Friday, 10 October 2014

Book review: how to raise an amazing child

I need to preface this by saying I had just read "the absorbent mind". Going from a heavy theory book to a practical book was a bit of a shock and, for the purpose of review, probably not the best idea. However, my head was full with theory and I couldn't fit in more.

The other thing I need to say up front, as it strongly influences my opinion, is that I'm quite a hippy. I go quite far into science based attachment parenting. There is a chapter on discipline in this book and I disagree on every single point made. This, however, says more about me, than about the book and I'll try and keep to the middle without judging. I still can't imagine anyone advocating to leave a crying child alone, leaving the room, but this book does just that. 

I think this book is written for parents without an education background or montessori background.  It's a great first book!  It aims to show you a way to implement Montessori theory at home, without buying all the things! You don't need all the things. The home provides so much already! I'm planning to homeschool, hence I'm making or buying materials, but you really don't need to if you're doing school. 

The first chapter explains a bit about the theory. It's very clear and gives some great ideas that you can easily implement. 
The second chapter is more practical and comes with ideas on how to help your child develop their senses. I love these ideas! It's also a good idea to search for sensory boxes on the Internet. There is so much available.

Sensory bottles I made from stuff I mostly had at home already

The third chapter talks about how you can let go of control and involve your child in your home. Help me do it myself. The only thing I wanted to add to this chapter, is that you can start toilet training from birth (it's called Elimination communication if you want to find out more on this) and 50% of children in the world are fully toilet trained by age one. Nappies are a western invention and delayed toilet training is an invention of the nappy industry. There is no scientific research into this topic, all research is done by the companies! Of course, if you're into normal toilet training, go for it, it's not like you're harming your child (this is not sarcasm, but true!).
Once you start involving your child in everything and letting him do things for himself, letting him struggle until he asks for help, rather than intervening before he gets a chance to really try, life changes. And suddenly you find your child unloading the dishwasher and getting angry with you because it was clearly his turn to do chore xyz.

Then we get to chapter 4. Lets open a can of worms. The first part is called "creating a loving environment". The second part encourages you to make sure your tantrumming toddler is safe and then leave the room for her to calm herself down. This is insane. I'm sorry, but how does this teach empathy? How is this loving? The child needs you, whether you say no or not, a hug or a cuddle will make it easier to deal with your no. Calling a tantrum irrational is downright rude and disrespectful. I mean, we all get upset over things  that other people might find stupid and irrational. But when you're upset it's real for you! And you want a hug or a nice word. Imagine your partner walking out of the room every time you're upset! You'd kick him or her out in no time. 
When a child throws a tantrum, it's important to stay connected. To help your child through it and to help your child regulate his emotions. Regulating emotions is something that needs to be taught! You may find this hard (I do), you may find it hard to control your emotions all the time (I do). My thoughts are that we never were taught, because our mothers probably walked out of the room, or worst, smacked us, for showing a normal range of emotions. 
The other thing I want to add is that, of course, children are human. They can be grumpy and they can wake up on the wrong side of the bed. So can you. Suck it up. Don't punish your child for something you can't do as an adult. 
phew, couldn't help myself there! The rest of this chapter is awesome. The idea of the peace table is awesome. 
I skipped the bit about television. I don't have one (I'm a hippy, told you so). That's the easiest way to ban television tantrums, for sure! 
We planted potatoes on a local organic farm. The sights, smells, textures, tastes all provide great stimulation! We go here every month and talk about what we see and do. I let him as free ad is possible on a farm. 

Chapter 5 talks about exploring the world. yeah, loved this chapter! Be careful when taking bugs home, they are living animals who can feel pain. I don't know, maybe it's because I'm a biologist, but I never collect things from nature and don't encourage my child to do so. We observe nature where we find it. I do have a small collection of shells and some stones. I got a few branches (fire wood, really) that I'll make building blocks out of. I'm keen to buy some river rocks and some bricks. These can be used out doors to build and move and whatever kids do with bricks and sticks.
Exploring the world is calming. Is great to do when you feel like tearing down the walls. It's mindful. Even walking quietly in the rain is calming. You can just wear a raincoat. 
The book then goes on to suggest some games you can do with young children. I nearly fell off my chair, I played these games with my year 8 children!! They are about 13 years old. It is so awesome to include these things so early in life. Same goes for culture. 

The last chapter is about whether or not to choose a montessori school.  It raises some interesting points worth considering.

In conclusion: great book with some great ideas, but really quite wrong in their discipline advise, so if you can skip that bit, it's worth reading. That said, so much of this stuff is easily found on line! 

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