Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Blog Tour: You're Not the Boss of Me

I was so excited to be chosen as part of the Mom Central blog tour* of You’re Not the Boss of Me: Brat-Proofing Your 4- to 12-Year-Old Child because I feel that no matter how hard I have been trying to avoid it, we are heading down that path in our home. Sure, my oldest just turned five and his younger sister is only two, so I’m really at the beginning of the range Betsy Brown Braun talks about in the book. But my philosophy on these things is nip it in the bud.

You’re Not the Boss of Me provides a comprehensive look at some of the major issues in child rearing that, when approached in the right way, can help to tame the brat in every child. Braun discusses the ubiquitous issue of communication in its own chapter as well as throughout the book in examples of what a parent can say in certain situations to make things better (as well as how our words can make things worse). These scripted examples are quite helpful even if the exact words don’t work for your situation. Having a place from which to start a conversation, and seeing that the author really does understand our parental frustrations kept me turning the pages, anxious to see what other dilemmas she may have addressed.

One matter that has been particularly frustrating for me is being sure that my son hears and understands me when I am speaking to him. He is an energetic child, and I was often finding myself becoming exasperated by his constant motion as I would try to speak with him. Thinking that it was a good solution, I would sometimes call him over, sit or kneel down to be at his level, and gently hold his cheeks to have him face me while I spoke in a normal tone. I would often find myself losing patience as he struggled to get away from me, eyes darting in every direction but mine (for those wondering, he has no difficulty maintaining eye contact while relaying a story or in other conversations, so I’m not concerned about an autism spectrum issue—this behavior is very specific to when he knows I need to “talk turkey” with him). Braun disagrees with my method, noting that by making my son stop and focus on me, his energy is either channeled into getting away or on the fact that I am making him look at me, so the words I am saying are lost anyway. She reminds the parent that a child can hear you either way and shows other methods of ensuring that what you said is comprehended (like simply asking, “what did I say?” or even, “what does that mean?”). When children are older, eye contact can be a sign of respect or confidence, so it’s a good thing to teach, but demanding it in the course of talking to a younger child isn’t absolutely necessary. I have made this one change and it really did make a difference in communicating with my son.

The thing I liked most about the book was that information is presented in bite-sized pieces. And it really needs to be because Braun presents a LOT of information. She even tells the reader to implement ideas one at a time, slowly, to be sure that they are not overwhelming. The examples are very real and numerous, giving plenty of chances for each parent to find some steps to implement. Will every example apply to every family? Of course not. But even if you only find half of her tips to be useful, it will have been well worth the read.

As I read, I was delighted to find examples of things I was already doing well, areas with which I have been struggling (with examples I will be trying to see if I can tackle some of my frustrations), and even areas in which I flat out disagreed with the author. Why would I find that delightful? Well, it made me stop, think about why I disagreed, and still feel confident in my stand. In my opinion, any chance you have to stop and rethink an important part of life (like raising kids) is a good thing. I will give an example: In a section addressing children’s table manners, Braun states that she does not believe that young children should be taken to restaurants and goes further to state that family friendly restaurants that promote poor table behavior should be banned. I have to respectfully disagree. I gather from the way she describes the family-friendly restaurant that she is talking about the place with the big rat and games galore. Frankly, I don’t think of that as a restaurant. I think of it as a recreation place that happens to serve food (although I admit that I haven’t been there since the 1980’s). To me, a family friendly restaurant (with tables and food but no games) teaches kids how to behave in public while eating without being too restrictive. In fact, I am more likely to excuse my kids from the table early at home because I know they can run around in another room. I won’t do the same at our local diner because they will get into nothing but trouble. And I do agree with her on the note that I would never take my young kids to a fancy restaurant. They are not at all ready for that level of dining. But, overall, it’s a topic on which Braun’s response intrigued me and for which I would actually like to chat with her to see if one of us can sway the other or if we agree to disagree. Perhaps someday.

One last thing I’d like to mention about the You're Not the Boss of Me is that I really loved the two lists Braun included in the appendix: "Fifty-two Cures for AFFLUENZA: One for Every Week of the Year" and "100 Ways to Say 'Good Job!'" Both provide a host of informational “micro-bites” to digest as we run in 10 directions at once.

I often make sure that review copies of books get into other people’s hands once I have finished, but I guarantee that You’re Not the Boss of Me will stay on my shelves for many years to come—in fact, probably as long as the Precocious Duo lives under my roof.

*In the interest of full disclosure, I wrote this review while participating in a blog tour campaign by Mom Central on behalf of HarperCollins and received a copy of You’re Not the Boss of Me to facilitate my review. Mom Central also sent me a gift certificate to thank me for taking the time to participate.