28 August 2012

How To Really Love Your Child by Ross Campbell

We received a copy of How To Really Love Your Child by Ross Campbell as a gift when our first baby was born.  I read it at the time and liked it, but moved on pretty quickly to the books that gave me the specific advice needed for the minutiae of the moment - sleeping, feeding, teeth, tantrums, temperatures and the like.  The principles of How to Really Love Your Child apply to infants and toddlers but it is a period that calls for specific survival techniques rather than broad brush strokes.  However as those young children emerge from their toddlerdom into that golden era called childhood, this book really comes into its own.
Campbell, a Christian developmental psychologist, works on the principle that we need to love our children unconditionally and that we can achieve this through...
Lots of eye contact - and not just when we are staring them down because we are cross, but lots and lots of warm, happy eye contact.
Lots of physical touch - and he gives a lot of time to the subject of appropriateness in this department and how appropriateness changes as a child gets older.
Lots of focussed attention - not the "I'm half listening to you and half writing my blog post" sort of attention...ahem...

Discipline comes into it too and there is a lovely chapter on this issue - that is, training a child in what is right, rather than punishing a child over what is wrong.

And then he finally gets to the "what to do when they are naughty" bit.  More than three quarters of the way through the book.  And this is the genuis of the book.  When I used to have student teachers at school and on the handful of occasions I've run a training session for Sunday School teachers, the question, "What do we do when they're naughty?" always comes up.  That's normal and expected.  And I always irritatingly answer that question by saying that most classroom discipline problems can be dealt with by good lesson preparation.  For the most part, classroom disruptions can be avoided by running good lessons. 

Now before you all head to the comment box, I know, OH HOW I KNOW that this isn't always the case.  Sometimes we have some truly challenging children in our midst who haven't had breakfast or who live on sugar, whose home life is terrible or whose routine is non-existent, who are sick or who have experienced some sort of trauma.  Or you have the children whose home life is steady but last night they had an awake-over  sleepover and today it is windy and tonight it will be a full moon and... Stuff happens.  I know.  You should have been in my first Scripture lessons last week!  There was a lot of stuff happening there...not a lot of Scripture lesson though.  But generally speaking, most classroom problems can be avoided by good planning. 

And Ross Campbell contends that most discipline issues at home can also be avoided if a child feels well loved.  They won't do all that attention seeking stuff if they know they have your attention.  He gave plenty of examples of when his kids did muck up and he was able to pin it down to the fact that, as he phrases it, their "emotional tanks" were not full.  At times he had the clarity to realise this and deal with it properly instead of heading into a session of unwarranted chastisement.  At other times he mucked up.

Campbell's approach is not permissive.  He is all for firm boundary setting, good training and high expectations.  He is all about making sure that children don't develop scarily dependent relationships with their parents (and vice versa) but grow and develop into mature, independent, capable adults. He is also up front that the he is speaking in broad terms.  Things don't run to script - he is not suggesting a formula that will work perfectly in every instance every time.  And furthermore he is not suggesting that parents don't have a right to get on with the things they need to be doing.  But he is suggesting that when kids feel loved things go better.

I was spurred on to read this book for a couple of reasons.  Firstly by a comment Cathy made about slowing down to look at her children in the eyes when they are talking to her.  It reminded me of this book with its emphasis on eye contact.  Reading it has been a good reminder to seize the moment, because these moments won't always be around. And secondly, we have been catching the odd glimpse that our firstborn might sometime in the next year or few turn into a teenager.  Which brings me to Ross Campbell's next book - How To Really Love Your Teenager.  Stay tuned.


Karen said...

I love this book :) We bought it years ago too, around the time our eldest child was a little baby.
Thanks for the reminder, I must pull it out and look at it again. We too are gearing up for the teenage years, I must look into getting the teenager version!

Meredith said...

Ah Karen, so many good books to read! I thought reading the child version would be a good preamble to the teen version. And he seems to tackle some big issues such as anxiety and depression in teens. I'm looking forward to reading it.

Libby said...

I'm currently in the middle of this book and am loving how effective his method is as I practice it on my kids.

Meredith said...

Hi Libby. I agree. And it is great to hear this from you with your younger kids. We too have found that it has made some lovely differences with our kids, who are just a few years older than yours.

He makes the point that it is never too late to start (not sure if that is in the child book or the teen book, having read them both back to back) - that there isn't a point at which you give up and say the ship has sailed. He is certainly full of hope for young people and their parents which is very refreshing.