Aiming to be happier families.

An exerpt from a book I am writing: EPT – Effective Parent Training


If I had £1 for every time I have heard the comment: “The children of today…” followed by words such as uncontrollable, bad mannered, rude, disruptive…”

My thought on this is: “The parents of today…”

“The children of today,” is not new. It has been lamented throughout generations, but perhaps my comment is a little newer, you see I firmly believe that children, especially young children, are not monsters. They are simply doing what they are taught, and as parents, you are their primary caregivers and teachers.

I am well aware of the pressures of everyday life in this very difficult age and that the days of mommy staying at home to bring up the children whilst daddy brings home the bacon – or perhaps I should say mutton in light of the swine flu and mad cow epidemics – are long gone.  The financial situation alone dictates that families require two incomes. But what is the effect of this on our children?

In an average household, the family wakes up between 5:30 and 6:30 am.  They rush around getting ready to go to work and school, possibly arguing about who will drop and fetch the children. Breakfast may be a quick bite of toast or a plate of brightly coloured, preservative-infested cereal. Then it is into the car to swear at the road-hogs and roadworks.

Children are bundled into overstocked nursery schools where they spend their days shouting above the noise of other children who are in turn shouting to be heard, whilst mommy and daddy go off to pressurised jobs.

At between 4:30 and 5:30 pm. they dive back into their cars and once again brave the road madness, hopefully managing to pick up their children before the nursery school closes and they have to bite down on their guilt at arriving to find their exhausted child alone, with whoever pulled the short straw to stay behind.

Back into the car where the over-tired child suddenly comes to life, bouncing around like a ping-pong ball, only to find that they have forgotten to buy milk, so they head to the closest supermarket or corner store to join the madness of tired moms and their squawking offspring ramming trolleys down isles of over-priced produce and hope that it will be someone else’s child who throws the tantrum this time.

By the time they are back in the car their heads are booming and they just know they do not have the energy to cook a meal so it is a TV dinner or a take-away, which is quickly heated whilst running between the bathroom and kitchen to make sure their now totally loopy little jitterbug doesn’t drown.

“Dinner” is eaten in front of the TV whilst the parents try to wind down and junior is carted off to bed when he falls asleep in his plate.

And tomorrow? The same again.

Now stop for a minute and look at the situation through the eyes of your child…

So how do we change things?  There are only two days in a weekend and it is not enough to undo the damage done during the week besides, weekends are for resting… yeah right. Try telling junior that.

I have given you the problem – or rather a small portion of the problem – so what, you may ask, is the solution?

Basically, there is only one solution… if you don’t have the time, don’t have the children.

But it is too late for that or you would have never picked up this book…

What I would like to offer is a way to ease the situation. A way to do things differently, possibly a way to think differently.

I need you to understand that I am here for the rights of the children. I want to be able to go shopping and not hear children screaming their heads off. I want to see happy children wherever I go. I am willing to do the work. Are you?

There are many books out there on raising children…how many of you have you read? Have you put what you read to use? How long did you keep it up? Did it help?

The answer is probably that, as with most things in life, it helped, whilst you kept it up.

With EPT I hope to show you a different approach – one that you can relate to because it makes sense.

Throughout my life, as a single parent of three children and a nursery school teacher, I have always looked for ways to solve the problems that arise for children and their parents. I have done this by looking through their eyes and searching for ways to find a solution that works for both parties. Eyebrows have been raised on occasion as I have a tendency to think out of the box, but I have found ways to stop tantrums, fears, nightmares, bullying and quite a few other childhood problems.

When I find a solution, I add what I call a “tool” to my imaginary toolbox. These tools have been passed on to my children and they will tell you how often I remind them that I have given them the tool, they just have to use it.

I would like to pass on those tools to other children and their parents and this is where the concept of EFFECTIVE PARENT TRAINING (EPT) arose. If I can reach a parent, I can help a child and it is all about the children.

To quote the late Michael Jackson:

“We are the world,

we are the children,

we are the ones to make a better place

so let’s start living.”

The idea of EPT is to train parents to train their children.

I intend this book to be a guide. To show you ways of looking at situations from a different perspective. I will hand you a toolbox with the tools you need to build or repair your relationship with your child.

I hope to give you light-bulb moments and moments where you realise that I am not telling you anything you don’t already know. I hope to make you laugh on occasion at the some of the things I have seen parents and children do. Perhaps even let you shed a tear at the sometimes sad or poignant moments I have observed. But most of all, I want to offer you moments of success that make you feel as light as air so that when you look down on that little sleeping face you feel warm and fuzzy rather than issuing a sigh of relief.

