Q&A with Jodi Mullen

Counseling and psychological services professor just published a book on how to raise kids

By Maria Pericozzi

Jodi Mullen, an Oswego State alumna and counseling and psychological services professor,        has used her experiences through working as a therapist, researcher and with children to write her new book, “Raising Freakishly Well-Behaved Kids: 20 Principles for Becoming the Parent Your Child Needs.”

Mullen has been in Oswego since she was a student in 1988, and has two children, a freshman in high school and a freshman in college.

Q. Why did you decide to write the book?

A. I was really lucky enough to be trained in counseling and play therapy before I became a parent and used those little lessons in my own parenting. It formed so much of what I did as a parent and I felt like I should share this with other people and they should know about these things.

Q. What is one of the most important things parents can do to create well-behaved kids?

A. The most important thing parents can do is to create stability and consistency for their children. Regardless of why people need mental health counseling, eventually, whether they are children, adolescents or adults, is because something in their life has become unstable or inconsistent. Even if your life is chaotic for whatever reason, if you can create things that make your child feel stabilized, they will always have that to come back to. For example, if you’ve just moved or changed jobs and the kids have to change schools, and there is all this other stuff going on, keeping some things stable, like always having dinner together or always reading a book before going to bed, just having things that are stable in the child’s life keeps them regulated. It will help keep them grounded and it will help keep them feeling like even though life is kind of chaotic, they still have something to come back to.

Q. What do you mean in the title when you say “well-behaved”?

A. I came to that title because one of my friends, that I have been friends with since I was a child, when he met my children, that’s how he described them. He said they were freakishly well behaved. I loved that because I thought, I have good kids and he are well-behaved. By that I don’t mean they’re quiet and always do what I want them to do, or anything like that. I think that by freakishly well-behaved, I’m talking about that kids know that they are loved, and they know they are accepted, and they act that way in their interactions. Their interactions and how they hold themselves in the world is from that place of feeling connected, important, loved, and loved unconditionally. Even when my kids make mistakes, when they lie, when they do all those things the rest of us do, they know ultimately they are loved and when they are out there in the world that is how they act.

Q. What message would you like to convey to the readers, most specifically the parents?

A. First of all, I want parents to know even with all that preparation and specialized education, I still made mistakes. There is no such thing as perfect parenting. I made an effort in the book to share some of my own bloopers and challenges as a parent because I think that is really important. I don’t want to create an illusion that I am perfect or that my children are, because we are wonderfully flawed. Beyond that, the primary message I want them to take away is that this isn’t about what you do for your children, it’s about who you are in connection to your children. It doesn’t matter what you buy them or where you take them, it matters who you are to the child. The relationship is the key.

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