Dr. Kerby Alvy is one of the foremost child experts and the founder of the non-profit organization: Center For The Improvement Of Child Caring. We sat down with him for a Q and A on his new book.

1. How did you come up with the new book?

My nearly half century of work as a psychologist has primary been concerned with helping children reach their full potential by educating their parents to be more sensitive and effective in raising them.

In thinking about writing a new book, I reviewed two main areas in the parent education field to decide that there is a current need for a brief guidebook that focuses on parenting errors. The first was to look at the available books that discussed parenting errors and the second was to review the publications of our 43-year-old parent education organization, the Center for the Improvement of Child Caring

The field itself did not have a succinct guide that described why parents are prone to make errors and which clearly described the different types of parenting errors. Our organization, whose publications and programs have already educated over a million parents, had not yet summarized for parents the large numbers of excellent parent education programs that are available to learn how to avoid parenting errors.

This was the thinking that represents my reasons for writing a brief guidebook that (1) clarifies the enormous responsibilities of parents that makes child rearing a situation ripe for making errors, and that (2) shows that there are many excellent programs available to help parents learn how to avoid such understandable mistakes.

The challenge then became how to accomplish these goals, and how to create a new overall approach to solving such problems, which I have called the AAR Approach.

2. What is the hardest part in selecting the final info for this new book?

The hardest part was to make the book readable and brief, so that it would appeal to today’s time starved parents, and, in so doing, would cover enough practical information to provide them with a thorough overall education about parenting errors and about how to avoid them.

3. How is parenting different today than in the 1970s?

 One of the major changes is the availability of the internet. The internet now provides parents with a great new informational resource to learn the better ways of raising children. That is why the new book orients parents to the best websites for that purpose.

In terms of their children’s use of the internet, and related social media, parents are now challenged to come up with rules about how and when and at what ages their children can make use of these resources.  These resources can enhance family life if they are sensitively monitored, or they can interfere with having a harmonious household.

Another major change is in the structure and organization of the home. There are now more homes headed by single parents and more multi-parent homes due to divorce, separation and death. In most homes all parents are also working, either inside or outside of the home. These realities contribute to the time pressures on parents and is a reason this guide is so brief.

A third major difference is that there are more child health risks that today’s parents must cope with, such as dealing with potential STDs and infections that can happen because today’s children are more sexually active at younger ages. There are also more risks due to the easier access that today’s children have to alcohol and other drugs. The new book highlights the various harms parents must deal with in the section which defines their child protection responsibilities.

3. What Makes the Best Parent?

The best parent is someone who employs an Authoritative Parenting Style, which I refer to in the book as A Multiyear Positive Parenting Style. Research has shown that that this style has consistently been associated with children becoming independent, highly competent in social and academic pursuits, socially responsible, able to control aggression, self-confident, popular with peers and others, and high in self-esteem.

4. How have Kids Changed in the past 40 years in being raised?

There is some scientific evidence that fewer children are being hit by parents as a method to gain cooperation and respect. But, as discussed below in the response to the question about “sparing the rod,” most of all children today are still being hit when they are very young.

As discussed previously, the availability of the internet has created parenting challenges that did not exist 40 years ago.

5. Are you working with the court system in helping with court-appointed parenting classes?

The organization which I founded in 1974 and which I still direct trains instructors who provide parenting classes to court-referred parents. I have written the various curricula for those classes and I supervise the training of parenting instructors. We have trained over 8000 such instructors in 40 states and the DC.

6. What do you think the cause of helicopter parenting is today?

Helicopter parenting refers to parents who are overprotective and who discourage independence by being too involved in a child’s life. It is similar in many ways to one of the less effective styles of parenting that is described in the book, the Authoritarian Style were parents are overcontrolling. That style has some fine outcomes for some children but many negative outcomes. Once again, the book promotes a style that has yet to be shown to have negative outcomes associated with it, the Authoritative Style which the book refers to as A Multiyear Positive Parenting Style.

The use of the term Helicopter Parenting seems to be a contemporary way of referring to the Authoritarian Parenting Style. It is learned the way any parenting style is learned, through how one was parented and through modeling the parenting styles of other parents in one’s environment.

7. What role does drug use play in parents and kids today in being raised?

Again, see the answers to number 3 above for some relevant observations about alcohol and other drug use. Parental drug use is one of the best predictors of whether children will use drugs themselves. Thus, parents put their kids at risk of being addicts by their own addiction to alcohol and other drugs. Prescription drug use is part of alcohol and other drug use. The reason I have been using the phrase alcohol and other drug use is to be clear that alcohol is a drug.

