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Wiping Out Whining

Parenting expert Carolyn Crowder to speak at Suburban Hospital.

People, to me, are having kids like they’re buying boats. It’s an accoutrement,” said Dr. Carolyn Crowder.

Crowder, the New York Times-best-selling author of three books on parenting — “Backtalk,” “Eating, Sleeping, and Getting Up,” and “Whining” — does not make the statement lightly. She believes that modern parenting does not respect children, and that modern children, in turn, do not respect much of anything.

“Kids respond to respect. They don’t mind being held accountable if it’s a logical way,” said Crowder, a nationally-recognized practitioner of Adlerian psychology, based on the teachings of Alfred Adler, a student of Sigmund Freud who stressed the need to understand individuals within their social context.

Crowder will conduct a seminar, “Parenting Essentials,” at Suburban Hospital in Bethesda April 14, 7-9 p.m. The event is sponsored by two local branches of YMCA Youth and Family Services, which conducts programs for children and teenagers as well as crisis intervention and outreach activities both as a community organization and as a contractor for the county’s Department of Health and Human Services.

Though youth and family services does not officially adhere to any one psychological model, many of the organization's clinicians practice Adlerian psychology, said Rob Guttenberg, director of parenting education for youth and family services. “Many of them will tell you that they’ve kind of integrated the Adlerian principles in with their clinical work,” he said, and several have signed up for additional training in the Adlerian model.

Guttenberg will join Crowder in conducting a separate, second seminar April 15 that is aimed at teachers, social workers, and child care professionals. That seminar is entitled “Discipline, Not Drugs” and will be held at the Hilton Washington DC/Silver Spring.

“I’M ON A TEAR about the drugs,” said Crowder, who believes that psychotropic drugs are massively over-prescribed and are treated as crutch solution to behavioral problems that should be addressed through parenting.

“Parents want a drug to take away the problem. Because they don’t want to do the work. It’s a sad state of affairs,” she said. “If you want to believe your child has a brain disorder and they need this pill then it takes you right off the hook, doesn’t it?”

Crowder believes good parenting calls for greater discipline, but stresses that the word discipline comes from the Latin root meaning “to learn.” “It’s not punitive. When I use the word discipline in a talk people automatically go to spanking,” said Crowder, who believes there is no reason ever to hit a child.

Crowder said that most parents today fall into one of two categories — those who are extremely indulgent and give in to all of the child’s wishes and demands, and those who are autocratic and control their children by hitting them or belittling them.

“Both of those attitudes require no thinking. What I teach requires you to think before you act,” Crowder said. Discipline means letting the child experience the consequences of his actions. Thus, if a child refuses to eat the dinner that the parent has prepared, the solution is not to indulge the child’s disrespect by cooking something else, but rather to the let the child go hungry or find a way to resolve his problem himself, by making a sandwich, for example.

“I always tell parents, I’m not here to tell you how to manage your child, I’m here to tell you how to manage your response to your child — because that’s all you have control over,” she said. When a child demands a treat while the parent is shopping the grocery store, “You buy the candy bar you’ve just trained them to do it again the next time,” she said.

PART OF THE PREPARATION for Crowder’s visit has been an effort by Suburban Hospital, led by outreach coordinator Monique Ware, to involve more minority parents. Ware is especially targeting the primarily African-American Scotland Community on Seven Locks Road.

Crowder said that’s wonderful, but she makes no distinctions between parents of different races when it comes to the Adlerian model.

“Almost anybody that reads the model, buys it,” she said. “I’ve been teaching it for 30 years. I know it works.”