There are days, when as a parent, you feel on the top of the world! You cherish the smiles and funny faces of your kids in your photos and home movies. You pour your heart out, and perhaps your wallet, as you try to pick a gift for them during the Holidays. And you love their cute comments which seem to come out of nowhere at just the right time.

Then there are days, when nothing seem to go right. Your kids refuse to eat what you prepare for them. When all you hear is a big NO out of their mouth for everything you ask them to do. When you have to deal with a terrible tantrum in a public place with everyone else looking at you as if you are the worst parent on the face of the earth!

“Children don’t come with an instruction manual”, writes Dr Kathleen Cuneo in her new workbook for parents of toddlers and preschoolers called Empowered Parenting. She was kind enough to send a copy for me to review. Kathleen is the founder of Dinner Together, a website devoted to helping parents build healthy families one meal at a time. She has successfully used the power of family meals for raising kids with healthy eating habits.

Parenting is not easy, yet it often appears that everyone but you have figured it out! Parenting is also one of those topics you are likely to get a lot of unsolicited advice. Everyone but you seem to know how to raise your kids these days. This workbook will definitely empower you make your own game plan so you can simply smile off these unsolicited tips!

This is a workbook, which means you need to do some work! I am only half-joking because this is exactly why I like it so much. She does not offer a cookie-cutter formula or a set of “rules” which will magically solve your parenting problems. Rather, she walks you through 3 simple principles using worksheets, questionnaires and practical tips. The 3 focus areas for you to work through are:

  1. Knowing yourself
  2. Knowing your child
  3. Communicating effectively

The exercises under the first point of “Knowing yourself” will help you figure out your parenting style,  help you articulate your expectations and make you aware of your hot buttons. You will learn how to become more aware of yourself, your strengths and blind spots. If you do it right, you will feel more confident in your approach to parenting and not get distracted by others.

Knowing your child is equally important because each child is unique and develops at his or her own pace. Quite often, parents feel the anxiety of missing the so called standard growth milestones. They compare their child with others in the park and begin to wonder if they should be doing something else. Unless there are medical issues, it is important to accept your child’s growth pattern as completely “normal”. The exercises in this section will help you identify your child’s individual strengths, emotional responses and reactions to new environments. They will also help you understand the triggers for bad behavior and motivators for good behavior. Again, if you do it right, you will be able to brush off outside advice about how you should handle your child’s behaviors.

The final section will help you  match your style to your child’s temperament and personality so you can communicate effectively. The keyword is “effectively”, because the goal should be to motivate your child to develop the positive behavior you desire. Dr Cuneo provides many examples of specific situations where you can exercise the tools of effective communication. It is not just what is spoken, it is also the body language and emotional expressions that matter. She also addresses the subject of rewards and how you should use them to motivate these behaviors.

In the final chapter, she offers tips for promoting healthy sibling relations and managing conflicts.

One thing I wish Dr Cuneo had emphasized in this workbook is that parenting is a team sport. Traditionally moms have done the heavy lifting when it comes to raising young kids. However, the times are changing and dads are beginning to get more involved. Naturally dads have a different approach, which at times, may seem at odds with a mom’s approach. It is important to have a good understanding, and acceptance of these differences in parenting styles so you don’t find yourself playing the good cop/bad cop with your kids. Having said that, there is no rule that you should do the exercises in this workbook alone.

A suggestion for the next update of this workbook would be to include a few specific exercises aimed at understanding your partner’s style and developing a common plan of action.

Overall, this workbook is worth the investment of your time. The good news is that Dr Cuneo is offering a huge discount for a limited time. Check out the offer for the workbook and other products on her website.