Reviewed by Mary Ann Paulukonis, who is glad that her adult children, in disciplining their own children, have come to realize what it takes to be a parent. Mary Ann enjoys artistic pursuits, writing, speaking and ministry consulting.
My children are adults with young children of their own, so it is a bit late for me to read “Winning the Discipline Debates,” and way too late to learn anything I can apply to child rearing.
Yet from the first chapter I wanted to continue reading this book. It is fun reading! It is like reading the script for a comedy series.
Chapters are scripts. Each chapter/episode starts by listing the actors and describing the scene and time.
Then a prologue sets the stage and hints at the plot. Over the next few pages the characters speak their lines.
Every so often “Dr. Ray,” the author and stage manager, offers comments from the wings and coaches the parents. Sometimes he encourages one parent to rewrite his or her own script and try another way of handling the situation.
In the epilogue to each scene, the author makes observations about what happened and how the play might continue, depending upon how each parent acts.
Ray Guarendi, by the way, is no self-styled expert convinced he knows the one best way to raise children. While he touts common sense, he notes that children’s unpredictability can upstage parents. He admits that he and his wife muffed a few lines. They are the parents of 10 children, five of each gender, all adopted and all with risk factors.
Guarendi is a psychologist, speaker, radio and television host, and author with many titles to his credit. He brings a Catholic moral perspective and a sense of humor to everything he does. His goal in this book and an earlier one, “Discipline That Lasts a Lifetime,” is to foster confidence in parents and return authority to their hands.
So where’s the humor in a book about discipline? Some of it is subtle, as in the puns and turns of phrase in many episode (chapter) titles. Furthermore, the names of the child actors provide continual chuckles.
Mom and Dad are always Mom and Dad, but a tyke’s role in a scene about bedtime procrastination is named Wakefield. Cellina is the teen in an episode about phone use, while Victor and Wiley are squabbling siblings. Oscar and Emmy are the characters in “Know Your Audience.” Holmes manipulates parents so he can visit friend Wendell in “Reversed on Appeal.”
There is wry humor in the way Guarendi describes some characters. In the epilogue to a tale about a child securing grandparent interference in parental discipline, Guarendi writes:
“Cliff has shown himself to be a fast learner. It shouldn’t take too many visits before he realizes that, no matter how much Grandma buffers him from Dad at her place, he does have to go home. And Grandma won’t be there to protect him. Unless she follows him home. Which I’m not sure I’d put past her.”
In another scene the time is set at 36 seconds “after siblings begin occupying the same room.” Maybe it takes a grandparent to appreciate the humor in these situations.
I’m going to give this book to my son and his wife. They love parenting and currently deal with the daily challenges of raising a 3-year-old and 1-year-old. I think my son and his wife will appreciate Guarendi’s sage advice and his tone.
They won’t have to wait until they have time to read the book through from cover to cover. They can pick out a chapter heading that addresses a current or ongoing issue and in a few minutes have some suggestions to try out.
For some parents the word “discipline” is a bad word implying punishment, but it is not about punishment. Discipline comes from the Latin root “discere,” meaning “to learn.” Parents want their children to learn appropriate behavior, and Guarendi shows how to teach effectively and enjoy it.