It’s often said parenting is the hardest job one could ever have. Even without the gravity of the responsibilities that come with parenthood, many have felt the stress of caring for a child. Whether you are a relative, a teacher or just a bystander it’s obvious: children are not always simple. Michael and Ann Mullen might know about these struggles better than most. Both are licensed counselors and professors at Oswego State where they deal with young adults and the challenges across the spectrum of youth.
The couple came together to write “Naughty No More: A Workbook for Children Who Want to Make Good Decisions.” The demographic of the book is what is most interesting. Not just for parents but for anyone who wishes to learn more about what makes children tick, “Naughty No More” is written easy enough for a young child to understand but includes exercises that are made to include adults and include asking permission in some areas. Michael Mullen discussed what it was like bringing these collaborative lessons to readers.
Alain Pierre-Lys: How did this go from something you did with your family to a book?
Michael Mullen: As you can find out in the first chapter of the book, our son had done something he wasn’t proud of and my wife had a sit down conversation with him and they decided they wanted to share it. So the two of them came to me and my daughter and said they wanted to write a book to help kids make better decisions.
Pierre-Lys: What was it like analyzing for a book but having such an intimate stake in it?
Mullen: Well it ended up being really great; every week we had a Sunday night book meeting. Each week we came together and broke up into teams to achieve a goal. Sometimes it would be me and my son or my wife and my daughter.
Pierre-Lys: What was it like trying to make this easy to understand for a very young reading level?
Mullen: A few things come into play. My wife is a certified play therapist and she’s been working with children for a long time and understands the language and culture of childhood. We tested on our kids too to make sure it was on their level. We also adjusted our editing process and gave it to individuals with kids and had them go through it with them and give us feedback.
Pierre-Lys: What range did you want to aim for with the book?
Mullen: We didn’t want it to be geared specifically toward young children. We wanted the 6-11 range, which is a really big range developmentally. We also wanted parents to get involved so if there was something that they couldn’t understand they were there to help.
Pierre-Lys: How important was it to you to include parents on this project?
Mullen: It was pretty important. My wife and I both work with adolescents and kids are always better off when their parents have a vested interest. If you’re involved in your children’s life it impacts kids greatly.
Pierre-Lys: What was is like seeing your work come together with your son?
Mullen: It’s exciting… to watch them grow and you know it’s tough when they struggle but it’s great to see them grow from that. I’ve actually learned lessons from my kids.
Pierre-Lys: What would be your first piece of advice you give a parent, sibling or anyone who wanted to understand a child better to start?
Mullen: Listen. Before all else, truly listen. It’s hard to be objective and sometimes you need to take a step back and listen.
Michael and Jodi Mullen will be signing copies of the book on June 12 at Rivers End Book Store located at 19 W Bridge St. in Oswego, N.Y.