and their children, we see parents trying to influence their child's behavior, and children reacting in ways that influence their parents' behavior. In so many ways, parenting is like a reciprocal relationship, much like a dance. It is only when the parents realize that they are in a dance and not drill instructors that they can begin to have greater success in parenting their children. In a dance, both parties try to work together to have a smooth and harmonious dance. They need to move seamlessly together without conflicting with one another. In parenting, if both parties work together, the outcome will appear extremely smooth and fluid.
Question - What is the inspiration behind the book?
Both of us have been working with families for over 35 years. We wrote the book to share our insights and practical experiences in helping parents implement effective parenting strategies. It's unfortunate that many parents do not receive the training and/or the support to engage more effectively with their children. Parenting is one of the greatest opportunities that we as adults have and one of the reasons we wrote this book was to help parents celebrate that opportunity. We feel that all parents can benefit from learning a wider range of parenting strategies that are positive and that will help them enjoy bringing up their children. More importantly, we believe that the strategies that we provide within this book will help them get through some difficult behavioral challenges, as well as problem solve methods to enhance their family unity.
Question: How do parents know when it's time to let their children lead the dance more?
That's a real interesting question. In so many ways the goal of parenting is to help our children become more independent and confident individuals. There's an old saying that points out that the greatest gift that we can give our children is strong roots and wings to fly away with. The ultimate goal of parenting is to give children a strong foundation so as they age, they will learn to become more independent and self-sufficient. The goal is always to move towards that goal -- helping our children become independent and self-sufficient, happy human beings. As parents realize that their children are taking more responsibility, they should be allowed to take more of the lead. That's not to say that there are times that parents will have to continue to make difficult decisions for their children because as parents ultimately we need to take responsibility for the growth of our youngster.
In essence, early in a child’s life parents take the lead in many ways, and as children begin to age (and become more competent in taking care of themselves and problem solving), the parents share the lead with the youngster. As the relationship continues to evolve, most parents will eventually allow the child to take more responsibility to exert their independence.
So in many, many ways the transition to independence and taking a lead is a seamless series of years where relationships with parents and children gradually change and the parties communicate more effectively with one another.