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Maurice Elias

The more I learn about Maurice Elias, the more skeptical and critical I feel about him. The reasons I feel this way started with my early impressions of him before I began closely reading his writing. Then, partly due to his somewhat sarcastic suggestion via a personal email to me, I read much of his book which he claims is about emotionally intelligent parenting.

After my review of his book, after reading his chapter in the Ciarrochi et al book, and after reviewing an interview he gave, my suspicions were confirmed.

In fact, it is even worse than I could have imagined. Still, I feel open to cooperating with him if he is interested and open to my feedback. I may also have some things I could learn from him. I assume we could agree on a few, or even many, basic things, but we have much different approaches to raising and educating children. We also have different understandings of what emotional intelligence is and what it could mean for the world.

Early impressions

My Review of his book "Emotionally Intelligent Parenting"

A Review of Emotionally Intelligent Parenting by an Amazon.com reader

Review of interview with him

S. Hein
December 2001

Core Topics

Respect | Empathy
Caring | Listening

Other EQI.org Topics:

Emotional Literacy
Invalidation | Hugs
Emotional Abuse |
Feeling Words
Depression |Education
Emotional Intelligence
Parenting | Personal Growth

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Early impressions and reasons I originally felt skeptical of Maurice Elias:

One of the first times I saw his work was on the eqparenting.com page. When I saw it I put it under the "Sites to Skip" category on my site review page, and I wrote this about it:

One big advertisement for a book called Emotionally Intelligent Parenting. I have not read the book, but judging from the website, the authors seem more interested in money than children.

Now the site has been changed, but still is basically a big advertisement. Besides advertising Elias' book it is an ad for some software called "Personal Problem Solving Guide" which sells for "only $149."

If my memory serves me correctly, I believe I later saw a picture of him wearing a gold bracelet. While this may seem like a very small thing, it is a bit of data, and to me it is a warning sign suggesting such things as some possible insecurity, some arrogance and some over-emphasis on appearances and material possessions.

I also felt skeptical because he endorses and promotes the work of Dan Goleman and they even seem to have worked together. Goleman also wrote the foreword to the Elias book, which the publishers made sure they announced at the top of the front cover. Goleman seems to like to write forewords. (See a list) It is just another method of self-promotion. He also makes "friends" that way, too. Those who want his endorsement know that his name on their book will help make them money. The trade-off is that they can't be too critical of him. So they compromise their integrity for the sake of the almighty dollar.

Speaking of money, it seems Rutgers is not paying Elias enough to live on, judging by how much he markets himself. I wonder why he doesn't keep the rights to his books so he can put a full-text copy of them online as I have done with my book? What are his real motives: to help children? To help parents? Or to help himself?

This piece from his promotional description on the Rutgers site suggests to me he is too busy with self-promotion, networking, going to meetings, writing books and proposals for grants and consulting projects to actually have time to think in any new way about himself, children or parenting:

MAURICE J. ELIAS, Ph.D., is Professor, Department of Psychology, Rutgers University, and Co-Developer of the Social Decision Making/Social Problem Solving Project. This project received the 1988 Lela Rowland Prevention Award from the National Mental Health Association, is approved by the Program Effectiveness Panel of the National Diffusion Network as a federally validated prevention program, and, most recently, has been named as a Model Program by the National Educational Goals Panel.

In 1990, Dr. Elias was awarded the National Psychological Consultants to Management Award by the American Psychological Association. In 1993, he received the Distinguished Contribution to the Practice of Community Psychology Award from the Society for Community Research and Action (APA, Division 27). Dr. Elias is also Co-Founder of the Consortium on the School-Based Promotion of Social Competence, a research consortium comprised of nationally prominent scientists. Most recently, Dr. Elias was named to the Leadership Team of the Collaborative for the Advancement of Social and Emotional Learning, and serves as advisor to the Rutgers-based Consortium on Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace, funded by the Fetzer Institute and co-chaired by Dan Goleman. With colleagues at CASEL, Dr. Elias was senior author of Promoting Social and Emotional Learning: Guidelines for Educators, published by the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development and already circulated to over 100,000 educational leaders in the U.S. and internationally. Dr. Elias’ work with CASEL is currently one of his major professional activities.

Dr. Elias serves proudly as a Trustee on the Board of the Association for Children of New Jersey and as an Officer of the Highland Park Conservative Temple and Center, and Chairs the Board of Education of the Leon Goodman Memorial Religious School.

