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on 28 July 2003
This book is absolutely excellent. It has numerous examples on how to diffuse situations and cope with your child. It helps you to recognise how your interactions don't help the situations and how to change your usual behaviour to get a different outcome. It covers all the most difficult situations, in the supermarket, in the car at other peoples houses or in restaurants.
If you're at your wits end how to cope - the BUY THIS BOOK!!
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on 13 March 2002
As a step parent of a very "Spirited" and "Strong-Willed" child, I can acknowledge first hand that the methods and philosophy of this book WILL promote harmony and cooperation. Maybe not initially but certainly in the long term. "Setting Limits" deals with discipline issues associated with the nine temperamental traits: 1.Persistance, 2.Intensity, 3.Regularity, 4. Distractability, 5.Energy and Activity Level, 6.Sensitivity, 7.Adaptability, 8.Reactivity, and 9.Mood.
The author is also the parent of two children, one compliant, easy going, and the other one strong-willed/demanding so he can relate with the parents who scream, "nothing works with this kid!".
This book is NOT about harsh punishement but rather teaches respectful limit setting, which is an essential teaching tool. It teaches parents to give children clear, respectful messages to convey the necessary information for the child to make acceptable choices. To focus on the behaviour in a way that does not belittle, criticize or shame the child. Although parents may genuinely feel that they are giving a clear "Stop" message to their child, they are sometimes unwittingly giving a yellow or even green light to unwanted behaviours. The strong-willed child interprets these vague massages as "Optional requests" or learns only that the behaviour upsets or angers the parent. This may lead to increased limit testing to see where the boundaries really are, especially if they enjoy making us jump and yell. It sometimes seems that Strong-willed children need to learn everything the hard way by agressivly testing all limits or restrictions (much more than compliant children) to see where the bottom line really is. They are aggressive researchers who leave parents little room for ineffective discipline. There is not much to prepare a parent for dealing with a strong-willed child, and unfortunately they tend to bring out the worst qualities in parents. A child that can argue and debate like a courtroom attorney, develop sudden hearing loss, or dawdle until you are late for work. Parents easily fall into ineffectual ruts of predictable reaction based on our own upbringing and parenting assumptions.
The good news is that the solution usually involves doing much less than what the parent is probably doing at present. You must accept and acknowledge that this is part of the childs personality/temperament, and that they will always need a little more structure and consistancy than compliant chidren. It does not mean they can't learn to cooperate and observe family rules. This book shows parents how and "WHEN" to negotiate rules, what behaviours should be ignored, which ones must be corrected and most importantly "How to do it!".
The most impressive part of all the books I've read by Robert J MacKenzie, is the weath of realistic examples. Every point is thoroughly illustrated for clarity, with discipline scenarios which all parents can readily idenetify with. There are sections on motivating your strong-willed child, encouraging independence, teaching skills, and role-modeling
The entire book is aimed at teaching your child self control. Some books on the challenging children seem more focused on avoiding conflict and undulging the child, which might be great for the short-term, but how can it possibly prepare the child for the real world.
I would also highly recommend reading the book "The Manipulative Child: How to Regain Control and Raise Resilient, Resourceful, and Independent Kids" by Swihart and Cotter.
Out of the dozens of parenting books I've read, "Setting Limits" is certainly one of the best written and sound discipline books for strong-willed children.
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on 24 November 2004
As a kindergarten teacher as well as a parent of strong-willed 5-year-old twin boys, I too often found myself yelling louder, reminding more often and searching for stricter punishments to get the children to cooperate...Nothing was working! I needed a new approach...and Dr. MacKenzie has given me the understanding and the tools to set limits effectively without losing my sanity. I learned how I was part of "the dance" of non-compliance and I realized that I would have to change my behavior first before I got a positive change in the behavior from the children. I learned the difference between "soft limits" and "firm limits" and the importance of my actions supporting my words; then, the kids began respecting the rules because they knew I would follow through with consequences. It was an eye-opener to realize that by me constantly reminding...I was actually teaching the children to ignore (at least the first few times because they knew more reminding was coming)...by giving unclear open-ended directions...I was actually setting the situation up for clarification, testing and conflict...and by bargaining and making deals out of desperation...I was actually giving the kids the opportunity to control the situation as they decided to up the ante the next time! The best part of this book is the real life examples of exactly what to say and not say to the kids. It is as if the author has been looking in my windows as my twins defy me in so many of the exact same situations. I was immediately comforted by the fact that I am not alone in trying to get compliance instead of defiance from my boys.
