The New Strong-Willed Child (Birth Thru Adolescence): A Book Review

Genre: Parenting & Families
Author: Dr. James Dobson
First, the Book Description:

First, 2005 Gold Medallion Award finalist!

Dr. James Dobson has completely rewritten, updated, and expanded his classic best seller The Strong-Willed Child for a new generation of parents and teachers. The New Strong-Willed Child
follows on the heels of Dr. Dobson’s phenomenal best seller Bringing Up Boys. It offers practical how-to advice on raising difficult-to-handle children and incorporates the latest research with Dr. Dobson’s legendary wit and wisdom. The New Strong-Willed Child is being rushed to press for parents needing help dealing with sibling rivalry, ADHD, low self-esteem, and other important issues. This book is a must-read for parents and teachers struggling to raise and teach children who are convinced they should be able to live by their own rules!

Second, A Review from an Customer:
5.0 out of 5 stars Well Respected Philosophy for Raising Good Kids, Nov 24 2004
This review is from: New Strong Willed Child (Paperback)

James Dobson is one of my favorite parenting authors although I am not a Christian. I have embraced this philosophy that keeps me in charge without feeling guilty that I am the boss as I try to keep the kids safe and on track. I agree to disagree with him only regarding spanking as I feel there are many other effective ways to discipline children. I like the large scope of information offered in this book…references, anecdotes, personal experiences and exact words to try in challenging situations. I think this is a well organized book with a variety of helpful information for parents and teachers relating to children of all ages. However, no one book can cover everything from birth through the teenage years in complete detail.

Therefore, if you are looking for further information relating to specific challenging behavior/discipline issues regarding teenagers or toddler/preschoolers and would like an entire book on just those specific years, I also highly recommend 2 books in addition to Dobson’s classic…

…for parents of teenagers–a book called called “How to Keep Your Teenager Out of Trouble and What to Do If You Can’t”

…and for parents of 2-to 5-year-olds–an A-Z trouble-shooting guide called “The Pocket Parent”.

I recommend Dobson for his well respected underlying philosophy and the other 2 books for tons of additional quick read specific practical how-to’s on 2 age spectrums that can definitely test your sanity!


Third, My Two-Cents:

I have picked out this book for the reason that I got all so concerned about my son’s sudden display of tantrums. He has breezed through almost 2 and a half years without this dreaded “T,” so there I was at a loss for anything that I can pull out from my sleeves. I have took for granted reading the Babywise-Toddlerwise Series for reasons that I get all the wonderful results of the principles shared therein. (Read: bright, happy, healthy and fun to live with baby)

I was clueless that there are more things to come, and having no experience with an actual tantrum, it did not appeal to me so much to read on that, but more on the usual, everyday disciplines which up to this day, Jed is doing very well on. The principles of this book is congruent to the Babywise Series of Ezzo and Dr. Bucknam. Both have biblical principles.

With the more popular positive parenting styles of a handful authors and child development experts, which I also have investigated on, my vouching for this kind of parenting style may cause frowns to parents of this age. It’s not a new thing for me to be frowned upon, I have always valued to stand on what is right than to please people. That’s how I was built.

So in between readings of several parenting principles and theories, I go through their advantages and even the very core of why they come up with theories and principles. No matter how well meaning they are, I apt to go back to the original manual of life. I have to counter check if the principles that they teach reconcile with what the Bible says. Even making sure everything is in context. Checking and cross checking, and then I am just amazed how the Lord would show through how my son responds even as I apply the principles on him, slowly but surely, that God’s teachings are absolute. That’s what He has made me realize.

It’s not an easy read. Especially for parents who are not ready to do the paradigm shift. I just hope to challenge those who so believe in all those glittered positive parenting styles to give this one a shot, and maybe strike a balance between this and that. As I remember Ezzo saying in one of his books, to the effect that we should not be rigid on the schedules. The same way, pick out what works for you without compromising the principles.

To just give you an idea, the book emphasizes on the nature of a child as he grows up. The issue is not the innocence of the babies. Dobson says that no one would question their preciousness as creations of God. The point of disagreement concerns the tendencies and inclinations they have inherited. The humanistic perspective that man by nature is good, which millions of people believe to be true are entirely inaccurate. Starting with the owner’s manual. It teaches that we are born in sin, having inherited a disobedient nature from Adam. (Psalm 51:5). Paul said, this sinful nature has infected every person who ever lived. “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23 Therefore, with or without bad association, there is the tendency to do wrong was transmitted genetically. Children are naturally inclined toward rebellion, selfishness, dishonesty, etc. They don’t have to be taught these behaviors. Although this perspective is viewed with disdain by the secular world today, the evidence to support it is overwhelming. Even Plato said more than 2,350 years ago: “Only dead men have seen an end to war.” He was right and it will continue to be that way until the Prince of Peace comes.