At Rutgers, Dr. Elias is a Contributing Faculty to the Bildner Center for the Study of Jewish Life. In that capacity, he lectures widely to synagogues, Religious Schools, and Jewish education/research groups. He also teaches a seminar, "Growing Up Jewish in American." He specializes in clinical/community and school psychology and child, adolescent, and family development. He is licensed for professional practice in New Jersey. Dr. Elias authors a column, Accent on family, in the Accent section of Sunday Newark Star-Ledger. His previous column, Parenting Matters, was honored by the American Psychological Association for Excellence in the Media, in 1988. Dr. Elias' other books include Social Decision Making Skills: A Curriculum Guide for the Elementary Grades (Aspen), Problem Solving/Decision Making for Social and Academic Success: A School-Based Approach (National Education Association Professional Library), Building a Social Problem Solving Skills: Guidelines from a School-Based Program (Jossey-Bass), Social Decision Making and Life Skills: Guidelines for Middle School Educators (Aspen), Promoting Student Success Through Group Intervention (Haworth), and Social Problem Solving Interventions in the Schools (Guilford). (Note that the Aspen curricula can be obtained from the Center for Applied Psychology at .. and the Jossey-Bass book can be ordered through...

His newest book, Emotionally Intelligent Parenting: How to Raise a Self-Disciplined, Responsible, and Socially Skilled Child, with a foreword written by Daniel Goleman, was published by Harmony/Random House in January 1999. and is now available in paperback. Written with Dr.’s Steven Tobias and Brian Friedlander, the book also has 8 international editions, including Spanish and Hebrew. He and the authors maintain a web site devoted to parenting at www.EQParenting.com and there is a related site for school matters at www.CASEL.org. Dr. Elias also maintains a Listserv for parents and educators interested in issues related to children’s social and academic development; to become involved, email to ... Other new work includes action research on Jewish Identity Development in Children and Adolescents and the development and evaluation of video, animation, and computer-based instructional strategies for delivering preventive programs to youth, including those at high risk. Dr. Elias is married and the father of two children.

(http: rci.rutgers.edu/~melias/Elias)

More data to consider about Elias and his motives: His eqparenting site says "We are dedicated to serving the needs of parents." First, of all if they are so dedicated to serving the needs of parents, why doesn't he give more information away, instead of using his site as a self-promotion tool? Also, I personally would rather see him dedicate his work to serving the needs of children. But he is a parent, which makes it hard for him to be a child advocate.

His association Rutgers which is the home or virtual home of the EI Consortium.

Here is a copy of an interview with Maurice Elias and my running commentary in italics

Q: What is emotional intelligence?

A: Emotional intelligence is the set of abilities that we like to think of as being on the other side of the report card from the academic skills.

It's the set of abilities that helps us get along in life with other people in all kinds of life situations. It's our ability to express emotions, to detect emotions in others, to regulate our strong feelings when we have them. It's our ability to focus our energies on goal setting and problem solving--to be able to take the perspective of other people that are in our social world. And finally it's our ability to have the basic social skills that we need to manage everyday relationships.

When I think of report cards, I think of kindergarten and first grade. The other side of the report card talked about things like "obedience" and whether I could tie my shoes, not whether I could express my feelings. I would guess that not many teachers would want to report something like "Steve is highly skilled when it comes to saying: "I feel underestimated. I feel controlled. I feel threatened. I feel punished. I feel mocked. I feel humiliated." And those were many of the my actual feelings in primary school, even if I didn't have the vocabulary then, since no one taught it to me.

Also, Elias, like nearly everyone else, thinks EI is most helpful for solving problems, but he doesn't realize that EI is even more important when it comes to identifying what the problems are which need to be solved. For example, when teachers are dominated by negative emotions, it is a problem for all the children in the class. But few of the "experts" like Elias seem to have ever considered that the child with the highest EI would be the first to recognize this problem.

Q: What is the "missing piece" in educational practices that you have referred to?

A: We felt that when you looked at the literature on education reform, which is a very long, long literature, it's replete with failure. And the question is why is there so much failure in educational innovation? And we believe that the missing piece is the reason. And the missing piece is social and emotional learning. It has never been a part of teacher education. It's never been a part of teacher training. We've been treating students as if they're not people, as if they're somehow sponges and not human beings that come in with their emotions in full play. We can't learn in the absence of dealing with our emotional state. Not only that, I don't know of anybody that can learn in the absence of a positive relationship. We learn from the people we care about. And yet we somehow pretend that in school that doesn't matter. So we presented the missing piece, social and emotional learning, as the reason why those who were actually concerned about academics should be concerned about social and emotional learning as well.