I also would like to recommend another very helpful A-Z compendium entitled "The Pocket Parent", a convenient pocket-guide with a very similar philosophy that is exclusively written for parents of normal but often challenging 2- to 5-year-olds. If you have toddlers and preschoolers, it is a great practical companion book to "Setting Limits" because you can simply turn to the specific challenging behavior of the moment (like hitting, morning crazies, interrupting, bad words, lying, whining, etc.) and get some quick bulleted suggestions to try. You do not have to read "Pocket Parent" cover to cover...but rather consult each chapter topic as you need it. Both books have great anecdotes and a welcome sense of humor throughout. "Setting Limits" and "The Pocket Parent" have helped me get more cooperation at home and at school and are both worthwhile additions to a home or school reference library!
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on 1 May 2008
This book helped in understanding how the differences in sibling temperament can aggravate power struggles and affect discipline within the family. The strong willed one has settled a bit at home but continues to be challenging at school. Overall one of the best no-nonsense books I've read on this subject.
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on 25 January 2012
I bought this book one day in desperation after trying to find help on the internet - I found a review of this book and the way the author described how he had struggled with his second child after things had gone so well with his first was exactly how I was feeling. The book has helped me to see my second child in a different light, not to take the behaviour personally, which has helped me take a step back and deal more rationally with things on a day to day basis. I really was beginning to think that there was something wrong with my child, but the book has helped me to see that this is not the case. The description of the 'family dance' is just fantastic. But the advice it offers regarding how to deal with your strong-willed child is extremely useful. Highly recommended, wish I had found it sooner!
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on 26 May 2011
I am a mother to twin boys, one of whom is very spirited. I read 'Raising Your Spirited Child' which helped me identify the temperament of my child. But this book has taught me the actual words to use in different situations and has quite literally changed our lives. THANK YOU.
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on 7 March 2003
I guess that this book was written in an earnest attempt to help parents. However, my main concern about this book is that it disempowers parents as it continually points out what they are doing wrong. I maybe slighlty biased as I prefer when working with parents to identify what is going well. I also believe that "experts" who give advice on parenting often give advice that doesnt resonate with peoples lives or experiences.
If you are looking for a couple of good reads on parenting then, "try and make me" and "the incredible years" are much more holistic approaches to parenting.
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on 15 September 2010
I bought this book as the parent of a strong willed child( he has ADHD) and tried and tried it...
Useless... sorry, it may work with some children, you can see why it "should" work but actually, with some children I dont believe it will.

I spent hour upon hour putting my child "On the naughty step" ( because this is all this book offers...) and returning him over and over as he grew more and more distressed, aggressive, angry and we both despaired, my partner despaired and we returned to the book.... surely it will tell us "what when that doesnt work?" well sorry to say, no it doesnt. This book assumes that it will work for every child, that eventually the child will learn...

Dont waste your money... try the naughty step, sure try it consistently if it doesnt work for you and your child then you wont have wasted your money. Ive done 'the naughty step' endlessly before here in this house. It worked for my older children but not for my "strongest willed" child and it taught me nothing I didnt already know... it didnt however have the answers when the strong willed child remains strong willed, there are no suggestions, no answers.
You'd be better purchasing "The explosive child" instead to help set limits and resolve poor behaviours
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on 18 July 2004
This is very definitely NOT a book about genuinely strong-willed kids.
Some examples: p 237 Nori throws a tantrum in the mall. Her Mum says to the clerk, "Excuse me, may I leave my cart here? I'll return in a few mintues and pay for the items." The clerk nods. Mum takes her daughter out to the car. Nothing is said. In the car Nori's told she has five minutes to calm down. When the five minutes are up, they return to the store.