As I write this, EFFECTIVE PARENT TRAINING is in it’s baby stages but and I have every intention of growing it into a healthy, stable adult along with your children.

Please note that although I refer to the masculine gender, throughout this book it is only to make the typing and reading thereof easier.


 EPT, although it can be adapted to work with older children, is generally more effective when dealing with children under the age of seven.

The reason I say this is because when children begin formal schooling, there are other influences on their lives such as teachers, other families and peer pressure.

The formative years of a child are generally deemed to be from birth to the age of six. It is during these years that children learn their morals, standards and begin to form their personalities.

Throughout life, we adapt and change but what was instilled, as a young child tends to stay with us – the writing on our walls.

How often as an adult, do you say something and hear the echo of one of your parents?

Some of those echoes make you cringe, whilst others make you smile.

The aim of EPT is to make your children smile every time they echo you. For the writing on their walls to be positive and looked upon with respect and love, which brings me to the 3 basic ideals of EPT:

  • Love
  • Respect
  • Positive reinforcement


More than anything in the world, a child needs love and there is nothing quite like the feeling you get when your child puts his chubby little arms around you and says, “I love you.”

The most basic rule of EPT is love.

Remember as you read through this book that the reason you are trying to build a relationship with your children is because you love them and want to help them grow into stable adults who will pass on this love to their children and grandchildren.


Respect is only earned when respect is given.

That chubby little person with the dimples in his cheeks deserves respect just as much as you do, because without your respect in his early years, he will not be able to respect himself or anyone else.

Positive reinforcement

I am a firm believer in positive reinforcement – rewarding acceptable behaviour.

You will note that I did not say “good behaviour,” I will go into more detail about this in the next chapter when I expand on the 3 basic ideals.

This constitutes the basic concept of EPT. You will notice throughout this book and with every example I offer, these three basic ideals are adhered to. They are the new writings on your wall. Remember them and make sure they are written in indelible ink. You can erase any other writings you choose, but if you find that EPT has a place in your life and that of your child, then remember these ideals and if necessary, recite them – make them your mantra.

  • Love
  • Respect
  • Positive reinforcement


Love – the most basic

Everyone has heard the phrase, ‘unconditional love’ but what is meant by that? Does it mean that you will love someone no matter what they do?

To me, it is impossible to suggest that you can love someone unconditionally, no matter what they do or how they behave. If that were the case, divorce would not exist; families would be unified; there would be no abuse.

However, EPT is based on love and rather than state that you must love unconditionally, I would prefer to say that you are not to place conditions on that love.

From the moment your child is placed in your arms for the first time, he begins to learn about love and rejection. First by instinct, then by actions and words.

This is carried on throughout life; even as an adult we crave love and fear rejection.

The way you offer your love is the way your child will offer his.

It is important to show love to your child and to tell him that you love him, but try not to use love as a bargaining tool.

The following statements show how love can be phrased as a means of bargaining and therefore present conditions:

“mommy/daddy loves you when….”

Translation: “mommy doesn’t love you when…”

“I love you, but….”

Translation: You still need to do some work before I really love you.

Have you ever noticed that your child will say he loves you at the oddest times?  Those are the perfect moments to tell him that you love him too, even if you are angry. Remember, that sometimes your anger can scare or confuse him, so his little “I love you” may mean that he needs reassurance that you still love him so smile and tell him.

When my children were growing up, “Love you,” were the last words I said to them every night, even if they were asleep when I went to check on them before turning in.

Another of my sayings, when they were small was: “I love you aaaalll the way to the sun and the moon and the stars… and back again.” One night as I covered up my fast-asleep daughter, I leaned over and whispered in her ear, “Love you, aaaalll the way to the sun and the moon and the stars.” As I was closing her door a little voice piped up: “… and back again.” She was still fast asleep.

These are the little things you talk about and treasure for the rest of your life.

It is quite safe to show your love openly to your child. Kiss him, cuddle him, laugh with him and cry with him, but remember that when he starts formal schooling, he may be embarrassed by shows of affection so if he pushes you away, don’t feel offended, just keep the cuddles and kisses for when he doesn’t have an audience.

When my children started formal schooling, I used to kiss their left palm (they were all right-handed) and close it quickly as they left me in the mornings. My daughters both told me recently that they used to keep their hands closed for as long as possible so as not to lose their kiss.

It is the little things that show you love them and they glow with it.

Respect – give it to earn it

“Respect”, something everyone wants, but few deserve. It takes forever to earn respect and only one second to lose it.