This sounds pretty good. But is Elias one of the people who really care about kids? Or is he just saying what sounds good? Also, at the start of his reply he misuses the verb "to feel" when he says "We felt that." I have discussed this on my emotional literacy page. Also, he would get no points on the Levels of Emotional Awareness Test designed by Richard Lane and his colleagues.

Q: What are some of the obstacles to implementing social and emotional learning in schools?

A: In our book, Promoting Social and Emotional Learning: Guidelines to Educators, we made a list of obstacles that people throw out to prevent social and emotional learning from coming along. And there are three types of obstacles. The first one is, we don't have time. We don't have time, our curriculum is so crowded, it's so crowded. And to that we respond much the same way as you would expect a physician to respond. So when a new cure comes along and the physician has to learn it, how would we like a physician to respond by saying, "I'm too busy. I can't really learn the new cure." Well, it's ridiculous. In a profession, you have to learn what you have to learn; you have to do what you have to do. So you have to make time for social and emotional learning if it's essential. The next set of objections that comes along is, it's not the school's job. The parents should be doing it. To which my response is well, perhaps that's true, but are the parents doing it? To which the answer is no, they're not doing it. So who are the people that spend most of the time with the children? It actually is the educators. And wouldn't your life as an educator be better if these kids were socially and emotionally receptive? Not fighting. Not throwing your classroom into chaos. Not fighting with each other. Of course it would. Let's give them the skills to do it. Rather than waiting for the parents to do something that they may well not get to doing. Then there's the third objection. The third objection is it takes too much effort. It takes too much coordination. It takes too much time. That's actually the most serious objection. And that objection is true for all parts of education. Good education now does take time, does take effort, and is a very serious thing that we have to coordinate.

Saying 'it's ridiculous' is a violation of one of the main signs of what I call High EQ. This is to label feelings not people or situations. (See Top Ten Signs of High EQ). Also, I don't think the teachers and administrators, who make up some of his consulting clients, will appreciate his flippant remark. Then he says "You have to do what you have to do." He seems to believe we "should" act out of obligation, rather than out of desire. This is another indication of his old-fashioned thinking. His next argument is a better one, when he explains the benefits to teachers, but he sounds arrogant when he says "Of course it would."

Q: How are teachers prepared to include social and emotional learning in classrooms?

A: One of the areas that the Collaborative for Advanced Social Emotional Learning has identified as its priority is the training and preparation of educators to do this work. From our perspective, it seems to us to be a basic part of all teaching. And it is a mystery to us why it's not part of what all teachers have to get before they go into a classroom. The data show that approximately 50% of teachers leave teaching after five years. That is an extraordinary rate of turnover. We know the rates are higher in urban districts. So this already creates an unbelievable erosion of continuity and expertise that our most needy kids get. Why do they leave? Is it because the buildings are crumbling? No. Is it because the textbooks are still from the 1940s? No. Are they happy about those things? No. But they are not going to bail because of that. They bail out because they don't know how to deal with the kids in the classroom. They don't know how to manage their social and emotional needs. They don't know how to respond to their horrific family stories. They don't know how to deal with the fact that the kids are coming in hungry and not ready to learn. That's why we feel social and emotional learning needs to be a very basic part of teacher preparation.

This is fair enough, but I don't like his style of speaking. He just sounds arrogant the way he asks questions and answers them himself. He sounds like he is lecturing to a child. Also, he again misuses the verb "to feel" in the last sentence.

Q: Why is self-control so important?

A: One of the things that's often talked about in social and emotional learning is the so-called marshmallow test where a bunch of kids, young kids, are put in a room and they're told that if they wait for the examiner to come back they can have more marshmallows than if they don't wait; they can have one right now but if they wait they can have more than one. They can have two, they can have five. That set of studies, which was conducted originally in the 70's, as kids have been followed up for 20 years, it turns out that there are a lot of positive life consequences associated with waiting, in terms of being more likely to be out of jail; in terms of social skills, etc. But one other thing that doesn't get mentioned is that there are SAT score differences of 200 points for kids that passed the marshmallow test and waited. And I just was doing a workshop with teachers, and I was talking about this finding, and I asked them. I said, now how can this be? How can that, how does that make any sense? And they started to tell me. Well, if you're impulsive it means you don't read all the questions on the standardized test carefully. It means you pick the first response instead of reading all the way to the fourth response. It means you don't read the directions carefully. It means that you're maybe skipping questions. It means a whole lot of things in your academic performance, regardless of how absolutely smart you might happen to be. So the link of these skills to achievement testing is very substantial because to pass the test itself requires an array of social and emotional skills that often go unrecognized.

