Q&A With Emily Giffin-Her Parenting Philosophies

Written By John Richards on Wednesday, August 15, 2012 | 9:33 AM

Q&A With Emily Giffin-Her Parenting Philosophies
She graduated summa cum laude from Wake Forest University and the University of Virginia Law School.
She’s written five New York Times bestsellers, which have been translated into twenty-nine languages, with ten million copies in print worldwide. And four of her novels have been optioned for the big screen. Now, with the July 24th release of her sixth novel, Where We Belong—in which an 18-year-old young woman is reunited with her birth mother—Emily Giffin (also a mom to three young children) talks parenting, potty training, and perfectionism.

Type A Mommy or Not
EG: I’m a Type A person, but not really a type a mother. I am a perfectionist when it comes to taking photos, making holidays and birthdays feel special, and planning trips, but I don’t obsess over other details. And surprisingly, given the way I have been with my own life, I’m not competitive when it comes to my children.

Parenting Philosophy…   
EG: I encourage individuality and guide my children to find their own passions. Teach them to be disciplined, respectful, kind, and open-minded. Teach them to think for themselves and make their own good decisions. I once read an article that described three types of parenting—authoritarian, permissive, and authoritative. I try to fall in the latter category; I set boundaries, but try not to be a dictator. I want my children to respect me, but not fear me.

Balancing Motherhood and Career
EG: Recognize that you can’t be a perfectionist—you have to let certain things go. If there is a class party at your child’s school that you can’t attend, don’t beat yourself up over it. Alternatively, there might be some days you could give more to work if you didn’t have children. Bottom line, do your best and then try not to dwell. Guilt is a supreme waste of time and energy.

On Women "Having it All”…
EG: Such a thing doesn’t exist. There are always sacrifices and compromises. The sooner you rid yourself of that notion, the sooner you will find peace, balance, and happiness.

On Potty Training…

: This is the one time when I think bribery is the way to go. We used Skittles and Sprite!

On Television Time…
EG: Set limits but don’t be militant about them. I feel the same way about sweets. If there is too much discussion or there are too many rules, it almost makes them want it more. We never have the TV on as “background noise.” We purposefully turn it on only to watch a specific show. I think kids learn more by example than by rules.

On Discipline…
EG: This can sometimes be tough, because I’m more strict than my husband so we occasionally argue about the fact that I’m always the “bad guy.” You can also be too strict, though. I never want my kids to fear me. I just want them to respect me. Also, I think it’s good to be very clear about the few rules that are important to you that can never be broken. In our house, it’s physically fighting (hitting, kicking, etc.) or saying mean things. There is no greater priority to me, as a mother, than raising kind children. But you can’t be militant about everything and every rule, otherwise all you’d be doing is enforcing rules!

Emily’s Kid-Friendly Picks:
Summer Activities: We love to go swimming in our backyard pool. We also enjoy family movie night. And we try to carve out time to read together every day. It’s nice that they are a little older, and we can all read silently together in the same room. It’s fun to share our favorite passages.

Family Vacations
: This year we went to France (Paris & Normandy—my sons are obsessed with World War II) and Chicago (American Girl Doll store and a Cubs game!), then a lake in Wisconsin for a week with my sister’s family. Ordinarily, our favorite spot is Nantucket in the summer and Deer Valley to ski for spring break. Tradition is nice, but I think it’s also fun to try new spots. I recently mapped out trips for all the big milestones and birthdays until Harriet, my youngest, graduates from high school. That year, my mom will turn 80, and my husband will turn sixty. I’d love to go to Greece to celebrate!   
Best Summer/Beach Product(s): California Baby sunscreen, The beach ball sprinkler from Pottery Barn Kids, TYR Swimple goggles, Detangling spray for kids by Suave.

Top Reads: For my eight-year-olds, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate Dicamillo.
Both my boys read it and then we read it aloud as a family. Number the Stars by Lois Lowry, and all of the Jerry Spinelli and Beverly Cleary books.
My five-year-old loves the Madeline, Fanny, and Toot & Puddle books by Holly Hobbie, the Olivia books by Ian Falconer, and an old-school favorite The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton. I am also reading aloud Beverly Clearly books to her.

Emily Liebert is an award-winning, internationally published author, New York Times best-selling editor, speaker, and spokesperson. Her debut book, Facebook Fairytales, is available across the globe.

Liebert—a self-proclaimed Type A Mommy to two little boys—has been featured by: NBC's Today Show, The Rachael Ray Show, Anderson, FOX News, Oprah Radio, Martha Stewart Radio, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Woman’s Day, The New York Post, The New York Daily News, The Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald, and Celebrity Parents Magazine, among many others. 

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