WHY IS MY CHILD IN CHARGE? A Roadmap to End Power Struggles, Increase Cooperation, and Find Joy in Parenting Young Children, Claire Lerner

30 August, 2021

Solve typical toddler challenges with eight key mindshifts that will help you parent with clarity, calmness and self-control.

Through stories from her practice, Claire Lerner shows parents how making critical mindshifts—seeing their children’s behaviors through a new lens —empowers parents to solve their most vexing childrearing challenges. This process puts parents back in the driver’s seat, where they belong and where their children need them to be. These real life stories provide a roadmap for how to tune into the root causes of children’s behavior and how to create and implement strategies that are tailored to the unique needs of each child and family. Through these stories, Claire provides a treasure trove of practical solutions that are based in science and which work in real life.

Why Is My Child In Charge? (Rowman & Littlefield, September 2021) picks up where other books have left parents hanging. Most parenting books offer solutions that sound good on paper but don’t work in practice. They are aspirational rather than achievable, or they offer one-size-fits-all approaches that don’t meet the needs of an individual child. They can compound parents’ feelings of frustration and thus, can be counterproductive. Case by case, Claire unpacks the individualized process she guides parents through to solve the most common challenges such as throwing tantrums in public; delaying bedtime for hours; refusing to participate in family mealtimes; and resisting potty-training. Employing a relatable story-telling approach, Claire elucidates:

  • The faulty mindsets that pose obstacles to parents seeing the situation more objectively
  • The essential mindshifts that enable parents to quickly identify the root causes of the problem
  • The development of an action plan tailored to each unique child and family

Why is My Child in Charge? is like having a child development specialist in your home. It shows how you can develop “win-win” strategies that translate into adaptable, happy kids and calm, connected and in-control parents. It will help you be the parent you want to be.

Social worker and child development specialist Lerner was the director of parenting resources at the national organization Zero to Three for nearly two decades, during which she met with many parents who expressed feelings of helplessness or loss of control when in conflict with their toddlers. In this book, Lerner argues that eight “faulty mindsets” can prevent parents from objectively approaching conflict. She addresses ways parents can shift their mindset when facing common concerns of toddler years (tantrums, cooperation, aggression, sleep, potty training, feeding, dealing with children with highly sensitive temperaments). These are accompanied by case studies of parents struggling with a variety of situations. This helpful resource posits that shifting one’s mindset can help parents see conflicts objectively and identify causes; its tactics should equip parents to center their needs and their child’s.

― Library Journal

Child development–specialist Lerner turns her decades of experience into an easy-to-implement guide for navigating common sticking points of early childhood. Her goal is to shift parents’ perspectives so as to accept “that you can’t control your children but you can control the situation,” as that mindset “enables you to focus on changing your reactions in a way that reduces power struggles.” After identifying eight “faulty mindsets” (such as “my child is misbehaving on purpose” and “experiencing failure is harmful for my child”), Lerner tackles thorny issues such as tantrums (parents should view them as a form of “temporary distress” that ultimately leads to resilience), aggression (creating a “cooldown space” can help), and potty training (reframe it as “potty learning,” to start). Lerner bolsters her advice with case studies and real-world anecdotes: to end mealtime battles, for example, Lerner writes of a child who was provided two plates, one for preferred foods and the other a “learning plate,” which encouraged her to try new things. Recap strategy lists round out chapters, providing straightforward steps that will help readers put her advice into practice. Parents of young children in particular will welcome Lerner’s perspective and actionable advice.

― Publishers Weekly

Lerner shares her 30-plus years of experience of working with families and the eight faulty mindsets she believes “prevent parents from setting loving limits.” First she explains how these flawed mindsets, from “my child is misbehaving on purpose” to “experiencing difficult emotions is harmful to my child,” negatively affect behaviors in early childhood. Lerner next walks readers through several real-life examples of parents struggling with their young children. Lerner advises that rather than expecting their toddlers to control their emotions, readers should, with empathy, know that their children are driven by emotions and need help to follow rules and cope with frustration. Lerner describes how to shift these faulty mindsets and addresses the most common areas of challenge during the toddler years: cooperation, tantrums, aggression, sleep, potty learning, and feeding. The final chapter, on discipline, encourages responsive instead of reactive parenting. Solid guidance for rediscovering the joy of parenting and creating more positive connections with children.

― Booklist

The roadmap that Ms. Lerner provides to meet the challenges of parenting littles ones is filled with practical examples that will resonate for so many parents. This book is compelling to read, as parents will find their own struggles mirrored in the examples that Ms. Lerner provides, along with clear and practical solutions. From my own perspective as a primary care pediatrician, this book meets the needs of families like so many I’ve seen throughout my years in practice who despaired in gaining control at home with their toddlers. Based on sound principles of child development and years of experience, this volume guides parents by providing clear strategies to finding or regaining the joy in parenting. — Ellie Hamburger, MD, Medical Director, Children’s National Pediatricians and Associates

Claire Lerner’s new book Why is My Child in Charge? is a truly amazing book. Lerner brings her vast clinical experience working with families together with her deep knowledge about child development and brain development to write a book that will help every parent with young children. The brilliance of Lerner’s book lies in its core message: young children communicate with us through their behaviors; if we can understand what their behaviors are telling us, we will be able to give children what they need. Lerner shows parents how to shift their perspective to see their child’s behaviors in the context of their child’s development, temperament, and in the context of their unique family and culture. And she teaches parents how they can use this understanding to develop a new approach that has a plan of action and a plan for assessing whether this new approach is working. With Lerner’s wisdom and advice, parents have the insights and tools to “experience less stress and more joy,” as a family—something that every family with young children needs! — Helen Egger, MD, cofounder and chief medical and scientific officer at Little Otter, former chair of department of child and adolescent psychiatry at NYU Langone Health, and division director of child and adolescent psychiatry at Duke University Health Center

As both a mother and school counselor, I wish I had this book years ago! Claire Lerner draws on her many years of experience with young children to help parents navigate some of the most common and frustrating challenges, from sleep and mealtime issues to managing transitions and disappointment. Through relatable stories and practical tips, she reframes “discipline” as simply teaching and setting loving limits, and helps parents shed any other faulty mindsets that might be getting in their way. If you want to know what to do when a child melts down because they can’t have a cookie for dinner, makes a million demands to delay bedtime or fears the potty, Why is My Child in Charge is your book! It’s the reassuring roadmap that will help you battle your child less and enjoy parenting them more. — Phyllis L. Fagell, LCPC, school counselor, Sheridan School, Washington, DC, and author of “Middle School Matters”

CLAIRE LERNER, MSW, is a licensed clinical social worker and child development specialist. She served as the Director of Parenting Resources at ZERO TO THREE for more than eighteen years. Lerner has been a practicing clinician for over thirty years, partnering with parents to decode their children’s behavior and solve their most vexing childrearing challenges. She also provides training to local preschools and pediatric residents. Lerner is the author of hundreds of parenting resources, including books, blogs, podcasts, and videos. She writes a column for PBS Kids, and her work has been published by several parenting publications. She has also served as a content expert for numerous national daily newspapers. Lerner is the mother of two very spirited children of her own, and two stepchildren. She lives in Bethesda, Maryland, with her husband and two dogs.