I am not so sure that the ability to control your impulses is a "skill." It could be more a matter of the emotional stability in your home environment and how adequately your emotional needs have been met.

Q: What kind of difference could "the neighbor test" make in family relations?

A: We ask parents to think about a time when everybody in the household is arguing. This is not a hard time to imagine. Everybody is in a tumult, fighting, arguing, bickering, etc. Doorbell rings. A neighbor is there. What happens? Typically everybody quiets down. Let's say the neighbor comes in. Then what happens? People are unbelievably civil. They can't do enough for this neighbor. People who, a kid that you couldn't get to give you a glass of water will now give anything to the neighbor. It's not a problem. And they have a wonderful time. Neighbor leaves. What happens? One of two things happens. You go right back to fighting, or more often than not, we all go about our business. I ask parents to think about this. And the question is, why does it take the presence of a neighbor to give us the self-control that we actually have all the time? We as parents need to act with emotional intelligence without necessarily being prompted. So then I challenge parents to take the neighbor test. The neighbor test is very simple. Can you go one whole day as a parent and talk to your children as if a neighbor was following you around every minute of the day? Not say anything to your child that you wouldn't say if a neighbor was right there? Can you do it for one whole day? And when I do workshops with parents I remember the first time I had parents go out and try it and come back and report on how they did. And a mom said, "I made it until 8:00." And I said, "Wow, that's great!" And she said, "No, 8 a.m." And I said, "Whoa, OK, still good because you've got to make it to 8 a.m. before you make it to 8 p.m." But if you could do it for one day, then my challenge to parents is can you do it one day a week? Just one day a week. I don't even ask spouses to do it with one another, because that's too much to ask. But can you do it with your children? And then I ask parents to reflect on all of the world's great religions, all of which have the concept of a day of rest. Not two days of rest, three and a half days of rest, five days--one day of rest. Why is this? Whether you believe it was religiously motivated or whether you believe it was just based on the wisdom of great people, the idea is that one day of rest is what human beings need for emotional rebalancing. And if we in our families can introduce the neighbor test, and just one day a week talk to our kids in more respectful, kind ways, drop those little insults and naggings that they won't miss anyway, the rest of the six days it could be as miserable as we like. But we will have accomplished an emotional rebalancing. Fifty-two times a year we will have brought things back into balance in our household. Our kids will have reminders that, "Hey, they really do care about us. They really do think we're OK. It's not just when the neighbor shows up, it's actually once a week." And that's what our families need to have a more emotionally intelligent climate.

Again he sounds arrogant, cocky and condescending when he says "This is not a hard time to imagine." Also, his idea of "a day of rest" is ridiculous. Oops, I mean I feel very cynical about it! One day of rest is not going to make a chaotic household into a calm one. I suggest that people take a break when they feel stressed and in need of calm reflection, regardless of what day it is. This is more along the lines of what emotional intelligence is about than following some thousands year old rule about when to take a day of rest. It means being in tune with your emotions and then making healthy decisions accordingly. For him to say it is fine to have six days of "little insults and nagging" and being as "miserable as we like" if we just take one day off from such behavior, and that kids will feel cared for under this scenario, suggests to me that he is not living in the world of reality. Or, to say it more directly, that he is not in touch with either his own feelings or those of his children.

Q: What advice do you have for parents who want to strengthen social and emotional learning at home?

A: We have something we call the 24 Carat Golden Rule, which is do unto your children as you would have other people do unto your children. There's the regular Golden Rule which is do unto others as you have other people do unto you. That's good. We like that. But that's the 18 Carat Golden Rule because it's not strong enough. The idea of doing unto your children as you would have other people do unto your children reflects the idea that many parents will say things to their own children that if a neighbor were to say the same thing to their children you'd want to kill them. So here again we have that extra standard. Don't say something to your child that you wouldn't want someone else to say also to your child. It's just to get parents to think a little bit more. And it's based on the theory of emotional intelligence. Simply this. We think that well, they're our kids; they understand. They understand that we don't really mean it. In actuality the emotional processing of a negative message from the parents is far deeper than a negative message coming from a stranger. When your loved one says to you, "You're never going to amount to anything just like your father's entire family," you as a kid have to think about what is that message about? Either my parent is a raving lunatic, or my parent is correct. You can't discount your parent the way you can discount a stranger. So the emotional meaning of negative words by parents is far greater than I think parents realize.

