It's Not That Complicated
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It's Not That Complicated
Doug Peine
Health Communications, Deerfield Beach (Florida, USA), 2002 (2002)
151 pages, including index

Did you ever wonder how parents managed to raise their children in the past without the help of so many experts as we have these days? Did you ever ask yourself whether perhaps you are a bad parent because you do not follow up the latest literature on parenting? Is it really so difficult that we have to read surveys and research papers to find out whether it is self-esteem or discipline that helps our kids thrive and become productive members of society? Well, if you ever asked yourself these questions this book is for you.

Doug Peine's book comes across as a nice breeze of fresh air in a world that always appears to enjoy complicating things far more than they should. This is a trend that, for whatever reason, seems to have taken hold here in the USA more than in any other developed nation. One can hardly watch any talk show on TV without encountering an expert in this or that other field who appears to overwhelm us with so much scientific evidence and data that, by the time we are done watching, we are not sure where we stand anymore. What is worse. The assumed expert himself does not know where he stands either. All he has to offer is a bottomless well of raw data that only helps confuse matters. As it happens too often these days, we are offered mere information, and not knowledge (not to talk about wisdom). For whatever reason, we have come to assume that a massive amount of unstructured data on a given topic amounts to "knowledge" and in consequence we go about our lifes without even bothering to sit down and reflect on issues.

So, Doug Peine is not an expert in child psychology. He is simply a lawyer who lives and works in the Twin Cities, and he also happens to have a child. Why is he writing a parenting book then? As he explains himself:

"Although I have never taken a psychology course, I have other qualifications you should know about.
  • I am a child of parents.
  • I am also a parent of a child.
That means that while I may not have studied the theory of war at the academy, I have served in the armies on both sides. And I have paid close attention.
I have paid attention especially on those trips to Kmart we must all routinely hazard for the sundry essentials of modern life. While waiting in the checkout line I have not, like you, wasted my time furtively scanning the grotesque sotries in the tabloids.
No, I have found it vastly more interesting to watch the actual grotesque stories of the parent-child struggles that are played out in that venue as in no other place on Earth. It is those stories -the dreadful, little family dramas we've all been forced to witness- from which we will largely draw the lessons in this book."

(pp. 6-7)

But what can we learn from these routinary stories? Quite a bit, it appears. Doug Peine manages to come up with a nice list of "twelve rules for raising happy, self-reliant children" that can be summarized as follows:

  1. Mean what you say.
  2. Never strike your child.
  3. Do not force your child to make adult decisions.
  4. Never hold grudges.
  5. Threaten only those punishments you can carry out.
  6. Admit when you are wrong.
  7. Structure your child's life so that he learns to be responsible.
  8. Never belittle your child.
  9. Praise your child again and again.
  10. Never fight with your mate in front of your child.
  11. Read to your child every night.
  12. Let your child know you love her unconditionally.

I know what you are thinking: "gee, who didn't know that?". Well, that is precisely the point. Peine is no expert telling us about extravagant and revolutionary theories. He is simply sitting down, reflecting on the issue, and coming up with a list of practical rules. In other words, he is just applying common sense to the issue in question. Who ever said that is not good enough an advise? Besides, do not fool yourself into believing that just because the rules are simple they are also simple to apply in our lifes. I know for sure that even though I find them rationally evident, I myself have not been able to live up to them quite often. Why? Well, real life is not always as rational as we would like it to be, and we lose our temper quite often. When that happens, we do things that we wished we had not done. Come on! It's not that complicated!

This is a nice little book. Short, concise and clear, but also full of knowledge and common sense. Instead of approaching the problem as an academic endeavor, the author treats it as a practical challenge. That is precisely its strength, and that is precisely why parents should read it.

Entertainment factor: 6/10
Intellectual factor: 5/10