Emotionally Intelligent Parenting by Maurice J. Elias, Steven E. Tobias, and Brian S. Friedlander

Read: 26 August, 2011

Since my son is now moving from the “pooping lump” stage into the “destroyer of worlds” stage, I figured that it was about time I start reading some books to help me control this little monster. So apologies to anyone who isn’t particularly interested in parenting books, but I’ve got a stack to get through. Then it’ll be over for a while, I promise!

Emotionally Intelligent Parenting has very little fact in it. For the most part, it’s just a discussion of strategies that the authors think are beneficial and how to execute them. I found it rather worrisome, however, that when facts were presented, they were incorrect. It started early, in the introduction by Daniel Goleman, when he says that parents today “have less free time to spend with [our children] than our own parents did with us.” I’d say that’s intuitively true, one of those common sense things, but it’s factually false.

So that made me wonder about the advice given in the book, which, for the  most part, seemed intuitively true. Plus, there was something about the repeated advice to talk about feelings that doesn’t sit too well with my old New England Protestant family upbringing!

A lot of the advice was centred around acronyms like FIG TESPN, which is supposed to remind you (and kids) of how to work through problems. It seems to me that this is needlessly complicated and of dubious worth – not to mention absurd to implement on a daily basis.

My final major complaint is that I really wasn’t wowed by the dialogues in the book. These were usually there to illustrate how to put the ideas into practice. Thing is that it made the parents sound like robots and I’m pretty sure that any kids subjected to these kinds of speeches would interpret them as insincerity. And then, to illustrate how well the method supposedly works, the  dialogues invariably end with kids saying: “I never really thought about it like that […] Can we talk later? I have to do my homework now.” Yeah right.

That’s not to say that the book was all bad, not by any means. There were some gems, such as the parenting Golden Rule to “do unto your children as you would have other people do unto your children.” There was also a lot of emphasis on modelling, so making sure that you display the behaviour you want to see in your children. And the last bit that really resonated with me was the advice to focus on goals. For example, focus on specific behaviour that you want corrected and work on that, or think about whether punishment is really the most effective means of prompting change.

Overall, I’d say that this was an interesting read and I did get some ideas, but I found that most of it was not realistically implementable. It also lacked evidence to back the assertions made.

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