Posts tagged " child-raising "

Book Review: 2 Thought-Provoking Reads for Parents

September 2nd, 2019 Posted by Practical Parenting, Reading Recommendations 4 comments

I did not expect to enjoy, let alone agree with, Esther Wojcicki’s book, How to Raise Successful People: Simple Lessons for Radical Results. I was wrong.

If her difficult-to-pronounce last name sounds familiar, it may be because two of her daughters are well-known business leaders (Youtube and 23andMe) while the middle daughter is an anthropologist and epidemiologist. Because of her daughters’ professional prominence I expected the book to be a guide to raising career women and minimizing, perhaps even disparaging, the roles of wife and mother. I was wrong.

While I did cringe at Mrs. Wojcicki’s mistaken description of Judaism’s attitude to women based on her personal experience as the daughter of struggling immigrant parents, I found the book full of (unfortunately uncommon and counter-cultural) common sense, warmth and interesting anecdotes and ideas. Esther Wojcicki focuses on values that she used both as a teacher and as a mother and that she denotes by the acronym TRICK: Trust, Respect, Independence, Collaboration and Kindness. There is a great deal of thought-provoking material in this book and I do recommend reading it.

At just about the same time I read, Being There: Why Prioritizing Motherhood in the First Three Years Matters. Written by psychoanalyst Erica Komisar, to my surprise (since I certainly agree with the premise of the title) I found quite a bit to disagree with in this book. The tone is a bit grating and there are some strange statements as well as an annoying demand for government intervention.

However, I do think that this book is worth reading if only because the idea that a mother has unique gifts to offer her child is routinely rejected in today’s culture. This book will make uncomfortable reading for many parents whose children have already passed the ages being discussed but for those who are making decisions for the future it will raise worthwhile points to ponder. Among other nuggets, it raises fascinating questions that should be addressed by those couples planning on having a stay-at-home father and out-of-the-house working mother.

So few young couples today have a healthy grounding for raising a family. Many haven’t grown up in or near thriving families. The current educational system as well as government interference in family life sends confusing, misguided and mistaken messages. Without thinking, repeating patterns from childhood becomes the default and today’s cultural institutions do little to inject wisdom. If these books can provoke thought, discussion and  deliberation they serve a valuable function.

(If you do like what you see and purchase using the links in this post, we will receive a small commission on the purchase.)

What Are Your Limits?

March 1st, 2019 Posted by Practical Parenting No Comment yet

Have you read, as I have, of church services in colonial times where very young children were expected to sit quietly for hours on end? Perhaps for entertainment a little girl was given a piece of cloth shaped into a doll, but basically sitting still was demanded. Forget getting up and running around —fidgeting was taboo!

I don’t know how true these accounts are, but I sometimes wonder why we can’t even imagine our three-year-olds being motionless for an extended period. Does our children’s level of activity have to do with antibiotics in our milk and meat supply and other chemical changes in our surroundings? Or is this a case of a lowering of social expectations? After all, few adults today are comfortable sitting with their own thoughts. Would a teen today find it far-fetched to believe that children used to sit on car rides for hours doing nothing other than looking out of the window?

Is a baby born today physically different from one born a few centuries ago? Is he different from one born today into a foreign country and culture where the expectations vary? The nature vs. nurture argument is never-ending because both elements contribute to human development.

A classmate of mine had a brother who was ten years older than us. He often scoffed at her schoolwork  complaints, claiming that the teachers (who had been his as well) were going easy on us. He was probably accurate. Standards do seem, in general, to be getting lower and lower. College students today would fail many an eighth-grade test from seventy years ago.

We can debate whether sitting still for a long time or knowing how to mentally calculate percentages are necessary and useful skills. (Yes, they are.) There are certainly many child-raising customs that none of us think back upon nostalgically. But, I do wonder if it would even be possible to expect fulfillment of some things that were considered standard and normal in the past.

We actually have no idea what our capabilities are. When we see a gymnast contort her body or a spelling champion familiarize herself with thousands of words, we marvel at what they can do but don’t expect the same of ourselves. And, certainly, we each have individual strengths, weaknesses and barriers to achievement. Nevertheless, it is intriguing to think what would happen if we stretched our demands of ourselves and our children just beyond what we think is possible? Might we actually rise to the challenge?

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