These facts are all but necessary to understand the basis of the principles Dr. Dobson imparts in this book. He even said in one instance…

Anyone who has watched a toddler throw a temper tantrum when she doesn’t get her way must be hard-pressed to explain how the phrase “innate goodness” became so popular! Did her mother or father model the tantrum for her, falling on the floor, slobbering, kicking, crying and screaming? The kid needs no demonstration. Rebellion comes naturally to her entire generation – although in some individuals it is more pronounced than in others. He continues on… For this reason, parents can and must train, mold, correct, guide, punish, reward, instruct, warn, teach and love their kids during the formative years. Their purpose is to shape that inner nature and keep it from tyrannizing the entire family.

In another instance, Dr. Dobson cites an example of bad parental advice, which also reflects the positive discipline philosophy. Lini Kabada, writing for the Knight-Ridder newspaper chain: Karen once spanked and called “time-out.” Now she talks about her children’s feelings. When the girls act up, she sweetly and calmly suggests alternative activities and offers support (“I know you’re sad”) in the midst of tantrums, a touchy-feely techniques called “time-in.” She allows what positive-parenting attitudes call “natural and logical consequences” of behavior to flow. For example, her daughter Amanda recently wanted to take a favorite piece of string on an outing. Karen warned that she might lose it, but didn’t argue with the child. She allowed the natural and logical consequence to unfold. Sure enough, Amanda lost it and she cried. Karen didn’t ignore her daughter’s feelings, as pediatricians suggest in the face of a tantrum. she said, that’s sad, it’s horrible, Amanda said she will not bring her toys next time.

He further illustrates a more current example of permissive approaches to child rearing is referred to as “positive discipline,” or the “positive parenting” movement. It sounds good. Consider the following advice, featured on the Oklahoma State Department of Health’s “Positive Discipline” Web Page. It reads, “The goal of discipline is not to control children and make them obey but to give them skills for making decisions, gradually gaining self-control, and being responsible for their own behavior.” Instead of telling a child, “Don’t hit the kitty” or “Stop kicking the table,” they suggest that parents say, “Touch the kitty gently” or “keep your feet on the floor.” The website goes on to assert that “Giving a child choices allows him some appropriate power over his life and encourages decision making.”

Parents are advised to redirect childish behavior. For example, if a child is throwing a truck around the house, instead of telling him to stop, they suggest you say to him, “I can’t let you throw your truck, but you may throw the ball outside.” Or if the child is kicking a door, you are to tell him, “You may not kick the door, but you may kick this ball or plastic milk jug.” Their suggestion for dealing with willful defiance is to ignore it or to allow the child to engage in “something pleasant” until he cools off.”

Dr. Dobson comments what a ridiculous advise that is. Notice how hard the parent is supposed to work to avoid being the leader at home. What’s wrong with explaining to a child exactly what you want him or her to do and expecting obedience in return? Why is it unacceptable for a parent to insist that a child engaging in destructive or irritating behavior immediately cease and desist? Why not tell the child, “Kitties have feelings just like you do. You will not hit the kitty.” A youngster whose parent has never take charge firmly is being deprived of a proper understanding of his mom’s or dad’s authority. It also keeps him from comprehending other forms of authority that will be encountered when he leaves the safety of his permissive cocoon. Sooner or later, that boy or girl is going to bump into a teacher, a police officer, or an employer who never heard of positive discipline and who will expect orders to be carried out as specified. The child who has only heard “suggestions” for alternative behavior through the years, which he may choose to accept of reject, is not prepared for the real world.

Dr. Dobson further emphasizes the danger of giving the children the liberty to choose their way into their world prematurely. I remember the same principle in the Babywise series. Parents should give freedom to their children when they have come to learn the responsibility that goes with it. This shapes the will of the child, he then establishes self-control, discipline and respect for authorities.

I love my son so much that I would want him to grow into the person that the Lord has designed him to be. I have so much to say already and I am just doing half of the book just yet. Even as unpopular as this parenting style is, allow me to say that I respect other peoples’ opinions on parenting. At the end of the day, the result of how we brought our child up will stare us in the face whether we like it or not. It is a choice for us to make. Being a pro-active mother that I am, I resolve to raise my child the way God has called me to.

Let me end with this verse that Jed has memorized since he turned two years. Ephesians 6:1 “Children obey your parents in the Lord for this is right.” He may not have the full understanding of what it means just yet. But every chance we get, we explain things to him in bits and pieces what listening and obeying is. Just recently, he would hold my shoulder firmly and say “listen and obey ha.” Just like the way we would remind him when he forgets. It’s really a delight for us to see how Jed is developing. My prayer is that the Lord will continue to give us wisdom in bringing up this child and train him in His ways.

The New Strong-Willed Child (Birth Thru Adolescence): A Book Review

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