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A Truly Great Parenting Book

Jordan Rhodes


Since I was a little girl the thing I’ve always loved to do most is read books. To me nothing is more exciting than starting a new one that you just can’t put down, one that transports you to another place or another time. I also love books about parenting because let’s face it, I definitely need tons of help in this department. So when my sister-in-law Betsy sent me Love That Boy by Ron Fournier after raving about it, I knew it was a must-read because not only is she a parent, she is also an avid reader, as well. And she was spot-on with this recommendation – I devoured it. Fournier is a well-known political columnist who began his career under Bill Clinton in my home-town of Little Rock, Arkansas, then spent many subsequent years in Washington covering the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations. It was fascinating to gain insight into this world, but the bulk of the memoir is about his youngest child, Tyler, who was diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome. At the beginning of the diagnosis Fournier struggles with things like popularity, athleticism and acceptance for his child, but as he embarks on this journey to understand his son, he realizes, (largely from encounters with these former presidents as well as fellow parents of children with autism), that parents need to shift their focus more to things like character and kindness. It’s okay to be different. It’s okay to do things differently than other kids. The smiles and tears I felt page after page made me want to write down several of the sentiments, as well as important statistics, which I’ve shared below, but I hope all of you will go out and buy this book because I in no way listed everything I learned. And you do not need to have a child on the autism spectrum to benefit from the parenting points Fournier makes:

“We should measure our children not by the mountains they conquer but by their efforts to climb."

"The next parent who Googles ‘Is my 2-year-old gifted?’ should get a curt response: ‘Your 2-year-old is a gift.'”

A 2014 University of Virginia study lead by Joseph Allen “found that…’cool’ teens had a 45 percent greater rate of problems due to substance use by age 22, and a 22 percent greater rate of criminal behavior, compared with the average teen in the study…(and) they never developed the skills needed for deep, durable friendships.” Fournier also reports Allen saying “there is a quiet majority of adolescents who are destined to be far more socially functional at an older age than their in-crowd peers.”

“One of every five 18-year-olds has suffered major depression, and nearly 9 percent of adolescents have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder…the consensus of experts is that the rise is strongly linked to parental expectations.”

“Modern child behaviorists are united in the belief that parents should embrace the fact that a child’s future depends chiefly on the child. Focus on the moment, build a loving relationship, and redefine the perfect outcome. Don’t limit yourself to standard measures of a child’s success, such as grades, trophies, and acceptance letters from elite preschools and graduate schools. And don’t swaddle your kids in praise and privilege.”

“Privileged kids are more likely to develop stress, exhaustion, depression, anxiety (etc)…You might think you’re avoiding this trap by praising your kids – telling them they’re the smartest, funniest, and best-looking of all children – or by shielding them from failure and responsibility. You would be wrong. Praise begets pressure. And it can be counterproductive.”

“The best approach, according to decades of studies, is to be what child development experts call an ‘authoritative parent.’ These mothers and fathers are involved and responsive. They set high expectations but respect their kids’ autonomy. They are the Goldilocks of parenting – not too hard (clinically defined as “authoritarian”) or too soft (“permissive”) – and they tend to raise children who do better academically, psychologically, and socially than their peers. The children of Goldilocks parents don’t get trophies just for showing up. They’re allowed to fail. A Goldilocks mother would never declare, ‘You’re going to an Ivy League school,’ nor would she shrug and say, ‘I don’t care if you go to college.’ A Goldilocks father doesn’t second-guess his daughter’s academic and career choices, doesn’t push his son into sports, and doesn’t fret over his daughter’s choice for a husband.”

“People who focus on living with a sense of purpose are more likely to remain healthy and intellectually sound and even to live longer than people who focus on achieving feelings of “happiness” via pleasure…Raising kids, working through marriage troubles, and volunteering at a soup kitchen may be less pleasurable (than a fun meal or night out), but these pursuits provide fulfillment – a sense that you’re the best person you can be. Researchers call this “hedonic well-being” and link it directly to lower levels of cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and other maladies. The research appears consistent at every income and education level, and among all races.”

Fournier then sums up parenting with some final thoughts (and make sure you buy the book because he goes into further detail):
• Don’t parent for the future; parent for today
• Guide, don’t push
• Don’t beat yourself up
• Celebrate all victories
• Slow down
• Make different cool
• Be a spouse first, a parent second
• Share even the bad news
• Fight for your kids
• Channel your inner Aspie (some traits include loyalty, honesty, wittiness, dependability, integrity)

“In his or her own way, every child is lucky enough to be different.”