CBR13Bingo: Pandemic Because if there’s anything I learned during the pandemic, it’s parenting my little gremlins is hard work and I need all the help I can get!
While I wouldn’t consider myself a stellar parent by any measure, I enjoy reading about parenting studies and generally try to do my best for my kids. So I picked this up not expecting to learn too much new information, only to be completely gobsmacked by how much of my general liberal parenting knowledge was completely wrong – and which bits were right. It’s a well-researched and thought provoking book, and I’ve already recommended it to other parents.
“More than anything else, I want my kids to be happy and to feel loved. Yet as I observe the cruelty that is increasingly enveloping our country, a growing part of me wants something else for my kids, too: I want them to be kindhearted and to treat other people with respect and dignity. It’s not something I used to actively think about, but now it feels pressing and essential.”
The book covers a diverse group of topics, including self-esteem, kindness, racism, gender inequalities and sibling rivalry. Each chapter covers a topic and is summarized in a list of five or so points, with scientific backup for each bit of advice, as well as strategies for how to apply it. The author has a knack for condensing studies and presenting them in an easily understandable way, as well as highlighting what they’re saying – or not saying (looking at you, screentime study). Other books and authors are frequently referenced (the notes section at the end of the book is huge!), making it easy to know where to go if you want more information on certain topics, and I’ve already put several on hold at the library. Even with all that knowledge, however, the author admits that even she sometimes fails to follow her own advice, and I loved how very nonjudgemental the whole book was.
“A growing body of research suggests that ‘soft skills’ like empathy and kindness predict long-term success far more than do ‘hard skills’ such as academic scores and grades.”
You may be wondering why being kind (the flip-side of being an asshole, I’d say) is even important. After all, as the author also points out, we frequently have examples of people in our highest offices who are frankly quite awful people. But studies show that kind kids are more likely to be popular, to have good self-esteem, and to do better in both school and their future careers. One of my key takeaways was how simply talking about kids’ feelings can improve how they treat others. It helps develop something called “theory of mind,” where kids can think about and predict how other people are feeling. Unsurprisingly, that’s related to being kinder, having higher self-esteem, being less racist, and also leads to better sibling relationships.
It applies to parents as well. The author uses one example of a parent catching a child taking money from the mom’s purse. The immediate response for many people would be to yell “That’s stealing!” or something similar, and leave it at that. But, if the parent asks the child why, they find out that they want to donate money to a cause at school, so the parent can then explain that while that’s a good use of money, they need to ask first or it’s considered stealing, which hurts other people. Emphasizing feelings, asking your kids to identify their feelings, giving explanations – these are all things that can seem like overdoing it, but studies show that it’s necessary to spell these things out for kids. Reading books about diversity and racism isn’t much good if you’re not also discussing it with your kids. And on that note, the author is white and she acknowledges that privilege, specifically addressing a large chunk of the racism chapter to white parents.
Overall, this book gave me a lot of food for thought, a lot of ideas for changing my parenting style, and a bit of hope, too. Recommended to any parent looking for a research heavy book to help their kids build a “better, fairer, stronger world.”
I received an advance review copy of this book from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.