Children thrive when parenting includes encouragement, is light-handed, humorous and makes space for them to be themselves. They wither under parenting that is over full of criticism, heavy handed, intense and controlling.
In 500 pages Nicky and Sara Lee resource parents who want to build a more spacious family life, equipped to school their children in the science of building good relationships, which sits lightly to multiplying rules and aims at getting heart into things.
The book is thick but it’s got a spacious feel and amusing sketches make it an easy read to help mums and dads have fruitful conversations on improving their parenting. I liked the cartoons of children with square screen faces, or being pulled out of screens, illustrating the major inter-generational tension of loss of real-life to virtual online relationships. There is good practical advice on dealing graciously with internet, TV, alcohol, sex, drugs, money and eating habit related issues.
Unconditional love is a recurring theme and there is an un-spelled implication that parents who welcome it from God in Christ should be well equipped to offer it their children. This writer was a little bit convicted of the opposite! Sometimes Christian parents can take more pride in setting distinct boundaries than building the space necessary in a family for the unconditional love they say they believe in to be expressed and experienced.
The Lee’s speak into an area that makes or breaks people and they do so graciously, amusingly and with rigour. I liked the idea of teenagers out late having to cancel an alarm clock set for their curfew placed outside their bedroom door so mum and dad sleep without worry, unless their offspring misses the deadline, of which fact all in the house are then notified, to the shame of the miscreant!
Dealing with hurt and anger is an essential family and life skill. In the book opposite types of unhealthy reaction are labelled graphically: rhinos are volatile and charge around letting you know how they feel; hedgehogs withdraw burying their feelings from view. Once we are aware of the way family members express anger we can help one another, not least in ‘pressing the pause button’, another graphic analogy.
The book concluded with sections on passing on values and building a child’s spiritual life recommending the light use of possessions, kindness, forgiveness and trust in God.
The Revd Dr John Twisleton, Rector of St Giles, Horsted Keynes 10 February 2012