Courtney DeFeo is convinced that children should be happy.
She's also convinced that happiness mingles well with responsibility, gratitude, and patience.
She believes that kids can laugh and parents can love as they learn together about forgiveness, service, perseverance and joy.
(She also says this don't require sainthood, a degree in early childhood education, or a lavish budget!)
If you think about it, that's all kind of radical. (And doesn't it intrigue you?)
I read a childrearing book earlier in the year that taught that shame was discipline. It was negative about all elements of the modern world, and harsh toward children. It was basically "how to use the Bible to get good behavior out of young people," and it left me wondering how the kids were going to find the mystery, beauty, and grandeur of the Christian story. (The temptation was shoot, gut, and mount faith as a trophy on the wall. Nicely arranged, but stiff and dead.)
Courtney is more along the lines of "lets turn the kids loose with Jesus!"
(An idea I think Jesus encourages. There was this scene when He blessed some kids...)
I love her perspective. She knows what a grabby, fussy, whiny, malcontent child is like. She also knows that screaming in a kid's face might momentarily frighten them out of bad behavior, but it won't turn their heart toward sharing, giving, or loving.
And the opposite of screaming can't be bribery, either, because that just leads toward performing for personal reward.
So over the course of this highly readable book, Courtney made me laugh and provided ideas for living so that kids can imitate us.
The great thing is, these virtues shine on grown-ups or children alike, and we've never done practicing them. It's not a course you graduate from, it's a road you keep walking.
So "Pack your Patience." Realize that "You are enough, God is enough, we have enough."
Follow up apologies with an act of affection. Find grace in the middle of a mess- because kids remember the messy-day-turned-good for a long time. Don't stress so much about whether the kids say or do the wrong thing, and don't beat yourself up when you say and do the wrong things either.
Ask the kids "What made you say WOW today?" Make much out of the little gifts of life.
If us adults live these virtues out- imperfectly and honestly- and we invite kids to join the party, and we provide healthy and fun ways to be virtuous, the kids will enjoy the process and embody the goodness soon enough.
I like this book, I really do. My family was a little too reserved and quiet for some of the 60 Giggle Activities included here, but I think most of the under seven crowd would love them.
Thank you to Courtney and Blogging for Books for my review copy. This one is going to be shelved next to Amy Julia Becker's Small Talk. Packed together, those would be neat gifts for a Mom of preschoolers. Both books say "Your kids aren't perfect, and you don't need to be."