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Raising Good Kids: Back to Family Basics

“The key to good living – family and otherwise – is not simply knowing what to do, but in doing what we know,” clinical psychologist and radio host Ray Guarendi says in “Raising Good Kids.”

He believes that “the only secret to raising good kids is that there are no secrets.” His recommendation to parents, therefore, is to “master some basics.” Having done so, he advises them, they’ll be well on their way. For, “great family life is firmly grounded on basics.”

What Discipline Is–And Is Not

Conversations I have had with young parents lead me to suspect that the author’s chapter on discipline will stand out for many readers. Discipline is a challenging dimension of child rearing today in which parents often second-guess themselves and are uncertain what to do.

Guarendi writes, “To raise an exemplary human being, you need discipline: high expectations backed by clear consequences.” Many parents, I am certain, will welcome this book’s discussion of possible kinds of consequences to use with children.

Guarendi appears to recognize what parents find confusing about exercising discipline in consistent, caring ways. In a helpful, direct way, he analyzes not only what discipline is, but what it is not.

Parents who think that being strict means being “loud, mean or getting personal” are on the wrong track, Guarendi indicates. Yet, he says, “when love flows around and through the discipline,” it will prove hard to be too strict.

Parents are advised not to confuse “authentic discipline with its counterfeits: excess words, high volume and nasty emotions.” For Guarendi, “nagging, negotiating, threatening, yelling” are not discipline; they only produce “more words and more frustration.”

Authentic discipline is an essential, though. And if parents do not discipline their children now, the world may discipline them later, Guarendi warns. Explaining that the world out there can be harsh, he writes:

“If a child acts nasty, he sits on the couch. Brutal. If an adult acts nasty, he could get fired, punched or have to sleep on the couch in the basement.”

So in Guarendi’s view, “a loving parent is his child’s kindest, most gentle teacher about life.”

What Makes Families Work

This book’s five chapters also discuss the importance of respect among family members, teaching morals at home, the need for listening and time spent together. Weighing in on the debate over which matters more, quality or quantity time spent with children, Guarendi seems to come down on the side of quantity.

“Time together is sometimes just time side by side,” he writes. And he believes that some of the most important and memorable conversations parents and children have will erupt spontaneously when they simply are together.

In a “go-go, do-do, run-run society,” Guarendi thinks “we have devalued the currency” of “unscheduled hours” together.

“Raising Good Kids” is packed with insights on what makes families work and what works against families. When it comes to factors that work against families, I noticed that Guarendi turned attention three times in three different areas of the book to issues surrounding the new electronic media of communication.

Readers may feel much less inclined after finishing his book to allow teens and younger children to text message anytime, anywhere, or endlessly to wear headsets around the house, or to spend excessive amounts of time playing video/computer games.

The author refers to headsets, cell-phone texting, instant messaging, social networking and various other forms of cyberspace communication as “conversation usurpers.” They will, he advises parents, “steal countless moments of real-life communication.”

In “Raising Good Kids,” parents will find ideas to use. And since its pages are few, the book undoubtedly will not seem forbidding to time-pressed parents. Furthermore, Guarendi’s considerable, personal experience as a parent of 10 should serve to shore-up his credibility with other parents on matters that concern and often worry them greatly.

About the reviewer
David Gibson is the former, now-retired editor of Origins, CNS Documentary Service.

Disclaimer: Book reviews do not imply and are not to be used as official endorsement by the USCCB of the work or those associated with the work. Book reviews are solely intended as a resource regarding publications that might be of interest to For Your Marriage visitors.