A few weeks ago, I shared my thoughts on God’s call for perfection and how that should change us and how we raise our children.. There is another side to the story I also mentioned briefly in that post. Parents can not only have unhealthy expectations for their children, but those expectations can also be unrealistic.
I was interested to read of a new book Love That Boy by Ron Fournier. What would a secular journalist have to say on the subject of parental expectations? Would any of it apply to Christian parents? As it turns out, Fournier does have quite a bit of useful information to share.
Woven throughout the book is the story of Fournier and two of his children. Primarily, he focuses on his relationship with his son who is on the autism spectrum. Although he mentions a third child briefly, Fournier also shares quite a bit about his eldest daughter. In spite of her academic and other successes, she struggled with depression and even became suicidal at one point. Obviously, the author had a lot to process regarding his kids and his expectations of them.
I found it very interesting the Fournier’s were able to ignore the possibility their son was on the spectrum until he was twelve years old. It was clear the child was showing signs of it from a very early age. I’m actually shocked with the child’s issues in school, his teachers didn’t force a diagnosis much earlier. Fortunately for us, this late diagnosis and constant denial of issues allows the reader a non-threatening picture of what they may be doing to their own children.
Kuddos to Fournier for his gut wrenching honesty. Not many people would be as willing to admit their disappointment in not having the “perfect” child or delaying the help their child needed because they were in denial. After working with kids and parents for decades, it really breaks my heart to encounter kids who are suffering unnecessarily because their parents won’t admit their child needs extra help and intervention. Unfortunately, it is quite common and I hope this book will encourage those parents to do what is in the best interest of their child – not their pride.
Fournier also covers the opposite end of the same problem – parents who have kids with above average ability to achieve in academics and socially, but who may also push them too hard. Once again, Fournier is honest as he explains how his daughter was vomiting regularly from the stress of school and yet they missed signs of her extreme anxiety and eventual depression. I also admire him for being willing to critique some current trends in education as contributing to the problem of overly stressed young people.
Fair warning to my readers. This is not a Christian book, nor does the author appear to approach life from a godly world view. Personally, I would argue with a couple of points because of my faith, but they don’t negate the main messages that can be of value to any parent reading it. Some readers may also be offended when he refers to his son and others on the spectrum as “Aspies”. (Educators, for example, frown on calling a child by their diagnosis, for the preferred “Tyler who has been diagnosed with Autism”.)
A couple of his points were based on outdated information – mainly those dealing with self-esteem. Researchers have found self-esteem is not the ultimate goal and high self-esteem can actually have negative consequences. There is also a move by some to eliminate the Asperger’s diagnosis and place those children back within the “normal” range of behavior.
Over all, I believe this is a must read for parents. The section on sports, in particular, is a classic I wish every parent had to read before enrolling their child in any sport. I encourage readers to really examine their behaviors and their thoughts as they read the book. Discuss it with your spouse and children who are old enough to understand. Don’t deny the behaviors that may be hurting your kids. Be as brave as Fournier and make the changes your children need to help them reach their godly potential (not your idea of what their potential should be) without destroying them and your relationship with them in the process.
This book was given to me for free in exchange for my honest review. An affiliate link is included for your convenience.