“Pride & Joy” is a wonderful resource for caretakers who are looking for a parenting book that stands out from the myriad of others.
Kenneth Barish, a child psychologist and professor at Cornell University, encourages parents to appreciate their child’s emotions so they can further understand their development. The author also provides answers to a variety of problems caregivers may struggle with their children, like establishing rules and homework issues. Barish presents a fresh and balanced approach to raising children. His insightful recommendations are based on the current scientific research on child behavior.
Barish organizes his book into three parts with each part focusing on a specific aspect of parenting. The first focuses on how caregivers can nurture emotional health and build a positive character in their child. Next he addresses some specific problems parents may face such as the reasons why some kids may be reluctant to talk to their parents and the chronic issue of media addiction. In the final section, Barish reviews the primary messages of his book and summarizes the lessons it offers.
One important idea that Barish opens his book with is that “Parenthood begins with one of life’s most joyful moments,” but the “joy too quickly fades.” He goes on to write:
“As we struggle to cope with the demands of being parents, with our uncertainty and stress, moments of joyfulness and pride in our children, although no less cherished, too often give way to argument, defiance, and withdrawal.”
He reminds parents of the initial pride and joy they felt for their children, but also how quickly that feeling can dissolve when frustration dominates the parent/child relationship. One of the goals of his book is to rejuvenate some that joyfulness that has been lost in the relationship. “Pride & Joy” also offers practical advice to parents to build a positive attitude within their child as well as a resiliency toward life’s disappointments.
Barish is critical of some of the other parenting books that he believes do not offer balanced advice. He feels many books focus more on how to manage a child’s difficult behaviors instead of understanding children. He emphasizes the importance of this understanding by discussing seven essential emotions of childhood and why they are important. Barish stresses that a youth’s ability “to regulate their emotions is critical in a child’s psychological health.” He goes on to say that children who are able to regulate their emotions will also behave better most of the time as well as being able to make and keep friends.
The book offers many good suggestions on how to solve some common parenting issues. For example, it explains five steps for solving family problems that include taking a step back and not being reactive, placing the problem before your child and eliciting their ideas to solve the problem. He recommends developing a plan to solve the problem using your child’s feedback and to make sure to appreciate efforts and successes. Ongoing collaboration is described as an important element in solving problems with children.
Barish concludes his book with a review of the lessons learned. He reiterates that children are not innately lazy or manipulative, but those could be symptoms of deeper problems. No matter how angry or defiant, every child wants their parent’s approval and wants to do well. He acknowledges parental frustration by adding that children can be impulsive, strong willed and mischievous. They can throw tantrums when they do not get what they want or when they believe their parents are being unfair. Nonetheless, these are some of the reasons why children need guidance and limits. They also need to know that their feelings are important and validated. Barish summarizes the key theme in the final chapter:
“I believe that what matters most in our children’s emotional development and to their success in life is not how strict or how permissive we are, but our children’s inner certainty of our interest, encouragement, and support.”
I feel that Barish’s book hits the bull’s eye on its target of helping parents understand the internal workings of children and adolescents. It is a guarantee that parents as well as professionals who work with children/adolescents will learn new insights from Kenneth Barish’s book.
Pride & Joy: A Guide to Understanding Your Child’s Emotions and Solving Family Problems.
Oxford University Press, May, 2012
Paperback, 280 pages