Book Review: The Science Of Parenting

I'm jumping the gun on this review a little bit, since I haven't yet finished the book. So far, it's been a fascinating read, chock full of validation for the solid advice I received at La Leche League when my kids were babies: You will not spoil your child by meeting his needs for contact and attention. When these needs are fully met, he will eventually grow out of them. He won't be clingy forever.

Chapter after chapter, the message is clear: Kids that receive the physical and emotional attention they need when they are young grow up into courageous and independent adults, not the whiny clingy extra-large spoiled brats many of us were warned about.

I have a great example of this in my own home. My son was a high need baby; content when he was held, carried, and nursed often, and furious when he was left alone. He required a lot of my attention. And when his needs were finally met, he grew out of them. Big time. He's now one of the most self-sufficient, responsible, and independent teenagers imaginable.

Unbeknownst to me at the time, by allowing him to cling to me when he needed to, I was allowing his brain to borrow functioning from mine, and to learn how to comfort itself by imitating what I did. Had I forced him to be independent before he was ready to be, for example, by leaving him to cry for hours in an attempt to teach him to self-soothe, his brain would have lost its role model. He needed close and frequent contact for regulation, stimulation, and protection. And when his brain was developed enough to provide these things for itself, he gave up clinging and got on with the business of exploring and expanding. (Still coming back for an occasional hug as needed ...)

The mother in me found a lot of validation in this book for my parenting choices. The skeptical statistician in me noticed that the author was making some big leaps and perhaps drawing conclusions about cause and effect that may not be fully supported by the research. But in any case, she makes a compelling case for giving freely of our time and attention when our children are young, and not pushing them too quickly to master complex emotional tasks such as dealing maturely with disappointment without our assistance.

Uh oh. Now I'm more than halfway through, and my uneasiness is growing. The author seems to be a big proponent of behavioral psychology; she endorses stickers, charts, and rewards, as well as ignoring undesirable behaviors.

As you may know from my other articles, that approach does not go deep enough for me. I want to know what is motivating the behavior, so I can redirect or educate at the level of causation rather than at the level of consequence and effect. Yes, time out is far better than spanking. And I think as parents, we can do much better than time out.

So while there are some gems in this book, and it takes some steps in the right direction, I can't give it 5 stars. Maybe 3 1/2, with plenty of encouragement to actively engage your discernment muscles while reading it rather than simply absorbing everything unfiltered.

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