A review of The Power of Positive Parenting

Latham, G. (1994). The Power of Positive Parenting. Logan, UT: P&T Ink.

Reviewed by Shirley Tawney, MS

Positive Parenting“Misbehavior of children must be recognized as a need to teach appropriate behavior, not an excuse to punish. Punishment is a terrible teacher. It only teaches children how not to behave.” (p.7)

“A disciplined child is a product of a disciplined environment.” (p.27)

“I want to read everything Dr. Latham has ever written.”

“I tried this with my granddaughter and it really does work!”

“My teenagers were really going at each other. I told the kids to sit down and read Dr. Latham’s chapter on “Sibling Rivalry.” They said, “Hey this is cool, Mom. May I read more?”

These are some of the comments adult students made recently in the Applied Behavior Analysis class I teach. The Power of Positive Parenting is required as one of the texts, because I have found it to be a powerful way to teach the basic principles of human behavior simply and pragmatically.

In the preface, Dr. Latham writes “So far as the author has been able to determine, the book has been subjected to more independent, scientific scrutiny than any parenting book in print today.” He then challenges readers to verify his assertion: “Summaries of studies conducted on the book, the documented impact the book has had on families, and unsolicited testimonials from parents are available from the author.” In an age when parenting books based upon varying “philosophies” abound, it is refreshing to have at least one that makes an attempt at science-based effectiveness.

Dr. Latham presents his material with a dry and engaging wit: “As parents, we must realize that children are in the process of becoming civilized” (p. 39). He is, at times, heretical: “It is not necessary for the parent to always be right” (p. 132.)

Dr. Latham counsels patience and discipline: “Parents are often looking for a quick fix, something that will turn a monster into a dream child overnight. That’s not what I’m talking about in this book. I’m talking about a gradual, methodological, systematic approach to organizing an environment that will reinforce children for behaving well” (p. 38).

“Junk behaviors” are described as “age-typical, garden variety, weed behaviors that go along with growing up,” behaviors that should be ignored while desirable behaviors are reinforced.

Some children with autism may have more of their share of “junk behaviors,” and The Power of Positive Parenting is not written specifically to address parenting children with autism. Nevertheless, the book is a credible response to the question so many parents of newly or long ago diagnosed children of autism pose: Where do I turn for information now? How do I parent my child?

When read by parents, teachers, grandparents and others, The Power of Positive Parenting is a guide for using sound, scientific behavioral principles and techniques to solve common problems we face with children today. Here are a few headings: On Being in Control, A Word About Consequences, Dealing with Hate and Anger, Eliminating Tantrums, Eliminating Tattling, Eliminating Lying and Stealing, Eliminating Thumb Sucking, Refusing to Do As Told, Living with Teenagers: A Better Way, and Helping Children Achieve in School. These, and 17 other chapters, help breathe order into child rearing chaos.

Most helpful of all are model situations that can go one way or another: handle it inexpertly, and undesirable behavior is reinforced. Handle it as Dr. Latham suggests, and reports are a teachable moment has been seized.

Over my 43 years as a public educator, parents and teachers frequently asked me questions about how to improve children’s behavior, and how to help better prepare children for their responsibilities ahead. I wish I had had this book to give to each one of them, so parents and teachers could have access to the scientific behavioral techniques that really do work. Every parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, teacher and administrator should read The Power of Positive Parenting.

Please use the following format to cite this article:

Tawney, S. (2002). Book review: The power of positive parenting [Review of the book The power of positive parenting, by G. Latham]. Science in Autism Treatment, 3(2), 4.