Top critical review
Some Good Advice, But Use Your Own Judgment
July 29, 2015
I was looking for a parenting approach that was, at the very least, not diametrically opposed to my own approach, but would help smooth the way a little bit. This is not that book, but it does have some good advice.
I love the use of natural consequences, and giving children choices whenever possible. Turns out, I've been doing quite a lot of this style of parenting already, but this book made me aware that there are many, many situations when I fall back on issuing orders. Though, in reality, it isn't practical (or desirable) to give children a choice in everything all day long. A good example is getting the child into the car by giving her the choice: do you want to go there yourself, or do you want me to do it. If that doesn't sound like a real choice to you, you are right - it isn't. But if getting in the car has to happen now, allowing the child to make that one choice may make it easier for both of you. (I've used a version of that when it's time to leave a playground - do you want to leave now or in five minutes - and I've always been able to get away without a fuss.)
I also love the idea of letting children fail when the stakes are low. In order to succeed at anything, you have to fail first. Usually many times. Learning how to handle failure builds perseverance.
The author falls very short on finding out why children are exhibiting certain behaviours. If my kid throws a screaming fit because I won't let her eat ice cream before dinner, damn straight she's going to her room, or in a time out, so she can learn some self-regulation (and I like the uh-oh song approach, I might try it next time). But if she screams every time she experiences any kind of adversity, clearly there is something more profound going on than just trying to get her own way and sending her to her room is only going to exacerbate the problem.
Some of the advice is not very practical. Letting a child accept consequences for being late for school? It might work, but most parents have to get to work at a certain time and, I don't know about you, but I am not willing to be punished for my child's dawdling in the morning.
Some reviewers have criticized the author for suggesting we should allow children to accept their own problems by saying something like, "That's a bummer - what are you going to do about it?" But, I've heard other parenting experts say the same - including some that work with kids who have a number of challenges. I've used it on my own kids, and can say that, when presented well, it works. I didn't necessarily do it when they were small, but certainly by high school, possibly even before that, I would sympathize and ask about her plan. I provided feedback, telling her what the possible consequences would be of her plan, and let her consider other options, sometimes offering a suggestion. But in the end, it was her decision. My oldest is 18 now, and makes uncommonly good choices. This is probably the best advice in the whole book.
The one "pearl" that bothers me more than any other is the one where the author states that responsible parents bring their children to church and teach them about Jesus. Note to author: People of all faiths, and none at all, are responsible parents, and raise good people. I took away an entire star just for telling me I'm not a responsible parent because I don't share your religion.
There is a lot of good advice in the book, but you do have to use your own judgment when applying it as there is no guide to suggest what might be age appropriate, or when you and your child might both be better served finding out what is really happening (like maybe she's crying in the restaurant because she's hungry or bored - both issues that can be rectified without applying consequences).