Sunday, October 18, 2015

Hold On to Your Kids: Book Review

I realize it sounds as though I've had plenty of time to read lately, but I assure you it is not so; more like, I'm posting book reviews in a more concentrated manner than usual.

Hold On To Your Kids: Why Parents Need To Matter More Than Peers is a book with an important message (the headline itself, I think, speaks volumes!).

By Briana LeClaire:

"The overarching theme of the book is ATTACHMENT. To whom are your children more attached? Are they attached to you, their parents, and other adults? Or are they attached to their peers? To whom do they look for guidance? Whose star have they hitched their little wagons to?"

"My son is so independent," a neighbor proudly told me once, "he has so many friends! As soon as he gets back home, after lunch, his friends come to visit him or he visits them, and he plays together with them until it's time for supper. He hardly needs me at all!" Want to guess how old the boy was? Only 4. And the situation described above was seen by his mother as something most natural and desirable. 

There is a perspective of my own I would like to add: while the authors of the book admit that attachment between parents and children, especially young children, is vitally important, and that early enrollment in daycare and preschool is more likely to make children peer-oriented (that is, dependent upon their friends in the development of social connections, goals, values, morals, language and habits), they also say that the most obvious (and, they confess, most desirable) solution - that of young children staying at home, usually with their mothers, is in most cases an impractical, outdated measure. 

Their suggested solution is creating an attachment between the child and the "parent substitute" - babysitter, daycare worker, teacher, etc. While, of course, an invested and caring daycare worker is better than a detached, unaware one, I do not think a parent-child-like connection between the child and the care provider is possible or even healthy. There are too many children per caretaker and, above all, nobody can love your child like you do. Also, there is absolutely no guarantee the caretaker/teacher passes on values and messages you approve. 

I vividly remember a 3-year-old niece who kept talking to us about her preschool teacher, whose name was Ruthie. That child was evidently engrossed by Ruthie and talked about her a lot more often than she mentioned her parents. Perhaps it is better that the child was so connected to her teacher, rather than her peers, but the fact remains that Ruthie (however capable of creating the attachment) did not care about the child in the same way. It was not her child, after all. At the end of the year, the child and her teacher would part, never to meet again. Is it really good for a 3-year-old to give her heart to a teacher in such a way, when we know it is to be only a temporary relationship? 

Even grandparents, aunts and uncles (the relationship with whom is permanent) are not supposed to be more than auxiliary figures in child-rearing. They can provide help, plenty of help, but the biggest chunk of the job of child-rearing (in time as well as authority) should belong to the parents. 

Rather than say it's impractical for young children to remain under the care of their mothers, it is better to stress the importance of such a measure, and to encourage parents to stick to it as much as possible. You know how it works: when you are convinced something is truly important, and that there is really no equally good substitute, you will move mountains to make it happen. Of course, for some parents it will not be possible to keep their child at home, and then damage-minimizing tactics, as described in this book, are in order.

While I do not think mothers at home should be directly funded by the government, I do believe that  significant tax reduction for fathers in single-income families would be a fair measure. Let people keep a larger share of their own fairly earned money and provide for their family. It would ultimately save the government a lot of money on all sorts of programs that fight violence, bullying in schools, teen pregnancy and drug abuse, and other ailments of our society. 


Anonymous said...

Children have the capacity to love more than one person. Maybe she talked about Ruthie because she safely and confidently takes her parents for granted as the #1 presence in her life but sees Ruthie a point of interest and curiosity more than a parental attachment. No teacher tries to take the place of a parent, just supplements the role. I do not like the implication that working mothers do not raise their own kids. A day care worker or nanny simple watches a child in the mother's absence. Despite employment status, mothers (and fathers) still make decisions about health care, education, religion, values, and family structure and will still spend more time with the kids than a caregiver would. No, I do not think a mother should feel guilty for working outside the home part time doing something that fulfills her as a person. Even stay-home moms have hobbies, friends, leisurely pursuits, books, music, crafts, exercise writing etc that give them a sense of satisfaction outside of their children and that is healthy for the mother. Some women do not have crafts or painting so instead use a part time job as their outlet. My own mom worked part time outside the home and never once did I confuse my nanny for my mom or love the nanny more, I just saw the nanny as an additional person in my life but still loved my parents as my parents.

Mrs. Anna T said...

Dear Anon,

Thank you for your long and detailed comment. I do have to say, though, that while the child of the part-time-working mother still spends more hours at home than in daycare, this cannot be said about the child whose parents both work full-time. Our nephew and niece are in daycare from 7 AM till 6 PM - in school/preschool until 2 PM, and in an after-school program afterwards. This leaves about an hour or two before bedtime, during which time the children must also have supper and showers.

If the mother goes out to work part-time to seek self-fulfillment, she should be aware of the possible costs. If she is concerned, perhaps she will consider finding a creative/profitable outlet right there at her home, as you mentioned many homemakers have already. Naturally a creative pursuit, in the right measure, is healthy and good.

However, most women (and all men) I know work for money, not self-fulfillment. If the financial question is the only one on the table, it is worth sitting down to do the math. As a rule, part-time typical "mother jobs" don't pay very well either in terms of money or pension plans, nor are they particularly fulfilling. Most mothers I know who work part-time find employments as daycare workers, preschool and school teachers, cooks, secretaries, salespeople, etc. In other words, what they do doesn't provide much variety or inspiration, nor much money. Those with more interesting and prestigious jobs inevitably have to put in more hours, unless they are self-employed and have a flexible schedule.

Anonymous said...

I think children are more intelligent and intuitive than you give them credit for.
Even if they spend much time outside the house, they know where their home is: it's not just a question of a mere sum of hours,but also of love, affection and the value of the human connections.
I think that your reasoning it's a bit like saying that a man that works the majority of his time in an office ends up being more attached to his colleagues than to his wife and children, and more comfortable at his desk than in his house. Of course it isn't so, and it's no different for children.
Even if they are attached to their teachers or caretakers(which isn't a bad thing in itself, and I don't think the bond is so unreciprocated as you make it to be- many teachers remember their former pupils with genuine affection), they know who their parents are.
I spent a lot of time in my childhood with my grandparents, but i never confused them with my parents, I just loved them in a different way.
While I do agree that for a child it's not ideal to spend so much time in structured activity, as I believe they should be free to be more creative and have the chance to be imaginative, not to mention the rewards a parent has to spend more time with their children, I don't think that it works exactly as you said.

By the way, I do not agree with you with your comment about the majority of women working for "money" and not for "self-fulfillment".
I think we should let women, and people in general, decide for themselves what is their definition of self-fulfillment: for many, being a teacher, a cook, a nurse or whatever is important and rewarding, and wouldn't want to give it up even if the wage is not that high. Besides, these aren't the only work options for women, thankfully. And for many others the idea of financial resilience is fulfilling in itself, not to mention the chance to be friends with colleagues, or just the possibility of having an adult conversation.
So, I personally would avoid over-simplifying the matter.

take care