Watch genConnect CEO Nancy Spears interview Tom Sturges on his new book Grow the Tree You Got: & 99 Other Ideas for Raising Amazing Adolescents and Teenagers and why he believes in respect-based parenting.
TOM STURGES: Thank you so much for having me. I greatly appreciate being here.
NANCY SPEARS: So, I’m in a unique position. Because Tom is clearly an expert in music, but he’s also an expert in parenting. And, in fact, he’s published two books. And he has a new book out right now that we’re here to talk about today.
TOM STURGES: Thank you. My new book is called Grow The Tree You’ve Got and Other Ideas for Raising Amazing Adolescents and Teenagers. And most parents will tell you that this is the most difficult time. You know, 0 to 10 was a breeze, compared to 10 to 20. Because your child goes through not only the physical changes, but the intellectual changes and emotional changes. They change from child to adult. And that bridge is adolescence and teenage. So my theory is that our essential responsibility as parents is to help them discover who they are meant to be. And then help them become that person.
NANCY SPEARS: Fantastic. So what kind of tips do you offer in the book?
TOM STURGES: Well, there are several things. But I guess you would you summarize it by saying, it is respect-based parenting. That your child always feels the complete respect from you as the parent, almost like you’re raising a king. So I recommend that you never hit your child. Never hit your child. Not only never hit them, but promise them you’ll never hit them.
Never raise your voice to your child. And you’re going to get upset with them. This happens. This is part of the natural course of things. But to whisper to them, “That upsets me,” is so much more impactful and respectful. Because if you’re yelling at your children, you’ve made the situation your problem. If you’re whispering at them, you’ve made it their problem.
NANCY SPEARS: And the third? Wasn’t there another?
TOM STURGES: There’s a lot of ideas in the book. One of the things I think is very, very important is an essay I wrote called, “Let Them Be Beautiful.” And I had met a woman who told me the story of her mother tackling her when she was 13 years old, and cutting all her hair off. And I was just like wow. and she still didn’t know why that happened. It was still a shock to her. So I wrote an essay, “Let Them Be Beautiful.” Let your child decide that that is what they look good in. I mean within reason bounds and everything else. But if they want to wear all red, and that’s what feels good, fine. Your son wants to grow his hair long because he thinks he’s beautiful? Let him decide. These are so important.
And there’s an essay in the book called, “What Rivers Teach Us About Adolescence.” And I was flying back from New York to Los Angeles, and I noticed every river I flew over, not one of them was in a straight line. Turn here a little, turn here, or there, or back, dot-dot-duh. So I thought to myself, mistake, correction, mistake, correction, mistake, correction.
And right at that same time, my son, my 12-year-old, had decided he didn’t want to play soccer anymore. And he’s a great soccer player. He’s on a club team. He’s the starter. He’s ferocious. He picks people up when he knocks them down. I mean just amazing. But he didn’t want to play soccer anymore. And I was pushing him so hard, going, no, but kid, look at all that talent, you– He was like, Dad, I’m done. And I was looking at those rivers and thinking, you know what? Let him make this decision. If it’s a mistake, he can make a correction and come back. It’s doesn’t have to be made by me.
So, very important that they get to make their own decisions. Figure out their own version of what their life should be. Getting back to the premise that they have to figure out who they are supposed to be. And we have to help them get there.
NANCY SPEARS: By honoring who they are.
TOM STURGES: By honoring who they are, exactly.
NANCY SPEARS: Terrific. Well, it’s fascinating. I could talk to you for hours about the subject–
TOM STURGES: And just in case somebody is watching, and there’s a kid watching, can I tag on my idea of punish with kindness?
NANCY SPEARS: Please. Please.
TOM STURGES: Punish with kindness is a concept that will make the punishments– by the way the purpose of punishment is to change behavior. You don’t want to change the child. You just want to change the behavior. So the punish with kindness is, from the moment you decide there’s going to be a punishment until there is that punishment, there’s a 20-minute period. And you have a chance to kind of chill out a little bit, and calm down. And your child has 20 minutes to sit there and feel bad, and realize they’ve made a terrible mistake.
And then instead of you saying, I’m not letting you go on that trip this summer, and give me your cellphone for the rest your life, you go back and say, well, you know what? I think I’ve calmed down a little bit. I realize it’s not so terrible. So I’ll make the punishment a little less severe.
NANCY SPEARS: More logical.
TOM STURGES: More logical. And then they understand. And they see that you are respecting them, even though you’re punishing them. It’s like it’s part of the relationship. Mom, I understand I made a mistake. I shouldn’t have stayed out that late, or I shouldn’t have used that phone, or I fibbed, or whatever it is.
NANCY SPEARS: Fantastic. Well, I’ll apply these theories to my own parenting, with my children. And definitely look for this book. You can find it on genconnect.com, amazon.com. All over?
TOM STURGES: All over. All over. It’s all over the place.
NANCY SPEARS: Grow the Tree You’ve Got. I promise you. It will change the way you parent.
To Recap: “Most parents will tell you that this is the most difficult time. Zero to ten was a breeze compared to ten to twenty because your childen not only goes through the physical changes but the intellectual changes and emotional changes. They change from child to adult. And that bridge is adolescent and teenage. My theory is that our essential responsiblity as parents is to help them discover who they are meant to be and then help them become that person.”
For More on Parenting From genConnect:
- How to Protect Your Child From Hazing
- Sarah Maizes on Autism: Don’t Try to Make the Child ‘Perfect’
- How to Help Your ADHD Child, by Margery Fridstein
- Dr. Janet Taylor: Can I Kick My Adult Kids Out of the House? (VIDEO)
- Helping Your Children Control Their Impulses Makes Them Better Students
- For more daily expert updates, follow genConnect on Twitter and Facebook.
- To stay on top of expert’s latest posts on the site: Sign Up for genConnect.