Monday, October 27, 2008

Book Review: How to Really Parent Your Child

How to Really Parent Your Child, Ross Campbell

I have just finished this book and I really enjoyed it. Having also read How to Really Love Your Child, I think both are excellent. They cover similar ground in some ways, but I got lots out of both.
His overall ideas are that to parent effectively we must be parenting proactively rather than reactively. So, instead of parenting in a way which is driven by a child's actions (reactive), we parent in a way that is driven by a child's needs (proactive). He states that we must be focusing on long term issues rather on the short-term cutting out of unpleasant behaviour. He states that the 4 needs of children are:
  1. Nullifying Anger
  2. Emotional Fulfillment
  3. Security and Shelter
  4. Training and Discipline
He then goes through each of these in detail, starting with love. Love can be shown with eye contact, touch and focussed attention.

Here is a selection of what I found to be the most helpful points Campbell makes:
  • "One of the great and comforting secrets of parenting is that the most powerful strategy is a simple one: Love your child; show your love wisely" (p. xxii)
  • We must use our behaviour to profess, prove and promote our love
  • "Instead of looking first to your children's behaviour, begin with your own" (p27). We are the ones who set the tone, create atmosphere and establish rules. To put it bluntly, the buck stops with us, we must behave the way we want our children to behave. Seems obvious, but when I think about my behaviour at times, it can be less than exemplary!
  • Before we can achieve family discipline, we must achieve self-discipline. Parents must have control over their households in a way that is firm but fair and loving.
  • We are the ones who are training our children - it is our responsibility to teach them how to manage in this world; "Train your children in mind and character to enable them to become self-controlled and constructive members or society" (p47). He makes the point a number of times throughout that parenting is a sustained exercise in letting go.
  • The Power of Protection chapter was a great one, which covered things like teaching children integrity, how to master their emotions and live by logic, grasping teachable moments, etc. I found it a thought-provoking chapter which reminded me again of the long-term aspects of parenting and character-development in a child.
  • The Anger chapter (Defusing the Anger Explosion) was very helpful - I wrote lots of notes for myself! Campbell states that training in anger management in the most crucial and difficult task that faces you as a parent. While still early on in these years of parenting, I am already getting a glimpse of this for myself at the moment, in training our 5 year old. He has some good ideas on how to respond well to the anger in our children.
The later chapters on the media; coping with fear, anxiety and depression; and motivation were all also helpful.

One of his final comments is that: just as it is hard to live as a Christian by grace, not works, it is just as hard to parent by grace, not works. That is, it is much easier to set up a merit-based, reward/punishment system of parenting than to show our love unconditionally and go from there. I think he has a real point here, which I am continuing to ponder the implications of. So much of parenting can be a reward or punishment system. which in some ways (I think) has to continue - there must be consequences for inappropriate or disobedient behaviour, just as there can be rewards for good behaviour. However, the real challenge (at least for me) is: how do I ensure my children really and truly feel loved by us, no matter who they are or what they do? If his premises and research are true, there does appear to be a lot riding on getting the balance right. Let us all continue to strive to really love and parent our children wisely, and with grace.

1 comment:

Anna said...

Am reading this too Wendy and am finding it very helpful! I want to be a proactive parent not a reactive parent (and wife as well!!) - easier said than done! But worth trying and praying about ay?!