Respect is not something you achieve automatically because you are older, wiser, richer… respect is what you earn by your actions towards others; the way you live your life; show humility. In order to receive respect, you have to give respect.

Your child is as entitled to  respect as you are, but it is your duty to show him the way to earn it.

This may be a new concept to you as through the ages it has always been stated that as a parent, you are automatically entitled to the respect of your child and in fact everyone else’s child, but this is not really true. Do you respect everyone who is older than you?

You can honour your father, your mother, your teacher, the old man on the bus, but you do not necessarily respect them. Manners are not respect. Respect means that you value the motives, morals and outlook of another person. If you treat your child with respect, he will return it and will look for reasons to respect others.

As with love, it is important to realise that respect is a basic need in order to become a well-adjusted human being:

If you do not respect yourself you cannot expect others to respect you. Likewise, if you do not show respect, you cannot expect respect in return.

So how do we earn it and how do we teach it to our children?

I have seen many negative approaches towards teaching respect, but the concept of EPT is based on a positive approach.

The following are some ways you can teach respect to your young child:

  • If you, as parents value your privacy then you have to show your child by valuing his:
  • Allow him to close his door (take the key out) and knock before entering.
  • Don’t reorganise his cupboards or change his room without him being present.
  • Teach him to listen when people speak:
  • Allow him to speak and don’t interrupt. Show interest in what he is saying and give feedback.
  • Make sure that when either of you are speaking, he listens by including him in the conversation and waits his turn before giving feedback.
  • Make time to ask him about his day and tell him about yours. Listen to him and offer feedback.
  • Teach him humility:
  • Try not to gossip or make fun of people in front of your child. He needs to form his own opinions of people.
  • Be aware of his fears and never make fun of them,
  • Do not belittle your partner or your child. Children get embarrassed too.
  • Show kindness to animals and people less fortunate than you.
  • Manners are made at home:
  • If you swear, your child will swear
  • If you talk with your mouth full of food, so will your child
  • If you show disrespect for your partner, your child will do the same

The above are just things to take into consideration. In the eyes of a child, his parents are God.

You will see in later chapters and in some of the exercises where respect comes in to play and how important it is in your relationship with your child.

Positive reinforcement – the best way

You have heard it before, we all have. Praise, recognition, reward etc. It works with animals and it works with people.

EPT also uses the concept of positive reinforcement. I believe that punishment breeds resentment, in practicing EPT you will have a solution before you feel the need to turn to punishment.

However, EPT does not support the phrase: “Reward the good and ignore the bad,” as I believe that all behaviour should be recognised. EPT is about being involved. Your child cannot differentiate between acceptable and unacceptable behaviour if the same attention is not given to both.

I also have a problem with the word “reward” as it conjures up images of puppies being given treats for not using the rug as a toilet. Another problem I see with the word “reward” is that it somehow seems to translate into something material, such as a gift:

  • Little James didn’t throw a flatty at the shops so we bought him a 10kg packet of jelly tots.

or a bargaining tool:

  • If you are good, mommy/daddy will buy you a  …

EPT defines the ideal of positive reinforcement as ‘constructive support’.

“Thank you,” is highly recommended as a means of constructive support.

In further chapters I will show you examples of acceptable ways of supporting your child constructively. I will also show you examples of unacceptable ways and give pointers on how to recognise the difference.



In your child’s early years, you as parent, are your child’s primary caregivers, but other people may also be involved in your child’s care.

The people who have an influence over your child’s upbringing may include:

  • Your spouse/partner
  • Your immediate family – siblings
  • Your extended family – aunts uncles, grandparents
  • Your friends
  • Your child’s friends and parents
  • ursery school teachers, day mothers etc.

It is important that you make sure that all these people fit in with the morals and standards that you have chosen for your child.

As he grows, he will have further influences, but the people who surround him in his early years will have a bearing on who he chooses to associate with when he is older.


As I have said, you and your spouse/partner are your child’s primary caregivers. You are the ones who set the standards in your home and you are the ones who implement them.

Try to set good examples for your children, remember the basic ideals:

  • Love – show that you love your spouse/partner. Hug and praise and tell your partner. Keep arguments to a minimum and try not to disagree with your spouse/partner in front of your children. If a situation arises with one of your children where you need to intervene, decide on a plan of action that you both agree with and back each other.
  • Respect – show respect to your partner at all times, do not embarrass or humiliate your partner.
  • Positive reinforcement – praise your partner openly and have your children do the same by telling them how proud you are of your partner.


It is important that all your children have the same rules and standards. They may all be different little people, but basic morals and standards do not change.

