Monday, October 28, 2013

Parenting Book Review: The Explosive Child

Powell's Books · Barnes & Noble
Ross Greene - ©2005

If you have one, you already know it. My daughter Boots, isn't quite as extreme a case as some of the kids described in this book, but she falls into the categories of inflexible with low frustration tolerance.

This book teaches parents how to work with these special case kids, for whom traditional punishments and rewards method of discipline simply doesn't work. Their kids want to do well, they know you disapprove of their actions, but they can't seem to control their emotional outbursts and behavior towards you, siblings and friends when they're frustrated; which for these kids is a lot.

Boots will have a meltdown when she puts her sock on upside down, or she can't find her shoe, or Berzo approaches her when she's playing, or if she isn't able to go to the store right-this-minute for whatever it is she needs. Her brain circuitry overloads and shuts down. When the smoke clears, Boots is red faced, embarrassed and sorry.

The author is compassionate, not only to the child's plight but the parents' as well. He describes three conflict resolution strategies, Plan A, Plan B, and Plan C. Plan A describes the approach in which parents impose their will backed by scary consequences. This is the way most of my generation was parented. Plan C's approach is to let the child have their way to avoid an upset. Which is the way many of us parent today. Then he unveils, Plan B. This step involves both the parent and child putting their concerns on the table, then finding a "mutually agreeable solution." Wherein parents act as a "surrogate frontal lobe", in effort to stimulate development in their child's.

There is much more that goes along with this. For example, parents need to allow the child to be the first to propose a solution, knowing it's not likely to be agreeable. The parent affirms their child's willingness to put forward a solution then calmly points out that not all concerns were addressed. The child tries again. Then the parent asks if they could make a proposal, and so on and so forth. It takes effort and self-discipline on part of the parent to not just default to Plan A and use authority to push it through, -Kaboom!- but to step back and teach your child to navigate these problems—a necessary skill which will be exercised every single day of his/her life.

The book also covers many common parent concerns, such as, what happens in the "real world" when others aren't going to be using Plan B? The author responds with, "I don't expect your fighting with her a lot will help her live in the real world. On the other hand, I do expect that helping her stay calm enough to think clearly in the midst of frustration will be very helpful to her in the real world. If you think about what the real world demands, it's a whole lot more about resolving disputes and disagreements than it is about blind adherence to authority." Indeed.

I'm a big fan of Conscience Discipline as described by Becky Bailey in her book Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline.  Happily, this methodology fits right in with her plan. This is simply more focused on spirited kids with low frustration tolerance for the purpose of stabilizing their frequent blow-ups.

And—it works. When I have the self-discipline to use it, it really, really, really, works. Not only is my home more peaceful, I'm teaching my daughter how to be assertive, calm, how to consider everyone's agenda and to propose solutions that meets everyone's needs. As soon as she sees she's not going to be forced to eat Plan A, and Plan C is definitely not going to happen, she embraces Plan B and surprises me with her creative solutions.

After all, we all need to have some say in the course of events in our life.  Childhood is the only time we expect people to be happy prisoners of benevolent dictators. I hated it when I was growing up, but being naturally passive and easy going it was easy for me to internalize my feelings. Not so with Boots.

I'm glad she's challenged me to seek out these skills.  Learning to be calm, assertive, and to consider everyone's concerns equally (including my own) when seeking a solution to a dispute?  Yes, please!

I love you kiddo.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Book Review: Happy, Happy, Happy

Powell's Books · Barnes & Noble
Phil Robertson ©2013

Duck Wha?
Since I tuned out of live TV about six years ago I sometimes feel as though I've become some weird hermit; minus the rags and ratty beard. So you'll not be surprised that I had never heard of Duck Dynasty until our neighbor loaned this book to Charley.

One evening when Charley was putting Danielle to bed I was looking for something quiet to do and spotted this book. I circled it a few times, heard that feeding call, quack-quack-quack, lowered my landing gear, tilted my wings and skidded to a landing.

This book covers the life of Phil Robertson, A.K.A., The Duck Commander/Redneck Extraordinaire. There are several strong themes throughout this book. The value of hard work, love of kin-folk, following your passions, Jesus, and of course—the joy of blowing the heads off ducks.

1950’s or 1850’s?
Phil takes you back to Vivian, Louisiana, where he had a subsistence based upbringing. They hunted for meat and sport, grew vegetables and fodder for their livestock, and foraged for wild berries. Although they lived in the 1950’s, it may as well have been the 1850’s. He and his five siblings were lean and mean, working hard and expending leftover energy playing football together.

