“Please put your shoes on already!” – is that situation familiar? Do you find yourself asking your children to do things over and over again? Do you resort to threats or bribes? Are you already exhausted from the ongoing struggle?
Yes, the struggle is real. But in fact, it shouldn't be THAT hard. If only you would know some basic ways to ask your children to do something and actually want to cooperate… Well, this is what I teach you in this episode of The Apparently Parent Podcast.
No, this is no magic formula! And you can't make your children 100% compliant (and who would want that anyway?). What you will learn is to differentiate between an instruction and a request, when to use each type and how.
Using what you learn in this episode will help you get the cooperation of your children in a much calmer way, and even empower them every now and then. Sounds good?
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Everybody's listening right now please raise your hands if in last week you told your child to do something and they didn't. Now, don't be shy, and raise those hands. Unless you're driving, of course, or maybe it would be socially awkward to raise your hand at this exact moment. So raise them in your heart, so to speak. So, again, raise your hand If in last week, you told your child to do something and they didn't, did you raise your hand? I did. I think that "my kids are not listening to what I tell them to do" is one of the most common complaints I get from parents, if not the most common one. So in today's episode, I'm giving you one of the most important distinctions you will ever learn as a parent. So stick around, I'll see you after the intro.
You're listening to the apparently parent podcast where we combine the art of parenting with the science of psychology. I'm Iran cuts. And for over 10 years as a clinical psychologist, I've been helping people from age six to any six leave a happier, more flexible life. In the process, I have learned about the things parents do to make or break a childhood, in what turns children into happy, confident human beings. This podcast is for you, the 21st century parents who believes that better parenting can make a better world. So if that's you, and you're ready to elevate your parenting journey, let's go. I'm your host, Eran Katz.
All right, welcome back to the apparently parent podcast, the podcast for the 21st century parents. And this is episode number 58. And I'm very excited for this one, because we are going to go over one of the most important things that I had to learn in my own parenting journey, and with working with my clients on their parenting issues. And I bet it's going to be the same for you. Because being a parent literally means having to gain a measure of control over another human being. When they're little babies, we have almost total control over them. Although I know it feels the other way around. But think about it. You get to choose what they wear, you get to choose where they are physically located in the house, you get to choose where they go, you get to choose what they can play with, etc. But as they grow up, they develop more and more agency and more personality. And they start to do what they want, even if it's not aligned with what you want. Now, it is annoying, maybe it's many struggles, power struggles, boundaries that are being tested, or even blown apart. and much more. Now, if you want, you can always opt for the kind of parenting that demands high compliance from a child. That kind of parenting is also known as authoritarian parenting. And it's defined by many demands and strict rules, and also lower rates of being open and close with your child. But for me, that's not the kind of parent that I want to be. And let me guess that if you're listening to this podcast, you're the same. But maybe you are a conflicted parent trying to create a strong emotional bond with your child while also trying to get through the day. And getting through the day sometimes means that you need to tell your children to do stuff because they are kids, and you're the adult and you usually hold the better perception of reality, you know, when it's okay to go outside with our coat better than them right or, you know when it's okay to eat this or that during lunch or having this or that for dessert, right? So how do you get your children to actually listen to what you want them to do. Now while I can't promise a 100% compliance rates, and 100% of them listening to you, and again, I don't think this is an ideal we should aim for. I do want to share with you an important distinction that will help you navigate these waters. So let's talk about requests, orders and instructions, or In short, ROI.