Siblings must also abide by the basic ideals.

Always remember that you are a team. You should all work together to create a happy environment. Some of the things to remember are:

  • Encourage love – show love towards your children and encourage them to show love for each other.
  • Encourage communication – stay in tune with your children, talk about everything have discussions, work out problems together.
  • Teach manners – always say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ to your children and have them do the same with each other.
  • Respect privacy – knock on closed doors and wait to be allowed entry. If the door was closed when you entered, close it when you leave.
  • Respect possessions – do not use or borrow someone else’s possessions without asking.
  • Respect feelings – be understanding of the feelings of others.
  • Encourage positivity – praise your children’s achievements and encourage them to praise each other.


Extended family and friends

Your extended family and friends also play a role in your children’s lives. They don’t always have the same outlook and views as you do.

Make sure that they understand your ideals and ask them to respect them.

Nursery school teachers etc.

If you are working parents, you may have to find some form of day care for your child. An important point to remember is that your child will spend approximately 40 intensive hours a week in care as opposed to approximately 24 intensive hours with you on the weekend. The few hours spent after work during the week will be filled with supper, bathing and preparing for bed. It is very important therefore, that you choose the correct day care facility.

I prefer a day-mother for younger children as they are only licensed for a small group of children and therefore give them more attention. The child can be moved into a bigger nursery school when he is about 5 in order for him to adapt to larger numbers.

When looking for a nursery school, try to find one that fits in with the standards that you want for your child.

Do not take your child with you when looking for a day care facility. Once you have decided on a facility, you can take your child to see his response.

Word-of-mouth counts for a lot when looking for a facility, but make appointments to see a few before making a decision. Take your time and ask questions:

  • What is you’re approach to manners, discipline, religion? – the answer to these questions needs to be as close as possible to your own approach to these subjects.
  • What are your operating hours? – You need to know that you will be able to drop and collect your child on time without upsetting your working routine.
  • Is your staff trained in basic first aid and what would you do in case of an emergency? – if your child is injured, how would they handle it.
  • What security measures do you have in place? – you need to know that your child is safe.
  • What do you feed the children? – you need to know that your child will be fed correctly, a young child needs healthy, wholesome food.
  • Ask for a tour of the facility and take note of the following:
  1. Bathrooms – should be clean and sanitary. Each child should have his own towel or there should be an air-dryer.
  2. Kitchen – should be clean and sanitary, the kitchen workers should be clean and the dishes and cutlery should not be old.
  3. Dining area – some facilities have a dining area, others allow the children to eat in their separate groups. It is important that children sit down in a designated place to eat and are not allowed to walk around or play when eating.
  4. Classrooms – should be well stocked and the furniture, toys, equipment etc. should be clean and in good working order.
  5. Caregivers – should be friendly and in control of the children. Try to find out how long each one has been with the facility.
  6. Children – should be calm and polite. Children are often a very good way to gauge a facility. If the children are more interested in you than they are in what they were doing before you arrived, they may not be very content in their environment.
  7. The building – should be well maintained and safe.
  8. The playground – should be safe. The climbing apparatus should not be too high and should be well maintained. The sandpit should be clean and it should have some form of shade over it. The swings should not be in a place where children could run into them. There should be place for children to run and place for children to sit and play. The playground toys should be clean and well maintained. There should not be old car wreckages as these can have sharp, rusty bits that can injure and infect children.
  9. The menu – all day care centres have a menu, which usually rotates bi-weekly. In a full day facility the menu should consist of:

Breakfast (optional)

Juice and snack


Juice and snack

In a half-day facility you sometimes have to provide your own food, if the facility offers food the menu should be:

Breakfast (optional)

Juice and snack

Lunch (if the facility stays open after 12:00pm)

Once you have decided on a facility, pop back unannounced and have another look when you are not expected. Then organise to take your child for a visit in order to prepare him.

Choosing the correct day care for your child offers you peace of mind.

Remember, if you are God in your child’s eyes, his caretaker when you are not there must be seen as an angel.


 Adjusting old ideas

There are many little clichés that we grew up with and some unfortunately tend to stick. I am not saying these clichés are bad and must be tossed aside, I am simply asking you to consider updating them.

Let’s have a look at some of them and at the same time, let’s adjust them slightly:

“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again.”

Translation: Keep doing what you are doing, eventually it will work.

I somehow don’t think so.

No matter how hard you push, that elephant is not going to fit in your garage; you are not going to grow a money tree. The square peg will not go into the round hole.

So let’s adjust our cliché slightly.

“If at first you don’t succeed, try – try something different.”

