Thursday, July 19, 2012

Book review - Loving Our Kids On Purpose

Loving our Kids on Purpose by Danny Silk

I think it was on a Christian unschooling forum where I saw this book mentioned by another Mom. I checked out a sample and it looked like a good read in line with my gentle, respectful parenting beliefs. I would soon find out that only extended a few chapters until Pastor Silk and I were worlds apart in our parenting.

This book started out wonderfully giving great detail and scripture to back up why the bible does not teach us to demean and control or children. So many great points were covered about how Jesus loves us, how we are to be examples and show that wonderful love to our children.
So bravo to Pastor Silk for saying such wonderful things in support of respectful parenting! But...... if only he had used parenting examples to back up this kind of loving, gentle, respectful parenting.

Where this book fell flat for me was in the parenting examples supplied. It seemed to me as though the how to portion of this book was in direct opposition from the earlier chapters of the book. Almost as if it was written by two different authors from very different view points. He quotes a lot from Love and Logic, which maybe is why it seemed as if the advice was coming from a different source that earlier chapters?

He gives a Fun or Room option to his toddler. This seemed to me to be forcing a child who is in need of parental understanding and loving guidance to essentially go away because they are not being fun. He used the similar Fun or room with a toddler who was having trouble with a cup stuck in the top rack of the dishwasher and began to have a meltdown do to the struggle. It seemed as if a child was not being guided with understanding their feelings but being essentially taught to deny them if they wanted to stick around with the rest of the family. Not at all a great lesson to be teaching a child. There are so many great ways to deal with a toddler meltdown, but you won't find any of those suggested in this book unfortunately. : (

It really seemed to me that the parenting he actually uses is all about controlling the child through various types of manipulations.

  • Controlling them through giving choices (choices that only the parent thinks are great options). 
  • Forcing bedtime by having them do chores until they are tired. 
  • Forcing a child to have a clean room by either doing it themselves or the parent coming in and doing it requiring a payment for this service. Even going so far as to tell the child his or her things will be sold to cover the cost. 
  • He goes on to talk about how things like making lunch or dinner or doing laundry can be paid for services. That anything a loving parent would do freely because they are a loving parent can then be turned into a way to control a child by making this a paid service. : ( 
  • He relates being a parent to being an IRS agent who enforces consequences. Yet these consequences were parent contrived not natural consequences which is what we experience in real life. 
  • There was an example of his daughter in fourth grade who the Mom announces she's no longer making lunch for, and the stuff is in there to make your own lunch. And when the daughter forgets her lunch the Mom refuses to bring it up to her at school, saying things like, how are you going to solve this problem.  
  • A similar scene as above plays out with a child who forgets a back pack with a hamster in it on the bus and the attitude of the parent is, it's your problem, how are you going to solve it. I believe this child in this situation was 8. 
  • There is another example about two brothers fighting and the parents sit on the couch and just let it play out with no involvement of protecting either child from harm, and no action to find out what made this evolve to a fight, what happened earlier what caused the fight? 
  • He also talks about spanking "the spirit that is rebellion" out of a child. And saying in this circumstance the child had complete control of this situation. The child had no control of this at all. This portion on spanking after having read about not using anger or violence seemed so at odds with the beginning chapters in this book. 

I am torn on if I would recommend this book to another parent. I couldn't see using any of his methods with my children. We use a no lose conflict resolution which is where we all come up with ideas and solutions when there is a problem, similar to how things are in a healthy marriage, where the couple comes up with solutions which are agreeable to both parties and there are no losers. If after time the solution doesn't work, we meet again and come up with more options. We also use active listening with our kids. We don't send them away because their behavior is not fun. I can only imagine my husband sending me away if he felt my behavior or attitude was not fun. Could you imagine saying that to another adult? ***To read more about the methods we use, please refer to Dr. Thomas Gordon's book.

So on the one hand if you are coming from a traditional Christian parenting mindset, then yes I think this book would be specifically helpful because of the really wonderful beginning chapters. But if you want to put the parenting into practice that he talks about in the earlier chapters I think you'd be best served to find that, how to, in another book. My recommendations would be books like Dr. Thomas Gordon's - Parent Effectiveness Training, or Alfie Kohn's - Unconditional Parenting, and lastly, from a Christian perspective is Parenting Wild things by Jessica Bowman.

If you are farther and well established in your gentle parenting then this book will really not hold much appeal beyond the beginning chapters.

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