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Book Review
The Successful Child:
What Parents Can Do to Help Kids Turn Out Well

By William and Martha Sears
Little, Brown 2002

Reviewed by Kathy Drury
Nashua NH USA
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 20 No. 4, July-August 2003, p. 150

The journey of parenting isn't always easy, and the path isn't always clear. When my children were babies, my main concern was survival-mine and theirs. As they got older, I found I yearned for long-range goals, based on some idea of where I wanted my family to be in 10 or 20 years. Although every family will develop their own idea of the perfect "destination," this book presents a lot of useful information, along with some good "travel tips" for the journey.

The Successful Child lists 10 "success qualities," which include being smart, healthy, kind, confident, joyful, and having the ability to connect with others. It guides readers with a combination of research, information, and philosophy mixed with on-the-spot tips. This makes it useful for day-to-day questions, as well as for periods of more relaxed, introspective reading.

The authors are in the position to learn from many parents, as well as from their own experiences. They list 10 "tools for success" that children from these different families have in common. The text is sprinkled with quotes from parents and children, as well as boxes titled "Science Says," which include information from scientific studies. The book is especially nice because it addresses all ages from birth to adolescence.

The 10 "tools for success" are:

  1. Growing up connected.
  2. Having healthy eating habits.
  3. Becoming self-confident.
  4. Making wise choices.
  5. Making moral choices.
  6. Communicating well.
  7. Loving to learn.
  8. Understanding his or her own sexuality.
  9. Having a joyful attitude.
  10. Thinking and acting with empathy.

The first half of the book talks about getting connected, which they say is the basis for all that follows. Included in this section is information on attachment parenting, discipline, forming close sibling relationships, and nutrition and health. The information is presented in an easy, person-to-person style, and is obviously written by someone with a real understanding of life with children. For instance, I had to smile when they said, "As parents of eight children, we define discipline partly as doing whatever we need to do to like living with our children." The authors also emphasize that children learn by example. Therefore, the most straightforward way of teaching children something is by first learning it yourself. If you want children to be empathetic, you must learn to "get behind their eyes" first. If you don't want children to put themselves down, you must learn to take a compliment.

The second half is aimed at helping children expand their skills and gain additional success "tools." Empathy, communication skills, responsibility-everything is presented in a down-to-earth, practical way. There are even sections on deciding what sorts of technology will be helpful to your household and family, and tips for helping your children develop a healthy attitude toward sex.

There's a lot of information in this book that's useful with children of any age. It can serve as a handy travel planner for your parenting journey or a gentle reminder of things you already know.

When I'm traveling, I often discover that there's some information I should have researched before leaving home. The authors have traveled this parenting road eight times, and do a good job of pointing out the scenic vistas as well as the potential pitfalls in The Successful Child.

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