Top critical review
9 people found this helpful
American version not adapted to UK or Europe
on 14 November 2013
A friend recommended this book to me, or at least the 'Positive Discipline' series. On the plus side, the book is very easy to read and the aim of the book is exactly was I was looking for. The early chapters deal with development and personality traits of preschoolers, including the differences of attitudes based on birth order. So far so good. The first weakness of the book comes with the behavioural problems. I have experienced some of them with my boys, but the solutions suggested are much too vague to be of any use.
Throughout the book the authors keep repeating that children need love, encouragement, attention and hugs. That's all very well, but most people already know that, and that is not enough to solve a lot of common problems. For example, around the age of three, my eldest child started going to bed very late, and during a few months he wouldn't sleep until 11 pm to midnight. He would scream and cry for hours if forced to go to bed. We have tried everything, but nothing worked. Then suddenly, around the age of four, everything returned to normal, and he went to bed at reasonable hours all by himself. The same situation happened with the second boy, who always slept very easily until the age of two, and even asked to go to bed when he was tired. Within a few weeks he changed radically and we just couldn't get him to sleep until 11 pm. None of the methods in 'Positive Discipline' helped even a little bit. I think that there are just phases of development when children are more difficult to go to bed, seek undue attention or engage in power struggles. In my experience all of these have resolved by themselves without any change required in our behaviour towards the children. It's like adolescence. It comes and goes. Unfortunately the authors failed to admit that this was the case and basically say that if a child misbehaves it must be because the parents do something wrong. Since their only tips are to give them more love, attention, encouragement and hugs, they are making the parents feel guilty about no 'giving' enough, when in fact sometimes overprotected kids turn out to be the more problematic ones.
Furthermore, the authors are strongly opposed to television, computers and video games for preschoolers, explaining that it causes them to become more violent, limit their language development, and weaken their attention span. In my experience, all of this is false. My eldest boy watched in average one hour of TV per day since he was one year old and he now has an amazing attention span. He can concentrate for hours on drawing or solving puzzles. He is very well behaved (not violent) and has a large vocabulary for his age. He actually learned to read his first words by navigating video games menus at the age of three. The important thing is that children watch age-appropriate programmes that are both fun and educational. We don't let the kids watch the news or any adult programme. As for video games, there are plenty of them that aren't violent, like most sports game or Nickelodeon games for preschoolers. A recent study by the Max Planck Institute (Kühn et al., 2013, Mol Psychiatry) found that video games actually help brain development, increasing spatial orientation, memory formation, strategic planning and fine motor skills. People playing video games regularly have more grey matter and a bigger right cerebral hemisphere than people who never or rarely play. The authors are just not up-to-date with modern lifestyle and technologies, and reject what they don't know.
The other main criticism I have against this book is that they didn't bother to adapt it to the British or European market. This series has been translated in many languages, and adapted to the local culture along with the translation. But there isn't a British version. Most of the examples about food, age-appropriate tasks and choosing a preschool are so American that they are irrelevant and useless to non-American readers. There were also chapters that didn't apply to us, like preschoolers who still can't go on the potty, or how lonely parents should seek help with their church community. That only leaves half of the book dealing with interesting subjects, but unfortunately, not much in that half either that I didn't already know or that is actually useful.