Again, he sounds arrogant and cocky, as well as insincere, when he says "That's good. We like that." Also, I don't agree with his suggestion to think in terms of how you would want someone else to treat your children. For example, if you believe in hitting and punishing your child, then you will probably not object if he is hit by the school authorities or if he is punished by them or by others for things you think he "deserved." I suggest it is better to always consider your own child's feelings and to ask them directly how they feel. In my experience, many parents are not good judges of either what is emotionally healthy and unhealthy for their children, or for how their children actually feel. The parents have too many of their own unmet emotional needs and this distorts their ability to see or hear clearly. Even though most parents are likely to feel defensive when they hear how their children feel (if the children are not too afraid to be honest), if they can try to keep listening without invalidating the child, there is hope for an improved relationship.

I agree, though, when he says it hurts us more when we are criticized by our parents.

Summary of my review of "Emotionally Intelligent Parenting"

This book has virtually nothing to do with emotional intelligence as either I understand it or as Jack Mayer and Peter Salovey have conceptualized it. Neither Mayer nor Salovey is ever mentioned in the index, and nothing close to their model of EI is never presented. The advice and recommendations given in almost no way reflect what I believe would be "emotionally intelligent parenting." In fact much of what I saw in the book actually goes against what I would consider emotionally intelligent parenting. It is much closer to what I would call emotionally manipulative parenting. The book actually frightens me by its lack of sensitivity to the child's feelings and emotional needs. The primary reason I would recommend reading it is for those in other countries to get an idea of what is currently being marketed to American parents in order to give them some insight into the problems found with children, teenagers and adults in the USA.

S. Hein, Dec. 1, 2001


Detailed Review

In the foreword Daniel Goleman writes that he was "troubled" (1) by the data which show that "on average, America’s children declined across the board on basic indicators of emotional intelligence." He then goes on to list these "basic indicators of emotional intelligence". He says that children were "more impulsive and disobedient, more anxious and fearful, more lonely and sad, more irritable and violent." He says there were "forty-two such indicators."

I am not aware, however, of any data showing that obedience is an indication of emotional intelligence. Nor am I aware of any data showing that children who are less fearful are more emotionally intelligent. Or that children who are less sad, lonely, irritable or anxious are more emotionally intelligent. The only research I am familiar with which relates to Goleman’s list of "basic indicators of emotional intelligence" is a study which showed that there was a correlation between higher levels of EI and lower levels of violence. As for the other "basic indicators" I would have to say that this is simply another example of Goleman’s overly-loose use of the term emotional intelligence. It also gives more evidence to support my case that Goleman thinks children should be more obedient, something I do not agree with.

Furthermore, given the reality of the environment in the USA, I find it entirely understandable why children would feel more sad, lonely, fearful and anxious. I do not believe these feelings reflect a lack of emotional intelligence. On the contrary, I suspect that it is actually the children’s natural emotional intelligence which is speaking to them about their environment. I believe it would be more helpful if we would listen to these children and try to understand what is wrong with the environment that is causing these feelings.

Later in the foreword Goleman repeats Dr. Spock, who said to parents, "you know more than you think you do" about parenting. This brings to mind the writings of Alice Miller who basically says what parents know about parenting has been handed down without question from one generation to the next. Miller would argue, and I agree, that much of what parents already know about parenting is highly dysfunctional.

Goleman also adds that he has worked with Maurice Elias. This is something which for me lessens Elias’ credibility rather than increases it as Goleman and Elias would like.

Still, I am trying to remain open-minded to the book. It is my goal to find something useful from it, rather than just criticize it, although I do feel critical and skeptical because of my earlier encounters with Elias’ work and promotional material.

Chapter 1

The book starts out with what the authors call the 24 karat golden rule. They say this rule is "Do unto your children as you would have other people do unto your children." I feel skeptical of this because someone could easily say "I would want others to smack my child if they were rude." So, I don’t find this rule of particular help initially.