Poor Folks?
Phil’s high school sweetheart, Kay, told her mother, “They might be poor, but they don’t know they’re poor.” That’s because they were the best kind of rich, rich in siblings, rich in freedom and natural wonders to explore, rich in intimate knowledge of the land it's animals and how to use them for subsistence.

Poor? Hardly. A poor upbringing consists packed in houses, no freedom, and a postage stamp yard. Hundred dollar sneakers and iPads are poor substitutes for natural richness and a long leash. But, I digress…

Married Kids, Having Kids
Phil marries his high school sweetheart, Kay, while still in high school. After graduation he starts college at Louisiana Tech on a football scholarship.  He is an eighteen-year-old husband and father, and soon begins to resent his young family for denying him the carefree, party lifestyle the other college kids lived.

A Flock of Geese Flaps It’s Wings...
Phil had a very successful career as starting quarterback for the Bulldogs, until one fateful preseason camp when a flock of geese flew overhead. “What am I doing out here?” he thought.  He walked off the field and never returned—trading in a lucrative future as a pro-football player to be close to the ducks he loves to hunt, the fish he loves to catch, and freedom to pursue them.  Who does that?!?

From Phil’s shadow emerges the second string quarterback, Terry Bradshaw, who went on to start the next three seasons for Louisiana Tech.  After graduation, Terry went number one in the NFL draft in 1970.  He became the first quarterback to win four Super Bowls rings.

From the Darkness
Phil earns his Master's Degree in teaching and starts a teaching and coaching job that Kay hopes will saddle him with enough responsibility to settle him down. But his new boss turns out to be a partyer too…

Things are dark for the Robertson family as Phil drinks, drugs and hunts his way through his twenties. After he assaults the owners of the bar he manages, he becomes a fugitive and leaves his family. Kay turns to God to help her through this time and prays for Phil. He shows up one morning slumped over the steering wheel in his pickup truck. Kay writes, “ His face rose up, and there were big tears streaming down his face. I had never seen him cry... He said, ‘I can’t eat. I can’t sleep. I can’t do anything. I want my family back.’”

Into the Light
Phil finds God, and since he’s a man to never “...do anything halfway...” he becomes a scholar of the Bible in effort to understand the true meaning of the Scripture, to enable him to help those who have struggled as he has.

He and his wife Kay buy a property dubbed, A Sportsman’s Paradise, after the birth of  their fourth, and last son, Jep. Phil gave up teaching to become a commercial fisherman. Enabling him to provide for his family’s necessities, while nature provided the real richness he desired.

If it Sounds Like a Duck—It’s Probably Phil
Always his passion belonged to the ducks he loved to separate from their heads. His knack for imitating duck calls was a talent he had as a child and honed over the years. He knew he could sound more like a duck than anyone else, and likewise he could build a call that did the same. So that’s what he did. His entire family supported the effort. Upon his retiring from the business, Phil’s son, Willie, took Duck Commander to what it is today.

My Take
I don’t agree with all of Phil’s political views, and I think that a woman who isn't a good cook—like me—can still be a good wife—like I hope I am. Nevertheless, I’m envious of this man and his faith. I'm envious that he knew himself well enough to know that a career as a professional football player wouldn't make him happy, happy, happy.  That he had the faith in himself to convince his wife, who was caring for three sons, that he should give up his comfortable teaching job to move into the swamp and fish for a living.  Had he made the practical decisions, like we are all conditioned to make from early childhood, he might have been too distracted or "busy" to follow his passion to his calling.

Now he’s a legend and has provided a legacy that employs many of the Robertson Clan today—doing something that they love: making duck calls, saving sinners, and blowing the heads off ducks.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Book Review: Sway

Powell's Books · Barnes & Noble
Amber McRee Turner - ©2012

Sway is a story about a ten-year-old girl, Cass, whose mother falls from a hero’s pedestal and lands right in a steaming pile of lies and adultery. Confused and hurt, Cass blames her father for pushing her off that pedestal.

Together, Cass and her father embark on a journey in a RV he bought from National Lampoon's Cousin Eddie, dubbed The Roast, through the American South to bequeath upon the citizens of towns with an old shoe-marked off ramp, the magic of Sway. Step right up, grab a sliver of soap, emblazoned with the initials of the historical figure, lather up and absorb the former owner's best qualities.

Through their adventures changing the lives of others, Cass realized that the hero she needed was the one who, “...snags a ten-year-old’s favorite pajamas because you’re there to tuck her in every night with your calloused hands.”

A lovely story full of lively southern flavor and character. Uplifting and simple—a pleasurable read.