A review of a parenting book whose main theme is how to balance healthy self-confidence and individualism with unhealthy selfishness and self-indulgence.
Raising Self-Reliant Children in a Self-Indulgent World
H. Stephen Glenn and Jane Nelsen
Prima Pub.: Rocklin, CA. 1989
Reviewed by Kenn Kassman
The book stresses the development of personal capabilities and perceptions. Chapters cover the fostering of intra- and interpersonal skills, systemic skills (such as responsibility, adaptability and cause and effect) and judgmental skills. Although the skills mentioned are to be instilled in the child, one really cannot do this without rethinking and re-enforcing them in oneself.
This is an important task, for the strength of the book is not so much in advice, but in making apparent the things we overlook as parents. All too often we fall into old habits, and neglect the uniqueness of a situation. This book stresses the importance of dialog between parent and child, which any parent knows is more easily stated than done. Yet by treating your child as a unique, subjective, and sensitive being, rather than a possession, jabberwocky, or little devil put on earth to make your life stressful, some steps in the right direction can be made.
The book includes several exercises for achieving this goal, including a comparison of the situation of a child today with a child born before WWII. The changes in the last fifty years have been immense, and (as issues such as school violence show us) not all for the better. The chapter on perception is especially useful in putting things in perspective. As are the comparisons, with vivid examples, of some of the more common mistakes made when children and parents interact. Although the book tends to idealize politeness and rationality, it nevertheless is a valuable tool for seeing the world through another’s eyes, which seems to be the primary skill of parenting.
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Reviewed by Kenn Kassman
A companion book to "Raising Self-Reliant Children" (by the same publisher and one of the same authors), is "Positive Discipline for Teenagers." This is a denser book than the previous one, both in terms of pages and practical advice. It is aimed at parents of slightly older children (teens rather than preteens), and addresses many of the popular teenage issues. The four major sections cover the individuation process of evolving teenagers, non-punitive parenting, normal versus dysfunctional behavior, and an appendix of activities supporting the themes of the various chapters. The primary approach is similar to the books above, stressing greater understanding, communication and love.
The chapters are full of "real life" examples, which as with its companion book, seem a bit over-idealized and naive. Still, there is enough useful information and parenting strategies in the book to make up for this. I particularly like the emphasis on long-range parenting, or parenting for the long term benefit of the child rather than on the immediate, and oftimes over-emotional level.
Another valuable theme here is the issue of letting go of parental control and encouraging positive personal growth in your teen. A quote from the foreword sums up the difficulty in this process: "We are born twice: once our mother does the labor, and once we do the labor during adolescence—and the second time is frequently harder on us and our mothers."
"Positive Discipline" offers good advice for both parent and child as to how to survive this second birth, growing closer as we grow apart. It’s an incredible task, seemingly impossible, but books like this offer a sense of perspective, the knowledge that we are not alone in having certain problems, and they encourage us to hone our parenting skills as best we can.
The authors of both books offer seminars for parents and educators. A schedule, list of other books on this topic, and a free newsletter is available from: Empowering People Books, Tapes, and Videos, P.O. Box 1926, Orem, UT, 84059, or in the USA call toll free 1 800456 7770