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Critique and Comparison of Parenting Books

Introduction

Parenting theories have provided a wide variety of choices from which to approach parenting. Some propose totally authoritarian ways through which to approach parenting, where the parents are the overall rulers of a home and have the final word. Others, however, propose more friendly, inclusive and democratic ways to approach parenting, where parents and children discuss matters on an almost equal platform. Different authors have explored different approaches, giving both their merits and demerits. This paper explores two parenting books: Active Parenting Now by Michael Popkin and The Ten Basic Principles of Good Parenting by Steinberg. These two authors explain parenting to readers, who are either new parents, or veterans in parenting. This paper explains the main points and themes in these two books, as well as the sources of information from both the books. These include scientific research and various studies from which the authors of the books get the information.

Active Parenting Now – Michael Popkin

This book is mainly a six week parenting curriculum for parents with children from the age of two to about twelve years. It mainly provides an instructional platform for parents seeking to learn how to parent better. The book is mainly based on an Adlerian approach to parenting. This means that the main theories involved in the teachings, offered in the book, ally closely to those of Alfred Adler, who is largely considered as the father of modern psychology.

The main tenets of parenting encouraged in the book, in line with Adler’s theories, are to focus on strengths of children instead of focusing on their weaknesses. It also encourages a holistic view of the child as an individual, as opposed to a myopic view of the child simply as a non-adult. The book encourages parents to embrace a democratic style of parenting, where children and parents have an almost equal say in things. Children’s opinions are encouraged to be considered and duly appreciated, regardless of how immature they might sound. The author encourages the approach of parenthood from a point of encouragement, where parents focus on encouraging their children as they grow up in order to lay a foundation for a strong self esteem in their children. The author argues that this sense of encouragement builds trust between children and their parents and acts as a foundation both for a healthy self esteem in children, but also works to build and cement the parent-child relationship. This relationship is necessary for the openness and honest communication suggested in this approach (Kuehnle& Drosd, 2012).

The author suggests that understanding should be sought for different kind of behaviors in children, as opposed to wholesale punishment without clearly understanding why children are presenting certain behaviors. It is upon this kind of understanding that the author suggests a positive change of behavior may be encouraged, after explaining the child the error in that behavior.

The approach to parenting in this technique requires parents or guardians to be very keen on communication with their children. Listening to the children’s’ needs and concerns is particularly encouraged. It is a major pillar of parenting, since without it, it is impossible to know why children present certain behaviors. It is also a necessary ingredient to democratic parenting (Rankin, 2005).

Ultimately, this method of parenting aims to encourage spontaneous responsibility in children, which stems from a sense of being trusted by their parents. Ultimately, the author suggests that when children feel loved, appreciated and trusted to act responsibly then they will (Collins et al, 2000).

Mutual respect is also an issue that is greatly emphasized by the author in parenting.

He suggests that when children feel respected and when they feel that their opinions are valued and that their individual view of life is respected and duly appreciated then they will always reciprocate the same (Popkin, 2005). He also asserts that when children are respected and appreciated as individuals, they develop courage to face life’s situations. This also stems from the fact that their self esteem is usually high and thus they are not easily intimidated by situations or other people.

The author proposes that methods of punishment should be well considered and explained to the child. This is important for the child to learn what behaviors are wrong, and not only that but to understand why they are wrong. The author particularly suggests the use of natural and logical consequences as punishment to reduce unwanted behavior. Instead of inflicting a direct punishment on the child, the author suggests natural situations to be used to explain cause and effect, thereby reducing the occurrence of unwanted behavior. In this way, the parent takes on the role of a guide more than a disciplinarian (Popkin, 2005).

The ten Basic Principles of Good Parenting – Laurence Steinberg

This book is a text that approaches parenting from the point of view that there is a right way and a wrong way to parent. The right way, according to the author, is embodied in ten principles, which, if implemented, are able to guide the parent to raise a child.

The text focuses on parenting from infancy to adolescence. This captures roughly parents of children from two years to about fourteen years. The text`s main emphasis is the creation of a good environment for children to grow up healthy and emotionally well-adjusted. This involves receiving love, guidance and respect from their parents. The author asserts that this is the foundation to healthy parenting. The author suggests that there is a need to prepare the child for the modern day society, which has a lot of influences on the child. Instead of focusing on ways to correct wrong behavior, the book focuses on the responsibility of parents to prepare their children to face the world with all the influences it has. These influences may include negative peer pressure, pressure from the print and mass media to engage in high–risk behavior as well as influences such as alcohol and drug addiction (Faber &Mazlish, 2006). It focuses on equipping a child with the skills to navigate through difficult situations confidently.

The principles suggested by Dr. Steinberg (2005) are founded on a scientific research, where he suggests that evidences from studies done indicate that the proposed principles work.