If you build the garage bigger….;

If you get people to pin money onto a tree….;

If you shave the corners off the square peg…;

EPT will show you different approaches to problems.

“Spare the rod, spoil the child.”

Translation: If you do not smack your child, you are going to spoil him.


Smacking a child breeds fear, anger and resentment. Yes, you will smack your child at some stage, but change the cliché.

“Spare the rod, spare the child.”

Don’t make it a rule of thumb to smack and never smack in anger.

Parents normally smack their children when they are at a loss; frustrated; angry; shocked or in fear. In other words, when they have lost control.

When you smack you lose respect – your child’s and your own self-respect.

Smacking is negative reinforcement and the idea of EPT is to give alternatives.

From the examples above, the message I want you to glean is:

Try a different approach

Anger has no place

Try a different approach

Sometimes, although we don’t realise it, we keep doing the same thing over and over.

Have you noticed that when you lose your car keys, you keep going back to the place that you thought you had left them. They are not there, you know they aren’t and yet that is where they are supposed to be so you keep checking.

The same applies to many things you deal with in your life, including your children. You are using the resources you have at hand.

“If it was good enough for me, it is good enough for you.”

Translation: It worked for me when I was growing up.

Do you really believe that?

If so, then why are you having the same problems with your children as your parents had with you? Change the cliché.

“I want more for you, I want to offer you more.”

You know that there are many things your parents did that were totally ineffective and yet when you are at a loss, you fall back on these things and justify them with a cliché.

This gives rise to:

“The sins of their fathers are revisited on their sons.”

Translation: I cannot be held responsible for my actions.

Unfortunately, this is one of my worst as it is too loosely bandied around. So often it is used as an excuse for wrong behaviour in adults.

Once you become an adult, you become responsible for your actions. You are not allowed to blame someone else for your choices. They may influence you, but if it was wrong, it remains wrong and it is up to you to not carry wrong behaviour on.

“The sins of their fathers will not be revisited.”

Try to recognise wrongs and do not pass them on to your children.

Anger has no place

We are all human, we all have emotions but anger, unless used constructively can be destructive. When you are angry, you tend to act irrationally and out of control. Showing anger to a child generates fear, which usually causes the child to cut off.

In order to be able to understand how a child feels when one of his parents show anger, I want you to do the following exercise (it may be helpful to read it first and then do it or to have someone to read it to you as you do it):

Close your eyes and think back to a time when someone showed you anger as a child. It can be a parent, a teacher, a peer, an older sibling, a bully, or anyone who confronted you with anger.

  • Picture the person’s stance and facial expression.
  • Hear the tone and inflection in their voice.
  • Feel the blow if they shoved or hurt you.
  • Stay in the moment and feel the emotions. How does your stomach feel?
  • Be aware of all the emotions you are feeling.
  • Now imagine that you are replaced by your child.

I am presuming that your eyes snapped open at the last point.

Your child needs to know that he can depend on you, that you are in control and most important that you love him. Harsh words and violent acts undermine his sense of security.

You are his protector, his mentor. If you scare him, who will protect him?

The following exercise is aimed at reversing the effect the previous one may have had on you and should be carried out before you continue reading:

Exercise: Confronting an old issue of anger aimed at you

  • Close your eyes and go back to the scene you pictured earlier.
  • Remember again the person’s stance and facial expression.
  • Hear the tone and inflection in their voice.
  • Feel the blow if they shoved or hurt you.
  • Stay in the moment and feel the emotions. Be aware of all the emotions you are feeling.
  • Now picture yourself as an adult entering the scene.
  • Take the hand of your younger self and tell your confronter that his behaviour is not acceptable.
  • Stand your ground and watch as your confronter walks away.
  • Take your younger self into your arms and embrace them, projecting warmth, safety and love.

Stay in the moment and feel the energy seeping through you both for as long as you need to before opening your eyes.

As we go on the journey through this book, I will try to help you to see through the eyes of your child. Sometimes you may find yourself remembering how you felt when you were little and there is no harm in that. Revisiting your childhood sometimes helps to remind you of what you want for your children.

In each of the following chapters I will deal with issues that I have either witnessed, been asked about, or that I have heard come up in conversations. Some of these are interrelated, such as nightmares and fears.

As we progress, we will build your imaginary toolbox with sometimes odd items. Some of these items will seem humorous and for good reason. Laughter soothes the soul and re-energizes you.

I could not think of a way to organise the chapters logically so I decided to do it the simplest way – alphabetically. (It made the contents page easier to read.)




9 May 2011 - Posted by | Parenting | , , , , ,

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