So usually, when we tell our children what to do, we actually kind of order them around, do this or don't do that. You know, like nice drill sergeants. Those are orders that come from the authoritarian kind of parenting, where a child is expected to follow the parents order to a tee without, you know, without refusing, but also without questioning that order. And I think we already have established that we don't want to feel like real soldiers. We don't want to be authoritarian parents. That's not what being a 21st century parent is all about. Let's leave the authoritarian parenting in the 20th century. But if you want to feel like a positive, nurturing parent, does it mean you can use or should not use orders? Of course not. Sometimes orders are paramount and important, like, don't run into traffic or hold my hand when we're crossing the street. That's a very important one. And yeah, sometimes put your coat on because it's raining outside should be more of an order and less of a request, because you will not take your child into a blizzard or a rainy day really rainy day without, without a coat, right. But the problem with orders is that sometimes we use them not in the right place, we use them too much. And then there's kind of a negative circle that goes like this. You want your child to do something, so you tell him or her to do that you order them to do that. They do not respond as you expect them to respond. Okay, so they refuse you in some kind of way. And you either give up, or you explode in anger. Now, this is not what we want. This is what leads to frustration and fights during the day, and you're getting to bed exhausted and feeling shitty about your parenting. So we need to learn to use instructions as much as possible instead of orders. So what are instructions? instructions are basically just motors that are more flexible. When you give an instructions, you place a very clear expectation. But he also gave room for negotiation. How big of a room that depends on you on the situation on the context. Okay, remember, my previous episode, Episode 57, I talked about how context is everything. Now you have to understand that children will not follow all your instructions, and I repeat that children will not follow all your instruction. And that's okay, that's part of the deal. So, rule of thumb, number one is never give an instructions, you're not willing to accept a refusal upon. Alright, so again, go back to the traffic example, or electric sockets, for example, those are non negotiables. Right? You will not allow your child to touch a burning stove, right or going to traffic, that's a non negotiable. And that can be a very important order, don't touch that. Now, we sometimes use the don't or do a kind of order too much where we could instead use an instruction. Now I want you to know something. As I've said, your children, you will not follow all your instructions. And that's okay. And listen to this surprising statistic. When researchers documented in followed family communications for long stretches of time. They found that in families where there were no specific behavioral problems, or no specific behavioral struggles, between 20 to 50% of the children's responses were categorized as non compliant to instructions. So the parents gave instructions that children were non compliant and what was in that was between 20 to 50% of the time, in normal non issues you having, you know, no specific behavioral or struggle in the family. That wasn't the norm. Okay, How refreshing and how comforting. Is that? Right? So, but why does it happen? Alright, so, one of the most important goals of a developing child is to grow autonomy, to grow their own autonomy and agency, you want your children to grow up autonomous, being able to make their own decisions, being able to conduct themselves in the world, with confidence, knowing what to do, where to go, how to deal with stuff,
right? I think that's part of the goal of 21st century parents. And you have to realize that you can become an autonomous human being without sticking at. You have to realize that you can become an autonomous human being without sometimes digging it up to the men, right. Resistance isn't funeral. Resistance is crucial. It's part of a neuronal developing child, when your child is resisting you, and I know, you probably do not want to hear that. But maybe you do. When your child is resisting you, he doesn't mean anything other than that, your child is resisting you, in problems thought, when parents just like you and me, and I do that, still, we put a meaning on, on on stuff like that, we put a meaning on it, we label it as my child doesn't respect me, or my child doesn't love me, or my child doesn't respect authority, and he or she will grow up to be a delinquent. And this is a clear example of what we call shark music. And if you don't know what I mean, check out my previous episode, Episode 57. Okay, so go back to apparently ban.com forward slash 57, or go back on your podcast application. And check that out, because it will really help you understand how important context is. And part of that is your internal music, right? So we have to realize that when children are refusing our instructions, that doesn't mean that they are bad, or they're gone bad, or they have behavior problems, and they will will heavier behavioral problems, or they will, you know, have problems with authority as they grow up. And they will run red lights all the time. And whatever all it means is that they refused at that moment. And it can be it can be opened up for a discussion or a kind of an inward looking into it. Why did they refuse. Now, as I mentioned, all those before, think of orders as basically instructions that are giving in kind of a disrespectful manner. They don't respect the child's autonomy, because with orders, you don't expect your child to do anything, but what you told them to do or not to do, there is no wiggle room for negotiation. And when there is no wriggle room for negotiation, you're really not respecting your child's autonomy. And yet, sometimes that is what needs to be done. Because you cannot respect your child's Well, you can respect your child's want in wish to run into traffic because they don't understand what that means. It doesn't mean you that if you respect their wishes, you need to comply with them. Okay, so that's an important distinction to make. Okay, so when you order your child, when you tell them clearly do not run into traffic, or do not cross the street without holding my hand. That's a non negotiable. So that's, that's why it's an order instead of an instructions. But when you give your child an instruction, you really open things up for an opportunity for them to say, No, I don't want to do that. Okay. And a 21st century parents accept that being a good parent means teaching your child to resist you. That's part of a deal. Parents who shy away from conflicts with their children by either assuming the authoritarian style or the permissive style, which means letting the children do whatever they wish, they do a major disservice to their children. So it's a major part of our parenting journey to give instructions, seeing children refuse them in working with that, helping your children come to terms with the fact that sometimes they have to listen to you, or they should listen to you. And sometimes they can choose differently. And that's okay. This is how we teach them to, to choose and to, to be responsible for the choices, etc. Now, you may ask yourself, okay, Iran. So that's an order. That's an expression instruction, but how do I give instruction in a way that my children will listen to me? That's the premise of this episode, right? This is why I clicked on this episode for so yeah, we're going to get to that, don't worry. But before we go on to talk about how to give instructions in an efficient way, let's talk about requests. Because remember, we had three ways to ask your child to do something. We had orders, which is something that you should say for very specific things like life hazards and emergencies. Okay, remember my episode from a couple of weeks ago about running to a bomb shelter? That's an emergency where sometimes orders are needed in order in that situation.