The text presents real life examples of parenting situations and how handling them in the manner suggested brought the desired results.

The author teaches how to apply different principles to children at different ages to achieve the desired results. The principles suggested are universally applicable to children regardless of culture or temperament. The author suggests that certain principles, when applied to parenting, always work. This is informed by scientific research on parent-child relationships and parenting in general.

Dr. Steinberg’s teachings rest heavily on the foundation that children and who they grow up to be are majorly as a result of their parents and how they have been raised. This is as opposed to the idea that they’re simply a product of genetic make-up. Rather, he suggests that their personalities and temperaments and the entire person they grow up to be is heavily influenced by the kind of parenting they receive. The author, therefore, asserts that everything that parents do matters in this upbringing.

Steinberg (2005) encourages the setting up of structures in children’s lives through the setting of rules and limits at home. This helps to create a healthy sense of respect between parents and children, where children know that authority rests with the parents. This provides a sense of confidence in the parents and a sense of security in the children. It also helps the children to respect boundaries and rules, while adhering to set limits. It sets in motion a system, where children are trained to think through their decisions, which encourage their independence as individuals. The parents are not always making decisions for the child but rather train him or her to learn how to make quality decisions for themselves (Alvy, 2007).

The ultimate goal of applying the principles suggested is to ensure that children grow up to be well-adjusted individuals, ensure proper development of the child as well as to foster a sense of responsibility, security and competency for life in the child (Steinberg, 2005).

The text also encourages parents to enjoy the process of raising children. The principles are explained in an anecdotal fashion that makes it easy to relate with the text.

The author proposes the following as the ten basic principles of good parenting: that what parents do has a direct influence on the development of their children, that parents should always be loving and not be afraid to be too loving, that parents need to be involved in their children’s lives, that parenting many times needs to be adjusted to fit your children as individuals, that rules should be made and limits set, that parents should help foster their children’s independence, that there is a great need for parents to be consistent in their talk and behavior with children, that harsh discipline should be avoided in parenting , that rules and decision should be well explained to parents and finally that children should be treated with respect. The author offers examples of children of different ages to show how each principle is applicable to children of different ages (Steinberg, 2005).

Sources material for the texts

The material in the texts is derived from empirical research and scientific research into physical growth of teenagers, psychosocial growth of children, investigations into proper development in children from infancy till adolescent, investigations into sexuality and other external factors affecting the development of children. Studies were done by Lawrence Neinstein (2008) in adolescent health care as well as information was sourced from the Journal of Career Assessment on the influence of the family on a child’s major decisions. Steinberg’s text is informed by numerous scientific research works conducted by him and others. The approaches suggested rely heavily on Adler’s approaches and theories.

Correlation with current research

The texts` information correlates with current research into positive parenting. Various researches have been conducted on the impact of positive parenting on children (Chao, 2003). In the same regard, a research has been conducted on the influence and impact of parenting on child development. Current research, concerning the connection between parental encouragement and healthy self esteem, also correlates to the information of the text (Chao, 2003).

A comparison of the Texts

A comparison of these two texts reveals a number of similarities. Both authors more or less advocate for a democratic approach to parenting, where both parents and children have a right to their own independent opinion. It is a more democratic style of parenting, as opposed to other more authoritarian theories of parenting.

Both texts emphasize the encouragement of children through getting involved in their lives and encouraging mutual respect between parents and children.

Both texts lay a focus on helping children to develop confidence and healthy self esteem at the same time avoiding harsh punishment. Both authors also assert the importance of explaining rules and set limits to children, as opposed to passing out rules, which children do not understand. This helps to clarify to a child why certain behaviors are unwanted as opposed to others and it helps to make discipline a smoother process. Both texts encourage unconditional love for children as well as fostering and encouraging mutual respect between parents and children.

Criticism

While the two authors mainly focus their theories on a democratic approach to parenting, it is worth noting that children need firmness when being raised up. Children need to recognize that the final authority in the house rests with the parents. Investing too much in mutual respect and democracy in the house will many times lead to compromised respect. For there to be solid structures in a house, children need to recognize that sometimes their opinions need to be overruled by those of the parents. This is often necessary, since in many cases children tend to make immature decisions.

This approach to parenting may also lead to the lack of discipline in children. The avoidance of harsh disciplinary measures may communicate to child that he or she may get away with bad behavior. Lack of harsh discipline may not act as a strong enough deterrent to a child especially in the face of drug and alcohol peer pressure. Punishment needs to be strong enough to deter bad behavior.

Ultimately there is a difference between the relationship between friends and parent-child relationships. Completely taking on a democratic approach to parenting greatly interferes with this dynamic and may compromise mutual respect.

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