Recently, I have been putting thoughtful, "front of brain" effort into my parenting skills.

I want to be totally effective: loving, involved, creative, authoritative and fun… all at the same time.

To this end, I participated in a parenting workshop led by a local educator—a respected and experienced psychologist, former synagogue rabbi and previous Jewish day school principal.

We went home to try out our new skills He helped the workshop participants become aware of some of our parenting issues, mostly regarding discipline, and guided us as to how to make improvements.

Excited after the workshop's first session, each of the participants went home to try out our new skills in getting better listening and cooperation from our children.

Lo and behold, when we met for the second session, our successes were minimal and most of us reported failure. The children weren't yet responding to the brilliant new discipline techniques we were all trying to use.

During the course of that first week, I had happened to bump into the rabbi who was leading the workshop in a store, and mentioned that I hadn't experienced success yet with the discipline style he was trying to teach me to implement.

"Wait until we've completed the workshop before you try it out," was his reply. "We haven't yet learned the whole picture and framework from which we operate."

Oh. So that was the key. First learn it all, then apply it.

Great! This was only a three-week workshop.

After three weeks, I would become a much more effective disciplinarian, communicator and authority figure in my home.

I happily visualized the time when I would have no more tantrums or power struggles, and rarely hear the word "no" spoken in my house again.

So I used my newly acquired skills sparingly over the next two weeks, knowing that I'd be totally competent to rule the roost very soon.

Well, week three came and went. I had a new understanding of how to discipline, new tools at my disposal. I had a new attitude toward my own authority and things would be different, really better, from now on in the Savir house.

I had been waiting for this new stage eagerly I had been waiting for this new stage eagerly. Total cooperation. Happy listening. Ahhhh! I'd earned it!

Trouble is, no one had told my children that that day had come.

I had started my authoritative parenting program all right, but I don't think the children had quite caught on to the system I was implementing.


This whole process would take longer than I had thought.

We continued along in our regular day-to-day activities. We got ready for school, but the morning routine continued to be a high-stress time. We did homework, but the effort became only minimally smoother. I drove our carpool home each day, hoping for fewer fights about who sits where.

Our adorable carpool mate, Leah, happened to sit behind me during the ride home one afternoon, and was updating me about having her braces adjusted and tightened the previous day.

We in the carpool had been following Leah's progress with braces for weeks now. We all knew the story. She got braces in August. She gets them tightened once a month, when wires are replaced and adjusted. She'll have them removed in April, when she will switch to a retainer to keep her smile straight as her teeth continue to grow.

As clear as a red light, I saw the comparison between Leah's braces and the disciplinary and parenting changes I wanted to implement.

Change, or more specifically, improvement, is a long term process. For Leah's teeth, the change and improvement will take eight months, plus several years with a retainer, for permanent results.

My parenting growth would be a long process For my parenting growth, it would be a looooong process to reach the permanent changes I desired. Change doesn't suddenly occur. It is slowly developed, formed, shaped and molded, like Leah's beautiful teeth and smile.

It will take me months of continuous effort, with many adjustments along the way, to effect positive disciplinary change in my home. At the end of all my efforts there will be a beautiful result. Even then, maintaining the result will take "retention," consistent reinforcement of what we've changed. Otherwise we'll risk slipping back into our old place, undoing all our hard work and effort.

My hope, at the end of this new parenting endeavor, is that we'll all be smiling: me, my children, and of course, Leah, too.