And of course, we have instructions, but we also have request. Now, what is a request in this context, a request assumes that the child has a real freedom of choice in the matter. Hence, you get to accept the possibility of refusal and relinquish any need to convince the child to choose otherwise. This is basically what choosing your battles mean. Okay, so the Let's take an example in a really easy one, let's say that it's on, if we're getting called, it's not harsh winter yet, okay, it's raining, and it's cold and weather is changing. Now, would you let your child choose if you want a coat when you're going outside or not. Now, if it's really raining, or if it's really cold, you want to let her choose grace. So you might order her Put on your coat now, or you might ask her in an instruction kind of way, which we will discuss later, how you do that, okay, but your instructor to put her coat on, alright, how ever some days, maybe you, you can accept that she might choose otherwise. And she might go outside without a coat. Now you may want her to put a coat on, but you can also accept and be okay with her not having a coat on, okay? In that case, you can give her a request, I asked you to put your coat on. But it's a given that if you choose not to, I will not fight you on that. I will not try to convince you. But you will, quote unquote, pay the price. So if you choose not to take your quote outside, and it's gonna end it's going to be called, you're going to suffer from being called, it's on you. We're not going back. You know, you don't Don't you know, complain, that was your choice. All right. So you as a parent need to realize that sometimes it's better for you to give your children requests, and let them choose and let them take responsibility for what they choose and bear the consequences, even if they're negative, or if it's negative in your mind. And, and, and that's that, all right, but you have to only give them instructions if you can really accept what they choose. Okay, so if you can really accept your daughter walking out of home without a coat, give her a request instead of an instruction or an order. But never ever request something that you're not willing to accept or refuse a lot. So if you're not really okay with her going outside, without a coat, don't put it as a request. Now, I do want to say that you can be flexible in the transition between requesting and instructing. You can and you probably should have the same action sometimes as a request. And sometimes as an instruction. It all depends on the context. Again, as we said in this example, okay, sometimes, if you're out in a skiing trip, there's no, there's no wiggle room in a coat is a must. So it can be a request. But if you know it's just a little bit chilly outside, maybe a code can be a request. And the same goes for for other things, you just need to realize what's right for you. And you need to remember that it's really individual, there are things in your lives that you can accept as requests that other parents want. For example, I don't really care if my child goes outside without a coat when it's not really cold outside, I don't, I'm not afraid of of cold. I don't think that going outside when it's cold will make them sick. And that's fine for me, but other parents might not agree with me. So as long as nobody gets hurt, really, and you just do you, you do you you work and go according to your own values and your own purpose as a parent. All right. So if you see other parents acting in different ways, stop for a second before judging them or judging you and see how different people can think different things. And that's sometimes that's okay. Now, just before we go into talking about how to use instructions, let's let's just say, why should we have requests in the first place? Hey, why? Why should we allow our children to choose, even if we don't really want them to choose this on that? Okay. A wonderful example, by the way, here is clothing. Okay? Do you let your child choose what they wear to school or not? Okay, so
some parents cannot stand their children choosing because of colors mismatching. I'm not even talking about the weather patterns. Okay. So, you know, you can tell your child that they have to choose between different coats but they have to have a coat coat, okay, so you got to have a coat, it's an instruction but choosing what kind of coat or with what color of of a coat is it? It is, that can be a request, or choicepoint. But that's for some parents, you know, children choosing mismatching colors in the nonnegotiable, only just can stand okay. So we again, choose your battles. But why? Why should we offer them choices in the first place and have requests in our mind in the first place, it's really important to have requests, and having children choose stuff. Because when when we give a request to a child, we give them the freedom of choice, we give them the freedom to make their own decision, that's a huge thing for a child. Remember, they grow up with little choice. And then as soon as they, I think, we can say we say, around two years old, they start to develop their own ni and their own agency and needs of control. And that's why they can be so difficult sometimes to handle in those periods of life. Right. So when we give them choices, we show them that we respect them, we show them that we we trust them. And this is how we build confidence. And this is also how we build the ability to to weather consequences, because if we choose for them all the time, we bear the consequences of quote unquote, wrong choices. But if they start to have some choices, and learn what they mean, if sometimes they make the wrong choice for them for themselves, okay, so they will learn how to think more about the choices as they grow up, okay? So that this is how we build their sense of agency and responsibility help them