To start off, you should know that Tom has a great sense of humor (he had me laughing out loud many time during the book) as well as impeccable credentials. He got an advanced degree in early childhood education. He spent a decade working at Stanford’s renowned Bing Nursery School, a pioneer in child development research. And he’s run a kids’ play space as well as a preschool. He’s also a father. Boom.
I loved this book from the moment I picked it up. Here’s why.
It opens with the concept that you are the leader of your family. Do you follow leaders who are grumpy, downtrodden, annoyed, frustrated or bored? No! You follow leaders who are enthusiastic, uplifting, calm, confident, and respectful. So as a parent, you should strive to embody these same characteristics. “Your energy and your attitude are absolutely key,” Tom writes on page 2.
I have read so many parenting books that take you through the logistics, the how-to, the care and comfort of your child, even the discipline side of things, but never ever mention attitude.
I am naturally a very high energy and enthusiasm person, so I feel blessed that this is how I strive to go about life and parenting. But I have noticed what a difference it makes with my own kids when I am tired, sick, in pain, or in a pissy mood. They immediately react. They are like tiny weather veins who pick up on the slightest change in the breeze blowing through town.
“Fake it Till They Become It,” Tom says. It’s a virtuous cycle. If you do your best to put forth positive, engaging energy, you’ll end up with happier, more cooperative kids, and that will make you more enthusiastic, and that will make them even more confident… and so on and so forth.
Tom then goes on to talk about how critical is that we respect our children and teach them to respect us and others.
I feel like too many parents these days let their kids get away with obnoxious behavior. I was at a friends’ house recently. Her 10 year-old and 8 year-old had left their trash scattered all about their playroom: Popcorn packaging, a pizza crust from the night before, glasses half-filled with yesterday’s lemonade. I could’t help but say, “Isn’t it disrespectful of your mom when you leave your garbage all over the place? Come on, let’s pick it up together!” I was met by dirty glances.
But we’re all so much happier as a family if we respect one another. Respect is a good reason to say please and thank you, but it goes deeper than that. It also means keeping our voices down when we’re at a restaurant so we don’t disturb the other lovely people who are trying to enjoy their Sunday morning. It means chipping in for the chores (our 18 month-olds help put away their toys, because it’s never too soon)! It means taking care of one another — even strangers — because we all deserve to be treated well.
And most importantly, it means us respecting our kids. Listen to them, Tom pleads with us. When they act up, ask what’s going on for them emotionally, help them to define it aloud, then assist them in considering other possible responses rather than lashing out in anger, frustration or sadness.
But the bottom line is we need to accept them for who they are. And accepting them means expecting that they will struggle, act out, test limits, question us, and frankly seem like jerks sometimes. It’s part of growing up!
I won’t give away all of Tom’s secrets here. Buy the book for yourself!
As one final plug, I will say that What They Won’t Tell You About Parenting is also short and a quick read. I finished the entire thing on a solo five-hour plane flight from San Francisco to Honolulu. Enjoy!