I was called upon several years ago by the federal government to create a document that demonstrates the ten roles parents can play in preventing their kids from being involved with drugs. One of those roles is not to model the use of alcohol and other drugs. Another major role was to adopt the Authoritative Style of Parenting which you know is the style advocated for in the Parenting Errors book.

That document became part of a book called Parent Training Is Prevention: Preventing Alcohol and Other Drug Problems Among Youth in The Family (1991, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services). That book was distributed nationwide to agencies in the drug abuse prevention field. I presented those ten roles at prevention conferences for every state during the so-called War on Drug years during the Reagan administration.

8. Is there still spare the rod in today’s climate to raise a child?

Yes, in some modern-day climates, i.e. in some sectors of our population, the spare the rod and spoil the child philosophy is very much evident.  For example, many very conservative and fundamentally religious people, and parenting experts from that background, still use and encourage the practice of hitting children to gain their cooperation and respect. Indeed, most parents of young children, regardless of religious backgrounds, still use hitting as a disciplinary practice with those squirmy little people. 

However, the research on the long term negative consequences of using physical (corporal) punishment shows that the more hitting children receive the more likely they are to hit others, and to grow up with serious personal problems including abusing their own children when they become parents.

Because of those types of findings, and because children are now considered to have rights, such as the right to be free of the use and threat of corporal punishment, most knowledgeable professional groups, like pediatricians and psychologists, do not promote or approve of the use of physical punishment. They favor the non-violent disciplinary methods taught in most modern parenting skill-building programs, like in all the programs described in Parenting Errors. The research shows that those methods are more effective than hitting kids and their use maintains the dignity of the child.

9. Tell us about your work with African American parents.

When I started the organization in 1974, the only parenting skill-building programs that existed were designed for white, middle class parents. None of them dealt with such issues as raising children to cope with racism and prejudice.  But they did teach ways of raising kids to succeed in our society.

I spearheaded the idea that, because such programs taught parents to raise kids in ways that put them at an advantage in our society, it was a matter of social justice to have similar programs available for poor and for ethnic minority parents. Having such programs available would provide them equal opportunity to learn the most socially helpful ways of raising children. Minority group parents did not feel like the existing programs addressed some important realities of their lives.

I then wrote grant proposals, with the foremost authorities on minority group parenting, to the federal government. The proposals were to figure out how to adapt existing programs to make them more relevant to the experiences of African American (and Latino) parent populations.   We earned the approval of the government for those grants, and then embarked on a decade long process to create and field test what is now known as the Effective Black Parenting (and Los Ninos Bien Educados) program. Those national model programs are described in some detail in the new book. They have been very well received by their respective communities.

The Effective Black Parenting Program helps parents to create a Pyramid of Success for Black Children and it teaches parenting skills in a manner that honors cultural traditions and poetry. All the skills in that program are taught by using the African Proverbs that are most relevant to a skill.

10. Tell us about your work with Latin American parents.

The story about creating the program for parents of Latin American children was like the journey we took to create what is now known as the Los Ninos Bien Educados parenting program. We had the best minds in Latino parenting to assist in all phases of developing and implementing that national model program

The parents themselves were asked to define what they meant by a child who is bien educados (well educated in a social as well as educational sense). We asked what behaviors they saw as representing such a child and we told them the program was all about using skills to evoke the behaviors they defined as reflective of a child who is bien educados.   We used well known Spanish savings, dichos, to link the skills to cultural roots.

This program has also been well received and it is described in Parenting Errors as one of the programs that teach a positive parenting style.

11. What’s the Number One Rule in Parenting?

Be positive!  Let your love for your children be positively and fully present in every moment you have with them. Their existence is a miracle of nature. Their existence deserves miraculously positive parenting. Don’t ever let them doubt your love for them.

12. How has parenting changed with kids living with parents much longer than years before?

For so many years it has been a mark of good parenting to help children learn how to live independently of their parents. At least it has been the goal written about by many parenting experts.

However, it has not been a goal in some cultures and countries where children remain in the home after they are married, and the home becomes a bigger and warmer love and support nest.

So, it seems to me that the answer to this question is to question whether independent living is necessary.   There is no legal mandate for living independently. Make your own mandate. Make your life as special as you want. You only have one life to live on this planet.

13. What’s your best piece of advice for a new parent?

Don’t do it alone. Seek out and obtain the best parenting support and education available to you. Your child needs and deserves the best parenting you are capable of. You deserve to feel you are providing the best parenting you are capable of.

This book is a good starting place. Or a good refining place.

Use it to your and your children’s full advantage.

             

            

 

 

 

 

 

 

Published by Emily Rose