in decision making. And it's not a one time thing, we do that on all the time over and over again, constantly. And we give them more difficult choices as they grow up, etc, etc. So this is why we have to be flexible in a ways we're choosing between orders and quantity and instructions and, and requests, etc. And there is no really right or wrong way of choosing I how many requests we should use or how many orders we should use, you know, from the top of my mind, I would suggest like, I think we should have approximately between 70 to 80% of our rule of instructions, when we want our children to do something when we ask them to do something, and do maybe 10 to 15% of requests and the rest with should be orders for example. But you know, that's not really rule. That's not a rule of thumb that you can really apply all the time, it depends on how many children you have on this situation on how old they are, etc, etc. Okay, so now that we have establish the difference between requests in order and instructions, and if you get any, if you agree with me that instructions are good to use, and a good thing to use, let's talk about some guidelines of how to use good instructions. And those are guidelines that I have summed up from a research paper that was reading about this concept and I will put the paper if you want to read it, then I will put in its name in the show notes of this episode. So you can visit apparently band.com forward slash 58 to check that out. And let's just move through them one by one. So, first of all, do not give too much instructions. Okay. And again, I know I just said 70 to 80% of instructions. But what I mean is here is that you should only use instructions when you know you can actually enforce them. Okay? So, if, if you you want your child to do something, and and you want to give an instruction, do that only when you know you can actually take the time to talk with your child about the consequences of not choosing this or that. Or if you can actually do something about them refusing you so for example, if the instruction is about screen time, okay, turn off the TV. Okay? And, or else, okay, so
I want you to turn off the TV, like in 10 minutes, and then they will tell you no, I don't want to do that. Because I'm watching. I'm watching a series that I like, what can you as a parent do about it? Okay, so I'm not telling you what to do about it. I'm just telling you that you should use the instructions when you know, you can do something about that. Okay, so maybe you can close the TV, maybe you can offer them something instead of the TV, etc. Okay. Now, why is that important? Because when the chill when the child can comply with the instruction, they have a positive experience of success, which means it will be easier for them to comply later on with different instructions. If the child cannot comply with the instruction, if the child refuses, but you cannot help them with that, you might be setting them up for failure. Okay, so if you if you want them to wear something, when you go outside, okay, give give them an instruction in options that they can, you know, experience a success with. Okay, and not, you know, don't don't give them an order. I masked as an instruction. And you that brings me to the next kind of guideline, which is respect the child. All right. So again, 21st century, parents respect their children all the time as different human beings, who and they care about their emotions, and they do whatever they can to talk with them with respect. Yeah, sometimes we get angry, and we disrespect them, and then we take responsibility for that. But again, remember, those are human beings. There are those are not machines, and they are definitely not soldiers in your ranks. So please give me the cubes is a respectful way of asking your child to give you the cubes that he scattered all over the floor, for example, the disrespectful way to do that would be Give me the query already. Okay, so sometimes asking for something can be the same, but it's an order or an instruction just by the way you do that by your tone of voice, by your non verbal language, how you stand, how you how you conduct yourself physically. Alright. Now, when using instructions, try to use as direct instruction as possible, and refrain from masking an instruction as a question. So I'll give you some example. If you want them to put their toys in the box, pay how many times and be honest how many times you, you you, you phrase it as an as a question. All right, so And do you want to put your trains in the box? That's clearly an instruction masquerading as a question, or do you want to brush your teeth? No, that's even worse, because you do as a parent, unless you're okay with them not choosing not to brush their teeth. Don't give them such a question. Do you want to put a sweater on? Yeah. So your child may tell you No, I don't. You asked me and I told you. No. Why do you get mad at me? Okay, so do not mask your instructions as questions. Be clear. Okay. Please put your trains in the box now. Please go and brush with you. By the way noise that I use please. And, and do do this as an exercise for yourself. How many times during the day? Do you use the word please, when you ask your children to do something, right. So please put the train in the box, please go and brush your teeth. Those are direct clear instructions. Now, the next thing that you should think about is using instructions in a clear way to tell them what to do, as opposed to telling them what not to do. Okay, so, don't leave toys all over the house is rather vague. Remember, you're dealing with children and their perspective. And cognition is different than yours. Okay, so don't leave toys all over the house may be clear for you because you know what toys are supposed to go and what being you know, orderly means, but maybe they don't so big clearer.
