Superior Book Productions

February 22, 2008


Parenting: A Field Guide
Dr. Patricia Nan Anderson
Aviva Publishing (2008)
ISBN:  9781932690221

Patricia Anderson has spent many years in education, teaching about child development. This experience, coupled with being a parent herself, made her realize how very little time parents have to read. Consequently, she has written Parenting, A Field Guide to provide quick helpful advice for raising children.

Parenting, A Field Guide covers every aspect of childcare from the birth of your child until your son or daughter is ready to go off to college. To make her information accessible to the busy parent who has to read in five-minute snatches, Anderson has divided her book into one-page sections within larger chapters. The book alternates between a one-page discussion of a topic and a page with thoughtful questions, exercises, or activities for parents and children. This special format makes Parenting, A Field Guide easy for a parent to pick up and read for a minute or two before leaving for work, making dinner, or driving the kids to soccer practice. The exercises and questions leave room for the parent to contemplate the topic throughout the day and make small changes to implement Anderson’s advice.

Parents will not only find the book convenient for their flexible and hectic schedules, but the divisions of so many topics, as well as a table of contents and easy reference index, make the book simple to consult whenever a need arises for advice on almost any parenting issue. While Anderson covers so many topics it is impossible to mention them all, several of her discussions stand out for their wisdom and practical advice.

Anderson’s advice on rewarding children is especially well formulated. She frowns on rewarding children for doing necessary activities like homework and chores because this practice creates expectations for rewards in the child for tasks they should do willingly and for their own wellbeing. Furthermore, children who are raised with a reward system learn how to twist around the reward system to manipulate their parents. Here is a small sample from Anderson’s discussion on rewards:

It is not true that people do things only because they will be rewarded for doing them. What is true is that every person has an inborn desire for respect. No one—not even a child—wants to be manipulated. When rewards and promises are used to coerce good behavior, children revolt. No reward is better than being an independent, free person.

This doesn’t mean you can never say, “Wow, that was a terrific thing you did. Let’s celebrate!” But it does mean that you can’t develop the kind of self-discipline you’re looking for when you say, “If you do a terrific thing, then we’ll celebrate.” The problem is not with the celebration but with the cause-and-effect condition put on it. A celebration is something you do with another person. A reward is something you do to another person. No one wants to be done-to.

Kids can be bought, yes. You can get a child to clean up her room by promising to take her to the movies. But you won’t develop her sense of responsibility, only her sense of power.

Anderson also stresses the importance of consistency. Children want a clear understanding of the rules rather than to be kept guessing; they will again try to manipulate when Mom or Dad say “no” to something they said “yes” to last week. Anderson also points out the danger in using food as a reward because it will inhibit a child’s relationship with food as an adult. Children must learn consistent healthy eating habits.

Anderson does not simply tell parents what to do. She provides exercises so parents can create their own parenting tools and apply the information she presents. For example, Anderson provides an activity where the parent can think of choices to give children to replace a reward system. Children will appreciate being given a choice rather than being ordered or manipulated into doing what they should. Anderson gives parents the option to create their own scripts for dealing with different situations, such as replacing an order to do homework with asking the child if he wants to do his math or his spelling homework first.

The numerous other topics Anderson discusses range from why not to shake babies to the development of children’s language skills, games to play to develop these skills, how to handle rebellious children (although if you follow Anderson’s early advice, your child will be less likely to rebel, and she notes that some rebellion is a good thing), how to support a child’s sexual orientation, how much sleep a child should have, your relationship with your child’s friends, school performance, your child’s dress code, encouraging your child to be a reader, and playing games with your child.

I also appreciate that Parenting, A Field Guide reads as if you’re talking to a friend. Despite her academic credentials, Anderson does not fall into theorizing about childrearing or child psychology. She knows most parents are too busy to dig into such matters. She speaks as a parent herself, offering practical advice in colloquial language with a humorous tone. Parents will feel almost as if they are speaking to Anderson personally, and they will wonder why such a practical book has been so long in coming.

Finally, there is an instruction manual for raising your children! Parenting, a Field Guide will save parents many headaches and enrich their relationships with their children.

— Tyler R. Tichelaar, Ph.D., author of The Marquette Trilogy


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