Sunday, March 20, 2016


Love them and try to follow them: Next stop is the Moon!


This book is extremely difficult to review because of its very structure and objective. The structure is a simple common sense succession of chapters from simple to more complex, from basic to more elaborate. The very type of “manual” for simple people that are often called “dummies.” The objective is to be practical and efficient with the readers and give them a simple perspective with a lot of concrete suggestions if not recipes. As such, a book of practical recipes, it may look positive. Since most suggestions are also common sense and based essentially on love and the expression of love as the main lever or tool in the dealing with the problem of strong-willed children, it sounds quite acceptable. You may though find a background that is not said directly when “disciplining a child” is considered. The author says: “discipline being the only physical contact” (and he/she mentions spanking twice) not to reject that corporal punishment but to advocate physical contact to express love and communication. Never in the book I found a rejection of corporal punishments and I found a heavy corpus of suggestions about discipline and disciplining a strong-willed child. Though the author rejects the “authoritarian” approach he/she advocates what he/she calls the “authoritative” approach, but he/she rejects the other two approaches he/she calls “permissive” and “uninvolved.” When we look at the “authoritative” approach we find that a parent has to explain and make clear to the child why he is “spanked” or punished in a way or another in a neutral voice and with as little emotional involvement as possible, and then a parent has to wait for the situation to clear up and start having an empathetic and loving discussion with the child about what happened. But this is only the surface of the book. It contains a lot more.

The insistence on the six dimension of parenting: to provide a child with “love, guidance, provision, friendship and development” is very positive. To insist on the three C’s “communicate, cooperate and connect” is very positive. The insistence on expressing one’s love to the child and freely giving the child the physical and mental contact he/she needs for his/her basic development, both physical and mental is an essential fact. To suggest that everyday the day’s work be reviewed in order to identify the “acts of kindness” performed by all the members of the family, at least one per person, is an excellent idea (probably coming from boy and girl scouts) that is in phase with what the French Catholic pedagogue, Antoine de La Garanderie, suggests in class work: spend three minutes at the end of each class to identify what has been learned and what has not been learned, and for each student spend  ten minutes at the end of each day to identify what has been learned and what hasn’t and is thus to be attacked and learned on the following day. This idea of a balance sheet of daily work, of daily activities is probably the best of all suggestions but to identify the “acts of kindness” must go with identifying the “acts of unkindness” or “the acts of kindness that had not been performed though they could have been.” But here the author reaches the best moment in his book.

Yet you might feel frustrated because the book does not really explain why these suggestions are made, and some open-minded ideas could be very dangerous in a slightly bullying situation like school. “Let your child know that being different is okay.” “Encourage your child to explore their identity.” “Accept your children for who hey are. What is meant to be will be [Que sera sera! Not in Italian in the text.]. You should not have a set up agenda for your child’s future.” “Do not let gender limit the type of activity that your child is interested in.” This is absolutely right but does the reference to gender cover gender orientation or only play with cars or play with dolls? Does the book advocate parents are not supposed to interfere with the genderization of their children, in other words their becoming gay or straight, or whatever other gender orientation the child may assume? It is not clear at all. And the elements given just before all contain some danger when the “difference” of the child is confronted to the outside world. The author is conscious of it but does not say that the parents have to support the child in his/her difference and prepare him/her to some difficult moments in the outside world. The author says in a rather defensive way: “Some external forces can influence the child’s character. These include demands from parents as well as peer pressure and media marketing.” The mention of the outside world is in fact seen more as a menace for parents, something that may challenge the parents’ authority or management of the child, or at least compete with them. The confrontation with the outside world is not really completely grasped.

As you can note I use “parents” in the plural. The book systematically uses “parent” in the singular, often “a parent” with generic value, and a few times “parents” in the plural but always with a generic value, never as the concrete parents of one concrete and non generic child. And actually it might be slightly more with the reference (several times) to a mono-parental families, and strangely enough to teenage pregnancies and early sexual experience (14-15). The book is unrealistic about the real situation in modern families that have two parents. These two parents are widely working, both of them, full time. These two parents can be heterosexual or same sex, men or women. Then the two parents can be the direct parents of the child or one parent of the child and a step parent due to the fact that the real parent got a divorce from the other real parent and remarried (for example), or because the real parent is married to a second parent of the same sex as the real one. These recomposed families are a lot more common than the mono-parental families and this latter case of course implies the single parent (who was or was not married at the time of the birth) is working in a way or another. That means the author is wrong when he/she says: “Their parents are the ones they spend the most time with.” Of course not! From age three months onward a child, and in some countries in Europe for example it is the vast majority, is raised in crèches, kindergartens, pre-schools, schools, junior high schools and high schools. In modern cities the children might even spend more time with their grandparents than with their parents. This is not taken into account.

