Raising a Secure Child by Zeynep Biringen

Read: 13 September, 2011

Raising a Secure Child starts from the same Daniel Goleman research that informed Emotionally Intelligent Parenting. Since the two were so similar in many ways, I can’t help but to review the former in light of the latter.

I complained that Emotionally Intelligent Parenting provided sample dialogues to illustrate their points that were clearly idealized and read like something from the Stepford Wives. It was almost creepy. Raising a Secure Child, while making much greater use of dialogues and sample situations, did a much better job. In fact, I would go so far as to say that this was one of the book’s most positive features. Every major point was backed up with a short vignette of a family either doing it right or doing it wrong that helped me see what the point should (or shouldn’t) look like in practice. I found these to be a huge help in visualizing how I might out the advice into practice.

While Emotionally Intelligent Parenting focused on always saying the right thing, the focus in Raising a Secure Child was much more on the non-verbal interactions between parent and child. In other words, really meaning it is seen as more valuable than always having the right script handy. This made a good deal more intuitive sense to me.

Both books had the same emphasis on being emotionally present for kids (although, again, I felt that Raising a Secure Child made the point in a way that felt more practically applicable), and both talked about the importance of structure and limit-setting.

Raising a Secure Child spent a good deal of time on helping me to analyse my own upbringing to help me see how that might affect how I interact with my son. While it’s something I have thought about a lot, I still found it helpful to go through in a more methodical sort of way.

And while it isn’t applicable to my family, I do think the sections on children with special needs and getting through a divorce could be very useful.

Both books covered the full range from baby to young adult. I think that both are worth reading, but Raising a Secure Child is by far the better of the two.

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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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