I picked this book up because I had the good fortune to meet the author and her family and I was very impressed at what a good job she and her husband had done in raising four articulate, intelligent and well-mannered children (no easy task these days!). Simply on a personal level I thought anyone who could do that must know a thing or two and be worth listening to.
'Daring To Be Different' is a book for families of faith, but that is not to say that it isn't relevant to others. I have yet to have children of my own and I have yet to find a partner who would like to raise them within my faith (Roman Catholic), but I do know that if/when the time comes I will look to women like Sarah Johnson who have "been there and done it" successfully, for advice.
There is so much in this book about practical parenting; encouraging and rewarding positive behaviours whilst discouraging the negative; listening - *really* listening - to children and making time for them. That said, Johnson has no miracle formula for dealing with recalcitrant children. But she does know that kids thrive with set routines and clear boundaries. She is realistic about ways in which children test those boundaries and throw their parents curve-balls. Similarly, the author knows that no matter how good children are at heart, there will always be squabbles, tantrums, slammed doors and hurt feelings. This book is realistic about the ups and downs of family life and presents practical, and creative, ways of coping with them. ANY parent, not just a Catholic parent, will find this book helpful.
The overall tone of the book might be summed up in this one paragraph: "It is dispiriting to live with negatives all the time. It's better to consider ways of building enjoyable positives into your family life. You can allow your children to remember their Christian upbringing as a long succession of prohibitions, or your can create memories of fun and warmth that are inextricably linked with the faith they are learning to follow. Which would you prefer?"
Sarah Johnson's advice is intelligent, easy-going, and not remotely 'preachy'. It is a brilliant reminder of how faith can be a positive force in everyone's lives, and of how it can be used to create a framework for the rhythms and routines that children naturally enjoy. 'Daring to be Different' has the courage of its convictions and should sit alongside the 'First Aid Manual' on any family's bookshelf, for frequent reference.