I know I’ve mentioned my … unique… family situation here before, but just in case: I live with my brother and his two children, since the passing of his wife a few years ago. I’m a main decision maker (read co-parent) for two young, alive persons, which was unexpected and has been…challenging. So, when NetGalley offered me this book, I grabbed it eagerly. Then I read the intro and thought “God I hope so” to all of the author’s claims of helping to create partnerships between parents and children, because – no matter how much I thought I had a pretty good idea of how this worked – I had no clue how utterly unprepared I am to be a co-parent? Because I am still more than slightly flabbergasted that I am allowed to make decisions – not just allowed but REQUIRED to make decisions- for other, smaller, more vulnerable human beings on a daily basis. So: YES PLEASE: I’ll take all the help I can get doc.
I wasn’t kidding about the notes, though: I took at least three pages of handwritten notes, and then all of the quotes I highlighted in my Kindle. So many notes and quotes. But the main gist of it was that most people approach their kids in the wrong way – they’re looking for control over their kid, when what they should be vying for is influence – the dichotomy between the two and how to let go of the need for one in order to achieve the other. My notes after a few pages sum up, basically, how I feel both about this book and parenting in general – “Oh god this is hard already and I’m only on the first real chapter.” Take, for example, this discussion re: incompatibility.
“Incompatibility isn’t all bad. In fact, incompatibility can be very good. Which is good, because incompatibility is inevitable. The conflict that often accompanies incompatibility isn’t good. Or necessary. Seeing your kid struggle isn’t fun. The trick is to pay close attention to whether she needs your help to overcome incompatibility or can manage it on her own. And the magic is in how, if she does need your help, you handle things from there.”
There were so many high points to this book, though – Take, for example, Greene’s approach to “But I wasn’t raised by parents who listened to me/compromised/took the time to read parenting books” malarkey – For me, and for most of the scientific community – the research on spanking – as the least beneficial and one of the most toxic parenting punishments- like the research on global warming, is both in and absolute. And I like that Greene stands by that research, and doesn’t back down (because I cannot continue to have this conversation with people that hitting children is not ok.) Here’s his sample text, which I have used more times than I should have to admit: “Question: My parents hit me, and I turned out fine. Answer: Good. But it was unnecessary and still the most toxic response.” Perfect: Succinct, and amazing. There’s also a flowchart in one chapter that shows how easily and simply things go from “This is not a problem” to “You obviously hate me and have been planning my demise since my birth, I might as well storm off to my room and slam the door in protest,” and it is basically my life some days. (Too many days to be peaceful with, anyways. Teenagers are such fun. Especially when one of them is still only ten.)
As far as negatives go, I will say that I thought there was too much repetition, an issue I find with many self help books. I mean I get that I need help with parenting, but I do not need the “reality-tv-show pre-commercial ‘coming up on…’ And then ‘before the commercial …’ And then the actual scene you’ve now shown me at least three times already” format of help. I just need some “dear unexpected parent – I know this is hard, here are some tips and the research/rationale behind it, see if it works for you” type help would do, thank you very much. Getting clobbered over the head by the same point so many times makes it less, not more, impactful. And I did feel like there was an overabundance of nagging mothers represented in his case studies, but maybe that’s a little bit of hypervigilance on my part.