Review: I have very mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, I think it has a really important, though controversial and unconventional viewpoint to present and I’m a big supporter of authors who have something important to say that is not already being said. On the other hand, I find this author’s tone a little condescending and didn’t find the book particularly helpful when it comes to specifics. Basically the author makes the bold statement that all punishment (time-outs, logical consequences, spanking, etc.) is flat-out, unquestioningly bad. He then makes the even bolder assertion that all rewards, including praise, are equally bad. That’s crazy stuff. Is he wrong? I don’t necessarily think so. Is he realistic? In my opinion, no way.
The author uses research to show that it’s extremely important for a person’s present and future well-being to feel unconditionally loved. I buy that. The main point of this book is that parents may love their kids unconditionally, but that doesn’t mean kids feel unconditionally loved. He suggests that any use of punishment or praise is likely to make kids feel like they are loved conditionally and that is damaging to children. I think that it’s very useful to have this idea floating around in the back of your mind when you’re dealing with your kids.
Since reading this book, I’ve found it helpful to think to myself, “Is what I’m doing right now helping my kids know that I love them no matter what or is it making them think I only love and approve of them when they do what I want?” It’s helped me to be a more understanding, patient parent. At the same time, I feel like what he suggests is impossible, because I’m human, and that there’s no way the consequences can be as dire as he suggests. My kids do things that make me mad on a daily basis, and I might be able to refrain from yelling and actively punishing, but there are times when at the bare minimum, I just need some space. The author would say that any sort of forced separation between parent and child is viewed as a withdrawal of love and is always bad. I can’t help but disagree.
I think it’s important that kids know they are unconditionally loved, but I think it’s also important for them to know that I can do things they don’t like (i.e. ignore them for a few minutes, get mad and yell occasionally) and that I still love them just as much. There has to be some balance. Also, regarding praise, how can you not praise your kids at times? That’s just unrealistic. I agree that parents should be thoughtful in their comments to their children, and not try to manipulate through praise, but there are times when they deserve it. I think it would be hard to both be authentic and try to phrase your response in a way that doesn’t like sound like praise or an evaluation. Sometimes the most authentic response really is, “Wow! I’m impressed.”
Finally, I wish this book had more specifics about what to do in a variety of situations. It has several, several descriptions of the wrong thing to do, but it has very few instances of the right thing to do. There are even exercises at the back where you are supposed to write your own answers for the right and wrong thing to do in certain situations, like when your kid refuses to go to bed. An answer key would have been helpful. I realize the book was long enough that the author felt like he didn’t have the space to address specific situations, but I really think the work would have benefited from less discussion and at least a handful of really illustrative examples. (Personal Rating: 7/10)