Straightforward parenting advice from a father of three.
Witt (Things I Wish I Knew, 2009, etc.) claims no special knowledge about raising kids. “I’m not an expert and I’ve not done the research,” he says. In fact, his book is refreshingly unburdened by footnotes and references. Witt simply writes his personal story, lessons learned raising three children into their teens. From the moment his first child was born, Witt resolved to be hands-on, and he advises other fathers to do the same. “It’s not about you,” he says many times throughout the book, meaning parents should not impose their own priorities and preferences on their children. While this adage might imply the opposite—it’s all about you, kids—Witt strives to raise independent decision-makers who will grow into “interesting and interested adults” who will, crucially, leave home for good. He provides useful tips for all stages of parenting, infant through teen years, but his book is most compelling when Witt puts his parenting skills to the test. When his children were ages 6 to 12, Witt divorced and got his own “tear down” 1970s house, yet he vowed to maintain his high parenting standards. In an expanded form, this half of the book could stand alone and offer more in-depth advice on a specific, challenging parenting situation. As it stands, each chapter in Witt’s book provides entertaining, if sometimes thin, advice for both mothers and fathers. He advocates teaching the value of money with a regular allowance; kids must use their own savings for toys and other extras. Witt also sees the power of praising good behavior, not just criticizing the bad. Above all, he encourages parents to listen wholeheartedly to their kids—then step aside. “I’m available as a sounding board,” he writes, “but not a surf board.” The lessons aren’t startlingly new, but Witt’s warm, casual writing and candid anecdotes make for welcome reminders.
Easy-to-read suggestions that will hopefully lead toward better parenting, independent children and a happily empty nest.