Top critical review
Fails to Understand a Child's Perspective. Need More Parenting Tools than "Choices"
Reviewed in the United States on April 6, 2018
Unfortunately, this book totally fails to understand a child’s perspective which is one of THE key elements in raising emotionally healthy, happy, and responsible adults. We now know that research shows the importance of connecting with your child first (BEFORE correcting) so that they WANT to be obedient, not just because you have “control” over them which is what seems to actually be underlying many of the examples in the book (even with the “choices” offered, the tone that comes across is power struggle after power struggle).
This is not once mentioned in the book so I’m sharing it now because I believe it’s essential: connecting with your child after they have done something “bad” can be very hard for parents because they first have to regulate their own emotions and many of us adults were not raised in an environment that taught us how to do this—we were sent to our rooms for time outs, punished, or spanked. When our children “act up” our reflex is to stop the madness instead of explore what’s going on in their world! And offering “choices” that coerce the children to stop their upset is what this book does repeatedly.
Asking your kid if they’d like to stop “feeling” or go cry in their room by themselves should NEVER be considered a “choice.” What type of message are we sending our children when they can’t be in front of us while angry? While crying? “I only like you when you are happy.” Or “Feelings are not acceptable in this family.” THIS is what is creating such anxiety, depression, and anger in our children today. Believe it or not they want to connect with their parents so when they are feeling angry or upset, its not helpful to try and instill “logic” or force them to make a choice they don’t actually want. Would you as an adult ever make a wise choice while you are raging mad? Parents: let the kid ride the wave of their emotions without projecting your own upset. Of course its hard to stay calm when your children feel so upset, but teach them that feelings come and then they go and no kid should have to leave their parent’s presence while they have those bad feelings! (This is a sign that the parents themselves has some emotional regulation to do). Can you imagine telling your partner to go to their room if they were hangry? So why on earth is this a good option for kids? It’s just not.
In all fairness this book offers some practical choices for physical steps a kid needs to take during part of a daily routine, ie:
“Would you rather carry your coat or wear it?”
“Would you rather put your boots on now or in the car?”
Other easy choices could be: If it’s too hard to stop splashing in the tub we can get out. If you get in the car early you’ll be able to get in the car seat on your own accord. If it takes extra long mom or dad will just put you in….
But there are other scenarios when kids are given “options” in the book that are just plain unhealthy for a child’s emotional well being. Options should not be an “option” in every case. In fact, here they become control based, ie: “do you want to go under my power (the adults) or your power?” Coercion is also disguised as “options,” ie: a). the parent asks “nicely” for the kid to do what they want or tells the kid they will have to go to their room if the kid doesn’t act “nicely” back, b). instills fear by hinting that the kid will regret their decision at some later date (future punishment), c). shames the child by making them feel bad about their choices or feelings, ie: telling the child that “sucking a pacifier is a hassle” to the parents eyeballs so the kid needs to leave their presence (What!? Couldn’t the parent just say, “Sweetie it seems like you need a little extra security today. If you’d like to suck your pacifier, you can do so in your crib.” There is no shaming here). True choices allow the children room to choose without feeling shame, without threats, without coercion.
As adults some days are better than others. Kids are the same. Some days we wake up and want to eat less. Kids do too. Some days we wake up and feel crabby. Kids do too. Some days we just feel sensitive and emotional. Kids do too. But for some reason when our kids are having bad days we just label them as "misbehaving." Can we support children through their feelings just as we'd want to be supported? I'm not sure why this seems so revolutionary... but to some it may be: kids may be little but don't belittle their feelings!
This book is heartbreaking to me because it totally misses the mark. In each scenario, it somehow avoids the root issue of the child’s problem and instead offers “choices” for the parents to essentially “win” the battle.
There are so many examples I could share where the authors totally somehow thought they solved a problem by sending their kids to their room or “proving a point” by making their kid do the adult’s chores (this is so twisted!), but I’m afraid they will never know why their kid was upset to begin with—was someone bullying them at school? Did they feel sad about losing a game, was someone gossiping or keeping a secret? The parent will never know. The parent’s feelings are under control but they forget to acknowledge their child’s feelings. Avoiding feelings does not resolve them. It creates an angry world.
Parents, if this book helped you, I’m grateful because it’s a step away from spanking… but there’s still a very long road ahead. I’d recommend reading additional books on positive parenting such as Peaceful Parent Happy Kids or The Whole Brained Child