Okay? Also, get ready, go and get ready. That can be too vague for a child. Okay for him, but you know, go and brush your teeth and then get dressed. It's clear. Now, don't eat with your hands. It's clear, but it's also phrased as a negative kind of order, right? Pay so tell them what to do instead. So please eat with a knife and fork. That's a major struggle for me and my son. Okay, for example. So please eat with a knife and fork. That's a good clear instruction. Put the toys back in the box instead of don't leave your toys all over the house, right? So use clear instructions. Also use short and focused instructions. This will make it easier for your child succeeding. Okay? Again, their children their cognition is different than yours. Okay, so listen to this for example. Go and put your shoes in the closet and then brush your teeth and then go to the bath. There are too many stages here. Okay, remember They're their children. Don't confuse them. Okay? So do something else. For example, please go and put your shoes in the closet. That's that. And when you do that, okay, now go and brush your teeth. And when you do that, now, take your clothes off, put them in the laundry basket, please. Go ahead, go into the bathtub, bathtub, please. Okay, clear, focused short instructions. I know, it may sound stupid. And you know, I'm talking about younger children, because as they grow up, they can be more complex, but again, make it easy for them to comply, and make it easy for them to succeed. Now, sometimes when your children do not seem to comply with you tend to use punishments, right. But instead try to focus on conditions instead of threats and punishments. So let's think about how, how you can you can use a punishment. So a punishment might look like, if you don't clean your room, we won't go out and play. Okay? Instead, use a positive condition. After you clean your room, we can go outside and play a little bit. Okay, same same message, different way of phrasing can make a lot of difference. Those are very subtle differences. And the way we say things sometimes for the outside observer may look kind of the same. If you don't clean the room, we won't go to play. After you clean your room, we can go to play, it can seem You know, when you just read their letter, the words, it can seem the same but but the way we carry on what we carry ourselves, the way we phrase has a lot of volume meaning, okay, and it can bear a striking difference for a child. Also, you can use instructions to encourage your child to to cooperate by giving them choices again, when possible. Okay, so for example, instead of please close the TV, which isn't a clear instruction, you can you can go for, please come and choose a bedtime story with me. Okay, or I want you to take a shower, would you like to come now? Or would you like to come in 10 minutes. Okay, so we're in giving them choices, helps them feel more responsible for their own fates. And that can help them comply. And also try to use reminders and alerts as much as possible, because children usually don't have the sense of times that adults do. And let's face it, many adults don't have a good sense of time, either. Okay, so you can say something like, wow, you praying really, really nice. And in five minutes, I will tell you, it's time to go back home. So we'll wrap things up here in the playground and go home. Okay. And then after to me after three minutes, go back and remind him, there are two minutes left, I will tell you when it's time to go, that's really different than you know, you just turning scrolling you on over looking at your phone, and then suddenly jumping in and telling them to go Sunday go by Let's go, No, let them know, five or 10 more minutes, remind them give them give them the respect that they need and the preparation that they need.
