Friday, January 10, 2014

Book review: "Teach Your Children Well" by Madeline Levine

Sometimes, as a parent, you get so bogged down in the little things fixing lunches, doing laundry, signing school permission slips that you lose sight of the big picture. You end up focusing on trivialities rather than on the key elements involved in raising great children.

"Teach Your Children Well" can help get you back on track. Madeline Levine's book is a thorough and well-presented look at where parents go wrong, and how they can go right.

"Childhood is precious," writes Levine. "It is not preparation for high school, college, or a profession but a brief and irreplaceable period of time when children are entitled to the privilege of being children." 

My only real "complaint" about this book is that is has so much good material, you can't absorb it all. Levine covers a wide spectrum of topics applicable to parents of children from ages 5 to 18. She discusses discipline, friendship issues, establishing core values, building a work ethic, navigating through puberty and more.

Obviously, all parts of this book won't be immediately relevant to all parents. Rather than trying to reading this cover to cover, keep this on your bookshelf and refer to it from time-to-time.

"Teach Your Children Well" isn't just one person's opinions on parenting. Levine, a child psychologist, researcher and author, knows the field and backs up many of her points with relevant research.

Her advice comes on all levels: Have unstructured play. Help your kids develop empathy. Make sure they get enough sleep (most don't). 

Here's some more:
  • Listen to your children. "We are spending way too much time worried about our children's performance and grades   their heads and not nearly enough time paying attention to their hearts."
  • Stay curious with your child. "We can recapture some of our lost sense of wonder by seeing what has become ordinary through the fresh eyes of our children." 
  • Show enthusiasm for your child's interests. "Every time we turn away from our child's interests, dismiss them, or denigrate them, we lessen our child's capacity for enthusiasm and lessen the connection between us." 
  • When pre-teens and teens face a difficult situation, keep your distance, at least at first. "Resolving the vast majority of high-drama crises that unfold over the middle school years is exactly the kind of challenge that your youngster needs to strengthen her confidence in herself."
  • Praising children blindly in a bid to create self-esteem can backfire and create kids who are narcissistic. "Self-esteem is not bestowed, it is earned. We help our children cultivate healthy self-esteem where we encourage them to set meaningful goals and then to work toward them with effort and perserverance."

If you're a parent of a child ages 5 to 18, you should have this book.

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