Author: Debra Haffner
Published: NY: Newmarket Press, 2007.
Debra Haffner certainly has a load full of credentials. A widely sought after parenting educator, she holds educational degrees in both Public Health as well as divinity qualifications. A parent herself, she attempts to update parenting skills for the 21st Century with an inviting title. Her subtitle speaks of her approach toward modern parenting as "facing today's challenges with wisdom and heart." This is certainly a holistic approach, that is different from conventional approaches of techniques and methodologies.
She begins the book with a question: "Is Parenting Harder Today?" Most of her respondents reply yes. Her answer is 'not necessarily.' Haffner counters the popular opinion by saying that it has always been difficult. The main thing is that parents need to adapt and recognize the changing environment before knowing how to engage them meaningfully.
I) Debunking Myths & Applying Affirmative Parenting
What is helpful is the way Haffner debunks popular myths. She asserts that the media provide statistics that often scare parents about parenting. Even bookstores contain many books that point to problematic youth problems like bad behavior, out of control teens, obesity, bad attitudes, etc. Instead, she calls for the presence of responsible adults to walk with teens. People like a teacher, a minister, a coach, an uncle or aunt. She then moves to her main idea that effective parenting is essentially affirmative in nature.
- Extravagantly love our children regardless of their age;
- Actively be involved in their lives, first allowing them to be children first;
- Learn to share family values;
- Learn to set limitations on technology and guidelines for behaviors;
- Help children make independent decisions;
- Learn to enjoy and have fun parenting.
Permissive parents take unnecessary risks and may promote unhealthy liberties among children. Authoritarian parenting may result in positive outcomes initially but cannot be sustained once the rod is lifted. Uninvolved parenting is as good as no parenting. Haffner then goes on to point out the distinctiveness of affirming parenting. She offers 6 tips for affirming parenting:
- Love your children unconditionally.
- Stay actively involved in your children's and teenagers' lives.
- Set limits jointly.
- Set consequences and follow through
- Communicate your family values
- Understand the world your child is growing up in.
Haffner helpfully supplies some tips for parents to develop ethical qualities in children.
- Listen to your children.
- Learn from your children
- Establish family rituals
- Celebrate traditions in community
- Consider the role of a faith community
- Participate in social action.
Personally, I find the greatest value Haffner gives is chapter 10 about "Raising the Mensch: The importance of Ethics and Spirituality in Your Child's World." A Mensch is someone we admire, and attempt to emulate. He is one of noble character. Haffner makes a strong case for faith and spirituality to be inculcated early in children. I agree. Far too often, parenting deals with techniques and know-how that parents already are experts in. Society expects parents to simply replicate what they know and turn kids after themselves. Sometimes, these come at a cost, where children under pressure to conform to parental expectations, fail to develop and understand their own beliefs and values. The core of Haffner's thesis lies in the quote from Wilfred Cantwell Smith's book "Faith and Belief."
Faith, then, is a quality of human living. At its best, it has taken the form of serenity and courage and loyalty and service; a quiet confidence and joy which enable one to feel at home in the universe, and to find meaning in the world and in one's own life, a meaning that is profound and ultimate, and is stable no matter what may happen to oneself at the level of immediate event. Men and women of this kind of faith face catastrophe and confusion, affluence and sorrow, unperturbed; face opportunity with conviction and drive; and face others with cheerful charity.(170)For anyone reading this book, be aware of the Unitarian slant of the beliefs. Haffner's theology rejects the Trinity God that mainstream evangelicalism adheres to. She offers readers the chance to consider the Unitarian beliefs to invite questions about God. In doing so, the source of strength apparently stems from a desire to do good works, rather than from the Person of Christ and the Holy Spirit. This unwittingly underplays the nature of sin, and this is perhaps one of the biggest theological problems I have.
Other than that, the book offers good tips for affirmative parenting. I still believe that we should not abandon the other parenting styles altogether. Perhaps, in wisdom, we need to learn when to apply which kind of parenting skills. This calls for humility and acknowledgment that we are imperfect parents. Parenting is an ongoing journey to be learned and to be lived.
So what does every 21st-Century parent needs to know? I suppose it is the age-old truth: Wisdom and Discernment.
Book Rating: 3 stars of 5.