Ever wondered how experts get to be experts? Many times it just takes enough courage to call yourself one. As far as I know there aren’t any certifications for “expert”. Trust me, many people are certified in professions for which they are far from experts or as someone recently said “I think my doctor made C’s in med school!”
Parenting experts are no different. They may have degrees in psychology, education or a host of other fields. They may have parented children to adulthood or have no children at all. Which is why parents need to take every bit of parenting advice given by experts with a grain of salt.
A great example is the book I was recently sent to review, Safe House: How Emotional Safety Is the Key to Raising Kids Who Live, Love, and Lead Well by Joshua Straub. Straub is a PhD with a fairly decent set of credentials. His book is billed as a parenting guide for how to create a safe place where your children can grow.
Unfortunately, this book was a prime example of parenting experts who have as much misguided advice to give as good advice. Some of his points were amazing – like cautioning grandparents against spoiling as it basically encourages children to team with their grandparents and rebel against their parents’ rules. The basic principle of the book was even solid – that many parents deceive themselves they are parenting well so they can feel better instead of putting the work in to “love better” (his term).
Things started going downhill for me fairly quickly though. At first, it was just an uneasy feeling. The things he said sounded on point, but then the examples he gave and some of his supporting statements made me uneasy. Then the red flags began appearing right and left. For example he mentions something about his wife being tired at the end of the day because their toddler has tantrums “all day, every day”. I have worked with lots of children. During the toddler years you do feel as if you are constantly correcting your child. I don’t know many who are in constant tantrum mode though. It makes me wonder, does their child have a medical issue? Is their toddler getting adequate rest, food and attention? Or has their child already learned how to manipulate the parents?
There were many other comments which gave me cause for concern. While I agree there are parents who punish first and ask questions later, I become concerned when I see phrases like “don’t punish (your child) – your disappointment is discipline enough”. Which by the way was said about a child in open rebellion to his parents. Or don’t give children a time out, rather a “time-in” where the parent discusses with the child the behavior and other choices. I’m sorry, there is a time for that, but with young children who still struggle with communication a long conversation about emotions they can’t even express and evidently no consequences for bad behavior (other than listening to the conversation) will usually lead to those daily tantrums the author’s wife is experiencing.
Even more troubling to me was the author’s repeated assertion that God doesn’t punish because he is slow to anger. He just educates people about better choices. I dare say Nadab, Aaron, Saul, David, the Egyptians, the Assyrians, the Israelites and a host of others in the Old and New Testament would beg to differ. I was also disturbed about the ideas of allowing children to be disrespectful – I am assuming so you won’t thwart their efforts to communicate with you – and the idea of removing all danger and allowing children complete freedom to explore – when and how they learn to avoid temptation in that environment I’m not quite sure.
Although there were some very good points and good ideas that were later marred by bad advice about how to put them into practice, I ultimately got so frustrated, I only skimmed the last fifty pages of the book. Within those skimmed pages though, I found other delights like the fact that his wife feels she is sacrificing (her identity I gather) by being a stay-at-home mom.
I am sure if the author reads this review he will believe I am probably the “religious” parent who shames and punishes for mistakes. I guess you would have to ask my child how I parented, but at least to this point, I will stand by our results and our strong, loving relationship. Although he might argue his theories are brain based, main stream and mirror God’s parenting, I don’ t think his book as a whole accurately reflects how God parents or how we should parent.
While this book has some good points and ideas, the questionable ones are far more frequent. It’s not all bad, just please take this expert with a large grain of salt.
This book was given to me for free in exchange for my honest reviewt