Just because Toni Schutta makes her living as a parenting expert doesn’t mean she’s not still eager to learn about what she calls “our hardest job.”
The Shoreview mother of two is a licensed psychologist who teaches parenting classes, leads webinars and offers one-on-one coaching with families. A few years ago, she hosted an Internet radio show on parenting and sought out leading experts on topics of interest to families. They included academics, therapists and bloggers.
“I talked with people who, in some cases, spent 30 or 40 years researching a subject,” she said. “When I interviewed them, I got to the essence of what they learned in all that time.”
Now Schutta, 57, has compiled 20 of those tips-laden conversations into a book, “20 Great Ways to Raise Great Kids,” which she calls a solution-driven primer for managing some of the most frequent — and stubborn — problems that parents face. Each chapter includes links to the expert’s research, book or website.
“I put it all in one place, for quick reference. Boom, it gets you going,” she said. “I looked at over a thousand parenting books on Amazon and there’s nothing like this.”
With the start of a new year upon us, she listed some strategies to address common challenges.
Resolve to do less for your kids. “Hands down, the No. 1 problem right now is that parents do too much for kids and they’re crumbling when they get to college,” Schutta said. Her interview with author and child psychologist Michelle Borba stressed teaching problem-solving skills like brainstorming so kids can learn how to find their own solutions.
Resolve to multi-task less. Too often parents are physically present but distracted by technology. Even the family car, site of countless heart-to-hearts, is no longer sacrosanct as parents take work calls while kids watch movies. Barbara Z. Carlson, co-author of “Putting Family First: Successful Strategies for Reclaiming Family Life in a Hurry-Up World,” said nothing takes the place of what she termed “eyeball to eyeball conversations.” Carlson shared the story of a little girl who, in frustration, “ … grabbed her father’s face in her chubby little hands and said ‘Listen to my face.’ She wanted eye contact and even though he might have been listening … she couldn’t tell that.”
Resolve to give up the guilt. The authors of “Mommy Guilt: Learn to Worry Less, Focus on What Matters Most, and Raise Happier Kids,” shared a study that found that 96 percent of mothers feel guilt about their parenting, with no differences between stay-at-home and go-to-work mothers. Author Aviva Pflock said parents need to feel comfortable recharging with time away from their families. Mothers especially need to use that time for themselves, not spend it “ … running to Target to see if they have sneakers for my son.”
Resolve to stop yelling. A top issue that produces parental guilt is yelling. Author Devra Renner suggested it’s a habit that can be broken. She warns against shouting to children in another room when you need them; go and find them — and require them to do likewise when they need to speak with you. Parents who want to yell less must resolve to stop raising their voices and then be accountable. “If you slip, simply say, ‘I just yelled. I’m sorry. Let’s try that again.’ ”
Resolve to adjust your definition of success. In an interview about sports, Schutta shared an anecdote from her own life that prompted a shift in her thinking. She heard another mom at a party talking about her daughter’s elite soccer team. “At first I felt insecure, because my daughter is not an elite anything,” she said. “Then I thought about how kind and generous she is. We never talk about inner qualities, and we should.”
Resolve to prioritize time with your spouse. Busy couples too often put their relationship at the bottom of the family to-do list. Psychologist Kevin Anderson, author of “The 7 Spiritual Practices of Marriage,” said marriages are compromised when they become child-centered. “Children are awesome … but you don’t kill off the goose — the marriage that produced them,” he said. “Some of the running around caused by too many activities begins to starve the goose of what it needs to really thrive.”
The book is being offered free on the Internet. Schutta invites parents who download the PDF to make a donation to the Family Enhancement Center in Minneapolis, where Schutta worked as a child therapist for six years. All profits from the download and the hard copy are going to the center’s child abuse prevention work. Schutta’s effort has already raised $1,700.
“I know these people, so I know the funds are needed and will be used well,” she said.
The link for the download is http://getparentinghelpnow.com/myfreebook. When readers enter their information, the link will route them to a page where they have the option of also getting the e-book for $9.99 or the print book for $16.99, plus tax and shipping.
Kevyn Burger is a freelance writer and a newscaster at BringMeTheNews.com.