Alright, so to recap, this rather long ish episode, and I know it's kind of condensed, so you may want to re listen to this episode, especially the last part with with the guidelines, let's just say that if you want to be the kind of parent that I call the 21st century parent, the kind of parent who, who nurtures a positive and meaningful relationship with your children, but they also respect their own boundaries, and they expect their children to do this or that sometimes, you need to realize the difference between requests order and orders and instructions. And, and orders are basically telling your children like you're the drill sergeant to do this or to do that, alright. So sometimes we need to use those especially in life hazard situations and when non negotiables around, okay. And on the other hand, though, there are requests when you just suggest that they will do this or that and then you let them choose completely. So you can let them choose if they want and I know an apple juice or an orange juice if you are okay with juices for example, okay, but never use requests that you're not willing to comply on your their choice. Okay, so if you, you know, don't offer them a water or juice if you want him to have water. Okay, don't give them that kind of request. And an instruction is basically you asking them to do something, but not in an older kind of way. And you give them some wiggle room but you do show them what you really expect them to do. And there are some ways to use instructions in a more positive and more efficient way. And I just went through them. And I'll just let's do a quick recap of them. But go back and listen to the episode if you if you want to really understand them better. So don't give too much instructions. Only use them when you know you can actually enforce them. And you can, you know, handle that. Respect your child and talk with them, talk to them and ask them and give them instructions in a respectful way. So use, please. And that's that's a really, really important exercise that you can do right now. Try to notice how many times you use please when you ask him to do something, use direct instructions. And if and don't mask your instructions as a question. So instead of, can you please Go brush your teeth. Say, please, I want you to go brush your teeth right now. Use clear instructions that tell him what to do and not telling them what not to do. So instead of don't eat with your hands, use it with with a knife and fork. And use short and focused instructions. Don't confuse two children or children. And they can be distracted. Don't confuse them. Use conditions instead of threats. So if you don't finish your plate, you won't get any dessert works. Not so great as if you finish everything on your plate, you can choose the dessert you're having, for example, okay? And give them choices as much as possible. Like, do you want to go home now? Or do you want to go home home in 10 minutes, and use reminders and let them know what's going to happen because they don't have the sense of time that you do. So we have to be home by 630, which means that you're praying very nice, but in 15 minutes, we have to go. So I will tell you when it's time to go. And I will remind you 55 minutes before, so we can choose some other thing to do before we wrap up and go back home. Alright, so that was a really quick recap, and I know it's kind of condensed again, as I've said, so, you know, you can go to a panty band.com forward slash 58, there will be a transcription of this episode, you can read through everything you can release and do whatever you want to do, you need to do in order to absorb these these things. And I encourage you to choose just one of those guidelines in practice with that, in the following week. See what happens, okay, and then add upon on to that, because don't expect yourself to become, you know, to go from from zero to 100 in a second, you're not a race car. Alright. And, and with that, let's close up this episode, I hope I really hope you got got some value from that if you find this helpful, please share it with your friends, alright, send them an email, share it in your social media, share it in some group you're part of, and go just share the link to this episode The panty band.com, forward slash 58 wherever you can. And you know as as more parents get this message, there will be more parents who are on the journey to become 21st century parents, which I believe can make a better world. And if you're with me on that, let's do that. And if you haven't subscribed yet to this podcast, do so on
whichever episode, whichever podcast platform you like. And that way you will get all the episodes as soon as they come out. I push out new episodes every Thursday. Now I do want you to know that if you have any questions that you want me to answer in the podcast, you can go to apparently parent.com forward slash podcast and then you will find a button you can click on and fill up a form with questions to me and I will happily answer your questions in the podcast. Alright, so anything you want answered, just pop it in there and I will do my best to answer all of your questions in a specific episode of their own. And with that, let's close this episode for today. I will see you again next week and Until then, have a wonderful and meaningful parenting journey.
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The Apparently Parent Podcast
On this show, I share with you my perspectives and experience of parenting and psychology.
Enhance your understanding of the relationship with your child and yourself by learning about attachment, mindful and playful parenting mindset and techniques.
Listen to me sharing my knowledge and experience both as a parent and a therapist, as well as interviews with parenting experts from around the world.
Your Host – Eran Katz
I’m a clinical psychologist and parenting counselor specializing in attachment theory. I’m also the father of two children who are my best parenting teachers.
I believe that parenting is one of the most important jobs we ever do. This is why I created Apparently Parent and The Parenting MAP. My goal in life is to help as many parents as possible become 21st Century Parents, moving from chaos to harmony and building an enduring, meaningful relationship with their children.