Next the authors say that "We insist that others honor and respect our children, talk to them with courtesy and consideration and not physically hurt them." I do not know where the authors came up with this sentence. First of all, to say "we insist" implies that we have some kind of power over someone else to insist they do something we want them to. In my experience the kind of people who use the verb "to insist" tend to be self-righteous, judgmental and controlling. Second, the authors fail to acknowledge the many teachers who verbally abuse children and teenagers on a regular basis. They also fail to acknowledge that it is still legal for teachers to hit children with boards in the USA. And in fact there is an effort underway in the USA to make it easier to hit children without being sued. It is called the "Teacher Protection Act." (see www.nospank.net)

I wish that more parents would oppose the mistreatment of their children, as the authors imply is already being done by all parents, but unfortunately most parents seem to go along with whatever the school chooses to do. There are several possible explanations for why parents accept abuse of their children by others. First, they might believe, as Alice Miller explains, that it is for the child’s "own good," or they might believe that the abuse by the teachers is relatively insignificant. Or the parents might be unaware of what is happening, or they might not believe their children. Finally, they just might not want to bother with trying to change the system.

Next the authors tells us they are "sure" they know how their readers would react to such abuse of their children. But how could the authors be so sure that they know how someone else would respond? I find this very presumptuous. Next they say that one of the ways a parent would respond is to say to themselves "how dare they do that." That the authors would use the phrase "how dare they do that" gives some insight into how the authors think or what kinds of people they are accustomed to working with or consulting for. I have found that people who use the expression "how dare…." tend to be relatively insecure, defensive and aggressive.

Next the authors talk about having someone "arrested and imprisoned". Again this seems to reflect the authors' authoritarian, punitive belief system. So far the book seems as if it could have been written by a religious fundamentalist, but in flipping through the book I have seen examples of what I would call enlightened thinking, so I will still try to keep an open mind.

In fact, what the authors say next is more encouraging. They suggest that parents know their own feelings well, take their children’s perspective with empathy, control their own impulses, monitor carefully their own behavior, and dedicate themselves to improving as parents.

On the next page the authors talk about the increase in "disrespectful behavior." This is another term which suggests to me that the authors, like Goleman, believe children and teenagers should be more obedient and show more "respect" for their elders, simply because of their age difference.

Still, I feel open to something useful from this book. In fact, I feel sure there is something useful, I just have to keep reading it, though I am tempted to just say this book is not worth reading, and is another exploitation of the term emotional intelligence.

I just noticed that the cover of the book is red, white and blue – the colors of the American flag. I wonder if this is a coincidence, or of the authors are trying to appeal to the patriotic type of American parents.

On page 4 the authors talk about a child who "misbehaves." This is another old-fashioned term which suggests to me the authors haven’t really gotten the connection between the child’s emotional needs, the child’s environment and the child’s behavior. Maria Montessori said that whenever the child did something which an adult might call misbehaving, it was simply an indication that the environment was not meeting the natural needs of the child.

On page 5 they use the term "supposed to be." This begs the question, who is doing the supposing? Again, the authors sound very traditional. Next they talk about "religious instruction" – which confirms my suspicion that these authors are very pro-religion and are writing for the religious market, even though they don’t claim to be.

p. 7 "We happen to be big fans of parental worrying, and we are worriers ourselves."

On page p. 11 we get some more insight into the authors’ values when they say: "The adolescent who is able to read a teacher’s feelings is more likely to get a break on a late assignment, some extra help, and maybe even a better grade..."

Here is another example of how the authors really think. On p. 14 they say, "After children have inappropriately expressed their feelings – such as being loud and challenging to a parent --…" First, we see that the authors use the term "inappropriate". The use of this term hints that the user of it believes he or she knows what is "appropriate" and what is not. This brings to mind the authoritarian "parent" in the transactional analysis model. It also brings to mind a person who is rigid in their way of thinking and looking at the world. Again, these are the kinds of people I generally find to be self-righteous, controlling, judgmental, defensive and insecure.

P 17 three "shoulds" – for example: "A family vacation should be fun for all members of the family…"

P 18 "Parents need to recognize that their children will be upset at first and it will be hard to reason with them at the moment of greatest disappointment."

I see three problems with this sentence. First, the authors are telling others what they "need" to do. This is another example of authoritarian thinking. Second, it seems they are minimizing the importance of their child’s feelings. It seems similar to saying "Your child may not like the punishment you impose, but they will get over it." Third, trying to reason with a child, or anyone, about their emotions is often a form of invalidating them. Trying to reason with them is certainly not helping them feel understood or empathized with. If the authors truly were in touch with their own emotions they would know this, so I again I find their writing very suspect.

