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A great idea but lacking in a few places
on 28 December 2012
I really wanted to read this book for two reasons: one negative and one positive. Initially I thought it sounded like a wonderful idea, but my negative reaction was `why make something special out of something that should be so commonplace?'
Then I remembered reading about how Penelope Leach (who kind of `invented' time-out) said she actually hated the very premise of time-out but that she was writing in an age when smacking children as a punishment was considered the only way to discipline a child, and in order to get parents to stop doing it, they needed to be given something else they felt might work. So maybe that's what Mr James is doing when he suggests parents give their children special time...?
The basic premise is that you give a struggling child intense and long, if possible, time with just one parent doing whatever he or she wants and with lots and lots of `I love you's from that parent. The book is divided into a `why' section, a `how to' section' and then the largest section is parents' stories from families who've tried it and for whom the technique of Love Bombing has `worked' (and some from a few where it hasn't worked).
Anyway, I read the book, feeling half sceptical, and half intrigued, and here's a tidied up version of the notes I wrote while I was reading it:
I'm feeling dubious about this. I try to ensure my children get plenty of this `love' and `time to choose' all the time, and I have noticed the competitiveness between my children that ensues when I single out one of the children for one-to-one time.
However, I have also noticed the vast improvement in our children when we give them time like this when they're struggling with something so I guess the premise makes a lot of sense.
He suggests that nearly everything should be allowed and the child really should be in control, but I find myself worrying about the `can I watch tv all day?' idea, in that I've noticed a very big deterioration in the emotional well-being of my children when they've watched a great deal of television, so I'm wondering if this couldn't end up being counter-productive in some respects?
Maybe my scepticism about the whole idea is that none of my children really are as out of control as some of the children in the book? Maybe this is a fantastic, amazing resource for creating a turning point in families where the child really has become `lost' in some way.
He does suggest that it's possible to do Love Bombing in short bursts, such as half an hour daily or so, which seems far more feasible to me (some of the parents actually took their children away to hotels for the weekend!).
I really loved reading some of the insights from the parents who tried it, for example Dawn's mum wrote:
"We have learnt to go to the place where she is at, rather than drag her to ours, it's incredibly rewarding. We are getting to know the child that she is rather than the one we would like her to be in theory."
I like to think we already do this with our children, but it's always good to have a reminder as we are far from perfect and often slip into that too-busy-to-really-notice-the-children mode that some parents seem to reside in 100% of the time (which are clearly the sort of parents this book could create incredible revelations for).
My criticisms of the book are this:
1. I would like to see an acknowledgement of the possibility of giving children more control over bigger areas of their lives, not just in very short bursts.
2. I don't like that it's labelled as a `technique', but then I guess that could be appealing to many parents in the same way taking a pill is - you feel like you're actually doing something proactive about a problem.
3. There are far too many stories of hotel stays and trips to expensive places like posh restaurants and theme parks . It's very off-putting as it's just not feasible for many families and these stories could very well alienate many parents very quickly.
4. I have looked and looked in the book, and there is nothing about how to manage the hurt feelings of the siblings of the child being `Love Bombed'. This really frustrates me as I have four children. Creating time for just one of them means taking that child away from the family completely ie. not just into another room, or doing something with just them, because otherwise all the other children want a look in, or suddenly need you urgently and Daddy just won't do (I think we've all experienced this phenomenon!)
Taking one child out for the day inevitably involves spending money, unless it's nice weather and what they want to do most in the world is have a walk and a picnic. It also takes up a lot of time when the other children will want the same at a later date...and by the time you've got through all four of them, it's probably time to start on the first again.
(I joke to my children that they have a `baton of dissatisfaction' that they pass from one to the other. Just when one child's current issue seems to have passed, another one picks up the baton and needs our attention!)
So what if your child urgently needs time with you alone, but you have no one who can care for your other children? Take one up to your bed and cuddle up with them hoping no one else notices? That works for a few minutes, I've found, but invariably one comes to ask for something and then what do you say? `Sorry, I am having special time with your sister at the moment, you'll have to wait'? Yes, that would work if the people we were dealing with were adults, but unfortunately they're not, they're children, so they don't just say `OK, I'll ask later, let me know when you're free'. They don't even say `OK, but can I have some special time later on as well?'. No, usually they say `Aw[...] I neeeeed yoooooooou noowwwwww, Mummeeeeeeeeeey'. Or they go away and come back thirty seconds later with some other `need'.
Can you tell this has irked me a little?
I would recommend this book, really I would, but I really would like to see Oliver James tackle this issue of multiple children in a more realistic way in future editions, and also to make it seem less expensive and put less emphasis on the lucky families who can afford hotel stays etc.