26 August 2010

If I were to suggest parenting manuals...

Can it really be autumn already? I woke up to a very cold morning, the geese are flocking, and the light looks like autumn, so I guess it can. *sigh* Time goes so fast these days!

I've been pondering parenting manuals. First, because this interesting article appeared in this months of Secular Homeschooling magazine, and then because I picked up Hold on to your kids to get to the part where he explains *how* to hold on to kids.

(The first 80% of the book is spent selling the idea that peer orientation, normal though we think it is, isn't the best thing for children and families. I was sold before I bought the book, so eventually I put the book down for a few months and only recently picked it up again to find out whether he eventually gets to the point...he does.)

I am not a huge fan of parenting manuals.

I read them, and I usually get something of value from them, but parenting manuals, even more than most self-help books, have to be taken with a huge dose of common sense.

I find myself largely in agreement with Dr Sears and his attachment parenting theories, but I have seen his advice taken in what I think is not the best direction -- mostly people who miss the point seem to be inclined to put the kids in charge. Not good for the child or the family. But they do tend to be loving and that's good.

On the other hand, I also believe that, on rare occasion, a swat on the butt is a perfectly valid parenting tool. Having raised Jack for seven years, I know that some children will *never* need that. However, I have also raised a child who would have benefited by more aggressive parenting than I was capable of at the time. That said, like any tool, it should be used only when it’s the appropriate tool and for almost all purposes there are far better tools in the parenting kit.

So, if I were to be asked about what parenting books someone should read, what would I say? I would say “Not Babywise”. That book has some truths in it, but it is far more dangerous in the hands of inexperienced parents than any other parenting book I know of. (I never heard of Dr Spock’s book resulting in the death of any child. The end of civility, perhaps, but no babies died because parents followed that advice.)

On the positive side, while it’s not a parenting book, per se, I would recommend that anyone who wants to think about what babies and children really need might want to read “The Continuum Concept”. This the book from which Dr Sears drew his first inspiration in developing his attachment parenting theories.

The author’s observations of how a people who, on the whole, seem a lot more centered than we are, approach the whole parenting thing are very thought provoking. The author's observations give way to opinion on a regular basis, though, and her conclusions about what it all means can be a bit odd. If you're a reader who can sort observation from the opinions based on those observations, I would still recommend this book. More than anything else, I would say thatthis book has coloured the way I raise Jack.

The observation that had the biggest impact for me? Children are born wanting to learn to be adults and wanting to be a contributing member of the group. If you work with that impulse, children have higher self esteem, are more content, and are much easier to live with.

Another book i would recommend is “Hold on to your kids: why parents need top matter more than peers”. The authors take 179 pages to plead their case and only 84 pages telling you how to hold on to your kids, but it’s the first book that I have read that seems to hit on the things I learned in raising TJ and Corey from start to finish and it answers the questions that I had about "what went wrong" with raising them. Don't get me wrong, I am very proud of the men they have become, and I love them completely ... but I also feel that I failed them. I was not the parent they needed and I wasn't sure why. Drs Neufeld and Mate seem to have captured the thoughts that lurked just out of reach about my parenting of TJ and Corey and about my parents raising of me.

Neither of these books has anything much to say on the subject of how or when to wean, techniques for garnering cooperation from a cranky two year old, or how to keep your child asleep at night.

You might call them "meta-parenting" books. I guess that's one reason I'd recommend them over any other. Any one set of 'how to' advice won't work for every child -- pick one that works for each of your kids as individuals -- but in parenting, it is easy to lose sight of the ultimate goal.

That six month old who cries night after night, that two year old insisting on putting on his own shoes when you're in a hurry, that nine year old who won't do her homework? Those are very temporary issues. Ultimately, it's the relationship that matters -- because the crying six month old will all too soon be a fifteen year old deciding what to say to offers of a beer from a friend. The two year old will be a 25 year old, trying to decide what to do about an unethical demand at work. That fifteen year old will be a forty year old, making time (or not) to be with you.

Parenting is about providing the relationship that guides young people thorough the unknown, whether you're with them or not. It's about providing them with the confidence in themselves to deal with situations we can't even begin to foresee.

In the end...it's about building family.

1 comment:

  1. Children are born with every capacity to embrace the struggle of living. It is our job, as parents, to equip them with the tools they need to negotiate that struggle to their advantage.


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