The authors also include "goal setting" as a part of emotional intelligence and I have no idea where they came up with this. It seems they at times advocate focusing on goals as a way of distracting children from their negative feelings. (btw, they are not talking about using our emotions to set our goals, as I advocate)

p. 20 As an exercise they say to videotape a sit-com, but they say to make it a "non-offensive" one! Again, we see their need for control—they even want to control which shows the readers select! Also, who is the judge of what is offensive?

P 26-27 They recommend a family motto, family mission statement, family constitution, family journals, family calendars, etc.!

P 27 Some examples they give from a "family constitution: "

"On Sundays we all attend church."

"No food in the bedrooms!"

"Grandparents and teachers are always treated with the greatest respect!"

(note the above are direct quotes, including the exclamation points)

p 29 They say that when one of the authors tried these techniques of family motto, mission, constitution etc. there was "silence, ridicule, lack of cooperation, angry conversation..." This also gives us insight into how well that particular author’s parenting was working up to that point. If his techniques had created children who would react this way, or even if he would feel a need to impose these kinds of things on them, then why would we believe his methods are worth following? I would suspect in a highly functional family if a parent were to suggest these things, the kids would say "Well we don’t see why we need that since we already get along with each other and know what is important, but if you want to try it, okay, sure, we will give it a try." I would also suggest it would be fairly easy to come up with mottos etc. since the family had already created a sense of unity and mutual respect.

The authors suggest that the parents raise these ideas at a restaurant so the kids won’t be able to escape to their rooms. If this is not blatant control and manipulation, I am not sure what is! I would highly resent my parents if I knew they were reading books like this and trying out this techniques on me and my brothers and sisters.

On page 30 the authors suggest the parents try to make barter and make "deals" with their kids to get them to cooperate in all their bring- the-family-together tricks. They then give a list of possible things that the parents will promise if the kids will go along with their ideas. I was stunned when I saw the list! They include things which no parent would ever do in the first place if they were what I would call "good" parents! My guess is that the authors came up with this list because these are the things their children had to ask them to stop doing. If this is the case the authors didn’t have the sense or sensitivity to know not to do them in the first place

The list they gave included:

Criticize your child in front of his or her friends.

Tell your child’s private secrets to other family members

Open your child’s mail.

Ignore your child when your friends come to visit.

Make critical comments about what your child listens to on the radio.

Complain about your child’s eating patterns.

P 39 –50 A bunch of jokes to help parents introduce humor. I would say if a parent has to read a book to try to get his kids to laugh he has serious problems which won’t be solved by trying to be humorous. I suspect the authors use humor as a way of distracting their own children from their feelings.

Then they offer more gimmicks to try to manipulate kids on the next 6 pages.

P 75 the "Columbo technique" – ie not being honest and direct with your kids. More manipulation.

P 84-88 using praise to manipulate and control behavior. (The authors may not think of it as manipulation or behavior control, but to me it is.)

P 89 – recommends ignoring children when they are having "tantrums" or expressing their emotions "inappropriately" Here is a direct quote:

"So, what does serious ignoring involve? It means no recognition of the child, and no eye contact. Also, no dirty looks, no reprimands, no rolling of the eyes, muttering under one’s breath, not even a heavy sigh – no attention at all. (Note that it is usually okay to inform children they will be ignored.) Naturally, as soon as the child stops the inappropriate behavior, he should be praised for engaging in an appropriate behavior."

To me this is horrifying. What are we trying to raise, obedient dogs? This seems like it could come right out of one of the parenting books from two hundred years ago which form what Alice Miller calls "poisonous pedagogy."

As I read more of this book I get the idea that the authors are trying to create some kind of happy, obedient robots (or at least obedient) who will be even more productive than the last generation in achieving the same goals, and pursuing the same values with virtually the same means. These goals, values and means obviously have not made the Americans happy, and in fact have created many around the world to resent and hate them.

This book truly scares me. And to call it "emotionally intelligent parenting" I find offensive to the field of EI.

What is most scary about this book is that the authors know just enough of about psychology and emotions to be able to use their knowledge to teach others to manipulate their children with an even greater degree of expertise and subtleness. The bottom line, though, seems to remain the same: the parents are the bosses and the children need to obey the parents. Instead of advocating punishment and beatings though, the authors advocate emotional manipulation as a way of controlling their children.