The question to be asked is then what happens in the twelve months preceding the entry to the first crèche (or day care center or baby sitter or whatever, man or woman, the gender of the “parent” or “parents” is never considered, and the non-parental personnel taking care of the child is not even alluded to). The child has been able to hear from the 24th week of his mother’s pregnancy. He was able to hear what was being said and done up to two or maybe three yards around his/her mother: conversations, music, noise and most mothers are still working after the 24th week at least for four or six weeks, at times more. The new born has been proved as having registered the sound clusters of common nouns or names uttered by and around the mother (brothers and sisters for example), not to speak of any violence or forceful activity the mother was submitted or submitted herself to. The trauma of birth is not considered: the brutal (and it is brutal for both the mother and the child) shifting from a rather comfortable and continuous well protected world to a discontinuous unprotected and uncomfortable world of needs, wants and desires that have to be satisfied. The child is not born “lively, curious and nosy” but is born traumatized, cold, without any oxygen, hungry, thirsty, but with the reflex or the instinct of survival that makes him breathe for the first time, cry for the first time and learn within ten minutes that crying brings some response, hence learning communication and learning at once that what he had heard for three months inside his mother’s womb is actually coming from these gigantic, menacing, agitated creatures around him who submit him/her to all kinds of tests and other disagreeable activities: pricking for blood, tickling and hitting for reflexes, prodding and probing with fingers all kinds of places on his/her body, stretching him/her out, etc. All these sensations are absolutely new and hence disturbing. The child learns communication within ten minutes, communication with these monsters all around and with the mother who finally gets him and he can recognize her in some kind of “genetic” reflex. So when the author says: “Children are born with creative imagination,” he/she is wrong. The child is born with hardly nothing but one obsessive perspective: to survive. The child has a brain + a central nervous system + senses + a body that have an architecture that permits a potential, or many undetermined and unspecified (in the user’s guide) potentials, to maybe come to realization if it is prompted into existence. Language is the basic element in that construction of the mind and language starts being built with the second cry of the child, the first one that the child uses as a call for some need of his/hers, that is to say something like within fifteen or thirty minutes after his/her birth. He/she will invest the language(s) he/she will hear around him/her into that basic survival communication situation of the first cry (probably second or third altogether) that becomes meaningful by being the first call of the new-born.

Instead of pointing out at strong-willed children, it would have been better to realize children are positioned on a scale between two poles, on one side a relaxed nature that will produce a submissive personality and on the other side a tense nature that will produce any kind of self assertive personality. The position of the child depends on the physiological identity of the child who is born leaning towards a relaxed muscular and nervous nature, or towards a tense or stressed muscular and nervous nature. This is the result of the genes, the pregnancy, the mother and her life, etc. On this purely physiological orientation the child will develop his personality ONLY through the circumstantial, existential, experiential, situational and phenomenological prompting and inciting life will provide him/her with. Nothing is written before birth as for what the genetically determined architecture of the body will produce, construct in the “mind” that is the virtual result of this construction, the fundamental virtual reality of each human individual. The very first months of the child’s life are essential, then the very first years of the child’s life are crucial. By six the child’s personality is essentially constructed. It can be developed, enlarged, deepened, but it cannot be changed in its basic elements. A strong-willed child was produced as such and the probably original tense physiological nature was turned into a strong-willed personality, just the same as it could have been turned into an extremely inquisitive personality that could lead to a great scientific or creative nature. The author is wrong when he/she says: “Children are born with creative imagination.” Children are born with an acute reflex to survive and it is this survival drive that makes the child open onto the outside world that he will try to grasp, take, possess and with which he will also develop communication. Imagination and creativity are the developed potentials of the survival instinct of the extremely underdeveloped and dependent mammal the child is when he is born.

So the long section on love and physical contact would be so much more powerful if it were based on the three dimension parenting id supposed to provide the child with from even before his/her birth but definitely from just after his/her  Birth.

1-       love, and this has absolutely no limits and includes physical and mental contact: speak to and touch the child;

2-       the satisfaction of basic physiological needs (which are not wants but may become such): food, drink, care, security;

3-       The physical development that has to be complete and balanced: eyesight, hearing, (and other senses) bodily balance and lateralization.

It is on the basis of these three dimensions that the mind, the personality, the language and all the basic balances of the child will be possible. Any lack or want or deficit in these balances will determine disruptions in the development of the child and disturbances in his/her personality and personal development. Some might be unrepairable after a certain age. Some are unluckily vastly common like dyslexia which is one simple form of faulty lateralization but this may lead to dyslogia, and other forms such as the impossibility to capture time (atemporality), space (aspatiality) and numbers (innumeracy). Then it is possible to understand what has to be done from the very first day of life and even before: work on the lateralization of children either visual or oral or auditory. One very good activity can be the initiation of a child to rhythm by banging on a box with a stick. A child can learn very fast a regular rhythm with left or right hand, or with both coordinated, and with variations in the rhythm that make it irregular in a way though regular in its irregularity (long and short beats). Then polyrhythm is possible. That can be started even before the child is able to walk. A soon as he can walk you can train him to rhythmic “dancing” on both legs of course. Then when a child is educated like that in balanced lateralization he should and at least could develop some real taste for physical activity, for physical effort and that will also make it possible for the child to develop a balanced life style. If the child is on the submissive side he will need some incitation and encouragement, and this might come from peers as soon as he is socialized (three months in most countries in Europe) and there is a lot to develop in these institutions along this line of understanding. If the child is on the tense side he will be overactive and he will have to be provided with a lot of activity. If he is he won’t develop as a strong-willed child but as a voluntary overactive person.

In both case the use or overuse of undifferentiated television is a catastrophe since it will turn the “submissive” child into a sofa adornment and the “overactive” child into a rebellious bomb. But we must keep in mind these two extremes are rare and there are many steps and stages in-between. Any child is sharing a certain level of submissiveness and a certain level of over-activity, and the two might concentrate on different subjects, activities, interests: rather submissive about plating with pets, rather overactive about throwing solid objects, or really whatever you may think of.

Keep in mind the essential dimension you have to encourage and develop is all-media communication with openly expressed love and direct physical and mental contact. If you have this in mind you can deal with any child, but you have to start dealing with him/her at least twelve weeks before his birth and certainly without any delay after his birth..


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