My kid would have thrown herself on the floor howling. She would have refused to go to the car and would have kicked me. If I'd tried to drag her along I'd have had to push the shopping cart with one hand, drag her with the other, all the while receiving looks from other adults that told me what a bad parent I was. If, by some miracle, I got to the car, she would still be screaming half an hour later. If I tried to return to the store she would have refused to get out. If I said, all right, we'll go home, she'd have thrown a tantrum insisting she wanted to go back to the store. Etc.
Another example: p239 Cameron makes bathroom noises at the table. His Mum asks him to leave and spend five mintues by himself in the den. Then he comes back.
My child would have been scared of being out of sight. If I'd put her meal on another table nearby she would have physically refused to go there. If I'd ignored her her behaviour would have got worse. If I'd taken her dinner away she would have thrown a tantrum, and then another tantrum if the dinner was returned. I would have physically have had to remove her from the table, sat next to her on the settee, and given her a cuddle. She would have pushed me away. I would have stayed nearby, maybe touching her, to show that no, it's my rules you're playing by, I'm not going away. Then I would have tried to feed her so that the attention was less on her initial bad behaviour and we were now in an almost normal situation and I might even have said to her brother come on, sit here too to normalise it, and then fed her mouthful by mouthful, the train going into the tunnel and all that, maybe doing the same with her brother, making a game. She wouldn't have let me. I would have to give her lots of attention and fuss. I'd have made her laugh. Then she'd let me. Then I'd say, 'What was all that about? Next time, you do as you're told. Do you understand?' Then I'd have had a tickling match, which is a great way to show that you're cross, because whilst your child is laughing you're actually getting pretty close to hurting her (FREE TIP - tickling or fun wrestling matches are a great way to wrong-foot a child, as is praising her for being good even when she's not being good, a real wind up that puts you back in control). Then I'd have taken her back to the table and said, right, let's try this again - even if just for a few seconds if need be, she gets praised for being good even if she's not because now again you're showing that you're in control, it's your rules you play by and that you're always ahead of her in the mind-games. Then I'd have said, fine, you can go now. She'd have been disgruntled, not knowing what had happened, but knowing that somehow she'd 'lost.' Then I'd have had to turn my attention to her brother, fussed over him a little - 'Would you like a drink? You can choose what's on T.V, you've been very good.' I could write a better, more sophisticated book than this guy.
There are loads of examples like this, all with tame children doing exactly what they're told. Only if you're a newbie parent is there much to get you thinking. For example, that your support systems as a parent need to support and not undermine you, or that older children have more history to overcome than younger children, or that you need to praise your children every time you catch them doing something good, or that you practice situations where the child doesn't cope (Kaley was bullied at school p 223 and they rehearsed what to say to the bullies, though what this has to do with strong-willed kids beats me).
There was a short section p202 - p205 on 'physical control: a last resort.' For the genuinely strong-willed child, physical confrontation happens all the time and it should have been described in FAR greater depth here. In the one example in the book Jill is carried to her bedroom screaming and then is made to stay there with her Mum holding the door shut. In reality, my child would have been terrified of being in a room with the door closed on her. Physical control happens all the time with the genuinely strong-willed child - physically getting the child into a bath, or restraining the child that's thrashing around when she doesn't want to do something, or running after her and catching her when she makes a bolt for the door, or chasing her in the street when she refuses to come in and bringing her back struggling and screaming without looking like a monster parent from hell - ah, man, this author only deals with tame children. He hasn't lived with a genuinely strong-willed child.
The author is a psychologist - it shows. Endless diagrams of patterns of behaviour which went over my head, and a condescending tone of 'how easy it is, this is what you do.' The only time the book came alive was on p242 - p244 when he talked about his own personal experiences with his children.
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on 14 July 2010
If I met the author I would hug him. After six years of feeling that there was something wrong with either me or my daughter or both of us I feel sane again. My daughter is a truly special and delightful individual and has been hell to live with since the age of two. The book describes her personality type to the 'T'. I now feel I understand her (and accept that she is not a mini-me), which has significantly reduced my frustration. I understand why my preferred style of parenting is not suitable for her personality and am already practising the new techniques. Although I sometimes slip back to my old habits when tired or on a particularly challenging day, I can already see some positive changes and am confident that things will improve in the long term. Thank you, thank you. I cannot tell you how much this book has truly changed my life - a cliche I know but absolutely true.
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