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Book Review
Common Sense Parenting
of Toddlers and Preschoolers

by Bridget A. Barnes and Steven M. York
Boys Town Press, 2001

Reviewed by Diana West
Gaithersburg MD USA
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 20 No. 2, March-April 2003, p. 62

Common Sense Parenting of Toddlers and Preschoolers is a fresh new book about parenting that presents a balanced approach of nurturing and disciplining young children. Boys Town Press, the publisher of the book, is a nonprofit, nonsectarian organization that has cared for thousands of abused, abandoned, and neglected girls and boys each year since 1917. The parenting philosophies presented in this book were developed by the organization as it learned the most effective ways to provide a safe, caring, and loving environment for children as they heal from trauma, gain confidence, and learn skills to become productive citizens.

This book describes parenting techniques in a way that is persuasive, logical, and easy to read, particularly in short chunks. It recommends specific actions that teach parents excellent, effective parenting tools. The principles behind these techniques are largely based upon the revolutionary teachings of Dr. Haim Ginott (1922-1973).

Unlike many popular parenting books that advocate methods of controlling children, Common Sense Parenting of Toddlers and Preschoolers stresses teaching in place of punishment so that children learn self-control. This approach, known in La Leche League as "loving guidance," results in children who act from an intrinsic understanding of correct behavior, rather than merely from fear of being caught.
In conjunction with its teaching, the Boys Town Press philosophy also places great value upon parenting with empathy:

Being a parent with empathy means resisting the urge to just do things the way they've always been done. We have to go a step further, and try, as much as possible, to see the world as our children see it and feel the world as they feel it. Only then can we begin to help them make sense of the world, which is our responsibility as parents....Use empathy and look at the situation from your child's perspective. Think about your expectations for your child and whether he or she is able to meet them. What does your child need to know to more successfully handle the situation? In short, stop, think, and then teach.

A primary advantage of this book is that it is directed specifically toward developing respectful parenting skills for young children, helping parents set reasonable expectations based upon their children's ages and developmental levels. It also addresses the ways to help children who may not be developmentally ready for the usual approach. This book also specifically explains why authoritarian, corporal discipline is harmful, which is an explanation missing from many other parenting books.

The most powerful message in the book is the tremendous value of spending time with one's children:

Remember...all of our skills rely on one crucial element of parenting. That element is spending time with your children. You can teach them only if you're with them. It's as simple as that. You can enjoy the richness of family only if you spend time together. It's absolutely, positively a must. It is the glue that holds a family together.

To cement this point, the entire philosophy is summed up in the acronym "TIME":

Teach your children by what you do and what you say.

Instruct them clearly in all areas of their lives.

Monitor what they do and how they do it.

Encourage them in failures as well as successes.

In the discussion of developmental milestones, the author assumes that all babies are bottle-fed, an unfortunate reflection of our bottle-feeding culture. But this is a small problem in an otherwise excellent resource.

This book is a tremendous resource for mothers of small children. It teaches excellent parenting skills that will be beneficial well beyond early childhood.

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