When I first saw the web page which promoted this book I wrote that the authors seemed to care more about making money than they did about children. After reading this book I am even more convinced of this. I would add though that the authors seem also to be concerned with their own power and status. They want to be thought of as experts in the field of parenting as Haim Ginott once was, but they are nowhere near the same league as Ginott.

I decided to try to read this book read this book because Maurice Elias wrote to me and criticized me for attacking him without reading his book. Well, now he can no longer say that I haven’t read his book. I can say with a clean conscious I tried to remain open and look for something positive in this book but I finally had to put it down because it so thoroughly disgusted me. The one reason I would recommend people read this book is to see what kind of instruction is being given to the parents of American children. After reading it with a critical eye, perhaps the rest of the world will have a better understanding of what has gone wrong in America and why they are creating adults who believe they can impose their will on the rest of the world, who feel little remorse for using violence to achieve their goals, and who instead feel quite justified and self-righteous about it.

In writing these words I am violating my own goal of trying to bring more unity into the world and into the field of emotional intelligence. I feel obligated, though, to warn the rest of the world and to warn any Americans who care to listen to what I have to say. I also simply feel too strongly about children to soften my words. I have little hope that Maurice Elias and his co-authors are interested in learning from me, or that they feel open to serious criticism or dialogue. I suspect that like Dan Goleman and the members of the EI Consortium, they would rather pretend I don’t exist. They would rather attack, discount and discredit me than to take anything I have to say seriously.

But if they are truly interested in children and not just in their own bank accounts and reputations, then I challenge them to enter into a dialogue with me. I challenge them to let me talk to their children and find out how good of parents they really are.

I realize now that this book is not written with children in mind at all. It was written only for parents who are trying to achieve their own goals and meet their own emotional needs through their children. It is written for parents who want to control their children with the least resistance possible.

It is clear to me that the authors of this book do not see children as precious, unique, amazing individuals through whom nature speaks to us. It is also clear to me these authors are not in touch with the abused child within them. These authors have not really ever felt the pain of being manipulated, controlled, punished, rejected, judged, abandoned. They were not allowed to feel such things by their parents. No one who has felt his own childhood pain could ever recommend that a child be ignored, especially when they are in extreme emotional pain (what the authors call a tantrum.)

I suspect that each of the authors believes they had "good parents" and they would feel highly defensive if anyone were to suggest otherwise. But I believe that only those who have been psychologically abused could write in the way these authors have written. I may be totally wrong, and if they can offer me any evidence to this effect, I am open to it and will apologize. But till them I urge parents to read this book only as an example of what not to do.

Instead, my message to parents is this: Don’t try to manipulate your children. Spend more time working on your own emotions and less time trying to learn tricks, techniques and gimmicks to control your kids.

When you have felt your own pain, when you reach the a state of inner peace, when most of your emotional needs are met and when you truly love children for the natural wonders they are, then you will be able to use the techniques such as those I recommend on my site much more effectively and authentically.

In particular I recommend the parenting chapter from my 1996 book, my writing on parenting and teaching from a more recent booklet and my parenting page. Please note that I was feeling very critical of parents when I wrote my 1996 book. Now, though, I am starting to believe that the majority of parents would do things differently if they someone gave them adequate training or if society held them to a higher standard. I continue to support some type of minimum competency requirements for parents, by the way. (See my notes on Licensing Parents, by Jack Westman)

I also recommend the work of John Gottman, Haim Ginott, Thomas Gordon, Faber/Mazlish, and Alice Miller.

A Review of Emotionally Intelligent Parenting by an Amazon.com reader

Reviewer: wendysharp@aol.com
Any book that recommends restraining a preschooler to keep him in time out and removing privileges for a school-age child (privileges such as going outside -- hmm, my parents called that grounding) needs help. This book claims to teach emotionally intelligent parenting but it's a mess: old-fashioned parentally-imposed discipline mixed with some touchy-feely stuff. For example, "If a child does not comply with a command, repeat the command once with a warning, then place her in Chill Out if she does not comply." (pg.103) So where does the self-discipline part come in?

The book is also fluffy -- nine pages dedicated to specific jokes is overkill in a parenting book. If I wanted to read jokes, I'd get 'em on the Internet. And it was filled with psychobabble where plain English would have sufficed -- phrases as "material reinforcer" (also known as a reward) and "developmental adaptation" (changing as you grow.)

I was deeply disappointed in this book and regret the money I wasted by purchasing it. For parents seeking more useful advice, look for "Kids Are Worth It" by Barbara Coloroso.

1. One of his favorite words, appearing frequently in his 1995 book