January 1, 2009

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Confident Parents, Remarkable Kids: 8 Principles for Raising Kids You’ll Love to Live With, by Bonnie Harris, M.S.Ed., 2008, Adams Media, 256 pages.
By Lisa Parsons letters@hippopress.com

Seven pages I’ve sticky-noted on this book, and several others I’ve jotted notes on.

Here in Confident Parents, Remarkable Kids, Harris re-emphasizes points she made in When Your Kids Push Your Buttons (2003), noting “how important it is to be as respectful of our children as we want them to be of us.”

Of course, establishing respect is only the beginning. For the “then what?” Harris has eight guiding principles: (1) My child wants to be successful, (2) Behavior is my clue, (3) My child’s greatest need is acceptance, (4) Expectations must be set for success, (5) Connection strengthens relationship, (6) The behavior I focus on grows, (7) Problem solving, not punishment, teaches responsibility, and (8) Good boundaries mean good balance.

Taken in sound bites, Harris’s work could sound like a set of excuses for bad behavior, if you chose to frame it that way. This risk is probably why she dedicates the book “to all the parents who are courageous enough to swim against the current.” I could spend pages explaining, for instance, what’s behind Harris’s home-hitting assertion that “Fears of future ingrates and deviants fuel expectations that are too high,” lest you think it sounds like a namby-pamby child-coddling standards-lowering path to the ruination of civilization.

But I don’t have the time or room to explain, and that’s what the book is for.

I’ll fill in this much, as a preview of what’s in Confident Parents, Remarkable Kids:

• “Adjusting unrealistic expectations and empathizing with a child’s desires is not backing down or giving up. It is modeling effective behavior.”

• “Connection can occur through conflict. … Disconnection occurs when we are indifferent as well as critical, blaming and punitive. … When people feel disconnected from the family, community, or world at large, they have no reason to respect the rules. … Connection, on the other hand, is a preventive measure against risky, rebellious, and defiant behaviors.”

• Children can “see through the attempts at dishing out self-esteem.”

• “First, children are not rats in a maze. They have minds of their own and personalities … that often resist, test, or fight the authority figure when they feel trapped, coerced, or manipulated.”

It’s a set of ways to ground yourself as a parent and start from basic humane principles to raise a child — as opposed to simply being around while a child grows up.

If you have an interest in deliberate, conscious parenting, check out this book. A Lisa Parsons