A guide to increasing children’s confidence and helping them realize their full potential.
In this book, clinical psychologist Kennedy-Moore (What’s My Child Thinking?, 2019, etc.) promises readers a wide range of practical and effective parenting strategies. But first, the author takes pains to debunk some key concepts of contemporary child-rearing philosophy—the worst of which, she says, is the idea that one must compulsively and universally offer kids uninterrupted affirmation in order to build up their self-esteem. Kennedy-Moore cites recent studies that hint at the problems of such an approach, and her tone is refreshingly blunt as she does so: “self-help gurus and inspirational articles often promote the idea that we have to love ourselves to have a happy, fulfilling life,” she writes. “This is nonsense.” In the place of this concept, she lays out a comprehensive set of guidance tips, designed to help parents to understand their kids’ needs and encourage them with direct communication and honest assessment—not blanket assurances that everything that they do is perfect in every way. Each of the book’s sections offers helpful subheadings, and a separate “Take-Home Points” graphic is designed to summarize key items from the text as a whole. Kennedy-Moore addresses the topics of making parental connections, assessing and building children’s competencies, and helping kids to become more decisive and deal with bullying. Throughout, she employs a clear, concise prose style and an unfailing directness, typified in lines such as “As parents, we can’t protect our children from having bad things happen to them.”
Kennedy-Moore has written many books on the subject of parenting and is on the advisory board of Parents magazine, and her expertise is obvious on every highly detailed page of this smart and assured manual. She buttresses each of the book’s subsections, and all of its points of contention, with ready citations as well as a comprehensive 19-page bibliography. On every topic, from sibling rivalry to cyberbullying to proper hygiene, the author’s tone is always staunchly realist (“Winning feels good, but it’s unrealistic for any of us to believe that we will win every contest”) and specifically practical (“To avoid [a] no-win battle, reach for the feelings behind the complaints, and try to tie them to a particular situation or a specific time”). Along the way, she always maintains the tone of quiet compassion that animates the book throughout. The author’s focus returns again and again to her conception of children’s self-esteem, which aims to anchor their sense of self-worth more solidly that other parenting guides tend to do. As a result, crucial insights abound in these pages. For instance, Kennedy-Moore acknowledges the extensive research into what many parents already know—that children have the potential to be incredibly mean—and she offers several helpful tips on countering bullying. At the same time, however, she stresses that children can also bully themselves with a pattern of self-criticism, and that parents can help them to counter this tendency.
A wise and realistic program for instilling genuine self-esteem in children.