Stress-Free Discipline by Sara Au and Peter L. Stavinoha

Stress-Free Discipline presents a view on discipline that it is about education rather than punishing. There are good points in the book but I found it to be more clinical than realistic. A one-approach fits all really failed to merge with the reality of what I and my family have faced raising children. It’s that lack of nuance and unrealistic examples that left me ambivalent at the end.


The book breaks down into four parts: Part 1 outlines the communication aspect that underlies children’s good or bad behavior. The authors attempt to decode that behavior for better understanding by parents.  Part II examines the problem behaviors: tantrums, homework, mealtime, bedtime, and bad attitude. Response tactics are given to help parents deal with those situations. Part III works on the parents: reacting and acting as role models rather than making situations worse or setting up situations for failure. Part IV explains the red flags that may indicate a child needs professional help/indicate a child is under abnormal stress.

The book is nicely written with parents in mind – explaining that ‘bad’ behaviors are quite normal and it is how the parents react that really influences the outcome. A model of understanding the behavior is presented: – an ABC of the situation. The authors’ ABC model breaks down as follows:  Antecedent (what led up to the behavior?), Behavior (what did the child do?), and Consequence (What happened after the behavior?). More specifically, did the events that happened before the behavior make it more likely or less likely that a child would behave in an undesirable manner (Antecedent); and did what happened after the behavior make it more likely or less likely that a child will do it again (consequences).

I liked that it is clearly a well thought out book with very important points on parenting. But about half way through that enthusiasm waned; it all felt so theoretical and generic that I had a hard time applying the book’s logic to actual situations I’ve encountered with my own or other children. I began to feel I was more at a lecture from theoreticians than someone actually in the trenches dealing with children every day.  The ‘responses’ given seemed very ineffectual and old fashioned in their generality  I would have loved more specific examples of how to achieve the goals over time rather than one off situations. I get the impression that consistency over time is the key but there is a great hump to get over first when changing my own and my child’s behavior. But that hump is never discussed and the answers provided seem more suited for an unrealistic situation with a hypothetical child.

There were a few digs at Super Nanny I found ironic (and very unprofessional) considering the book had so few real world examples and seemed so clinical. I also have to admit that some concepts I did not understand at all – including “time in” that I still didn’t get after reading the entire book. Even the cover – 3 happy smiling kids in a generic studio setting wearing generic clothes – underscored the unrealistic clinical nature of the book.

So yes, there is good information in here. But the application of those ideas and the clinical, Ph.d. feel, left me feeling very underwhelmed and confused with the application of those ideas. By the end, I didn’t think  there was anything relevant or realistic enough to apply to my own parenting other than to remember to not react emotionally.  Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.

This entry was posted in ARC, Book Reviews, home schooling, non fiction. Bookmark the permalink.

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