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If I Have to Tell You One More Time

“You’ve tried everything. Time-outs. Yelling. Reminding. Nagging. Taking away privileges. Counting to three. And none of them worked. Like most parents, you’re fed up,” author Amy McCready sympathizes. Promoted as “the revolutionary program that gets your kids to listen without nagging, reminding, or yelling,” I doubted whether If I Have to Tell You One More Time would deliver, but it has.

When the introduction shared how the book came about, I was intrigued. Apparently, after resolving to stop yelling, she was inspired by Seinfeld’s George, who believed that “if everything I’ve done is wrong, then the opposite must be right,” and she signed up for a parenting class based on Alfred Adler’s discipline principals.

Why isn’t parenting as easy as it seemingly once was? According to McCready, “Our homes have followed the outside world in becoming a democracy – with as many opinions as there are seats around the dinner table.” While the old strategies may no longer work, McCready insists that doesn’t mean our children are bad or disrespectful.  She clarifies, it’s just that “as inhabitants in a democratic society, they inherently sense the need to push back when family life gets too constraining.”

Therefore, If I Have to Tell You One More Time begins with a brief psychology lesson built on three premises:

  • A child’s primary goal is to achieve belonging and significance.
  • All behavior is goal-oriented.
  • A misbehaving child is a discouraged child.

Then, McCready details the ego states of personality as outlined by Eric Berne in the 1950s in the hopes of helping to transform combative relationships into cooperative ones.

  • She writes, “When we’re communicating in the Parent Ego State, we’re usually ordering, directing, and correcting others with phrases like ‘It’s time to clean your room,’ ‘Don’t forget to take your medication,’ or ‘Just try one bite of broccoli.’”
  • She explains, “Adult Ego State allows us to calmly and effectively share information and invite cooperation. It’s the ego state you’re most likely to operate from when you’re at work or with other adults. Your child operates in the Adult Ego State while she’s at school, as does her teacher.”
  • And she maintains, “The Child Ego State is one of high emotion. In this ego state, we experience pure delight, impulsive reactions and exhilaration.”

McCready also explains that if you’re having problems with “tantrums, talking back, not listening, negotiating every little thing, defiance, or other types of resistance when you’re trying to get your child to do something, it’s probably a clue that you’re interacting too much from the Parent Ego State.”

That is definitely the case with me, especially since I started back to work full-time. There’s been a lot of micro-managing in an attempt to be more efficient. This also explains why my kids enjoy spending time with their father, as he transitions easily to the Child Ego State when they play.

McCready believes that if parents spend ten minutes, twice a day, with each child individually and do whatever she wants then she won’t seek negative attention or participate in undesirable behaviors. She argues, “Children can sense the difference between quality time ad quantity time. We may spend long hours running to the dry cleaners, post office, and grocery store with our kids, but that hardly counts as quality time. And they know it.”

If practiced daily, this “Mind, Body, and Soul Time,” as McCready calls it, helps you connect emotionally with your child, reinforce your child’s importance, and provide your child with the attention she needs. McCready insists if you allow your child to choose the activity, she will feel a “sense of positive power in having some control over his life.”

I’m not going to lie. My first thought was ‘I don’t have time for this,’ but when I put it in terms of forty minutes a day, I knew I spent much more time playing with my kids than that. The difference was I was selecting the activities and we were doing them all together. So I followed McCready’s suggestion of having my kids generate a list of ideas to prevent wasting time trying to think of something special to do. I also made it a point to label our special time so I got credit in my daughters’ eyes and they could look forward to doing it again later in the day.

Sure enough, while I hate to agree with George of Seinfeld, when it came to parenting, I was wrong and the opposite was right. In less than a week, this strategy has resulted in less nagging and more fun for us all.



Victoria Winterhalter

Victoria Winterhalter

Victoria Winterhalter is a mother, teacher, reader, and writer on the education and environment beats for RFM. She has been with RFM since its founding in 2009 and has contributed photos and written numerous articles on education, parenting, and family travel.

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