I was researching for a follow-up post to “Pledge to be a Better Parent” when the good folks at Focus on the Family Singapore handed me a few books to read. I wasn't intending to write a review for It's Your Kid, Not A Gerbil, but after reading a couple of chapters, I thought: “Why not?” So here it is.
If you need parenting advice, get it from someone who has been there, done that. Repeatedly. Like Dr. Kevin Leman, who has five kids.
However, parents who subscribe to the notion of kiasuism, helicopter parenting, overparenting, or whatever it is called these days, may deem the tone too preachy for their liking. Which is a shame. While the front part of the book relies heavily on personal anecdotes or just pure persuasion to argue its case, some research data from relevant sources or experts in the field are used subsequently to back up Leman's statements. (“Did you know that, on average, fathers communicate with their teenage children just 35 minutes per week?”)
There are also plenty of compelling proclamations throughout the book, like this:
If you want to make a difference in your kid's life, then you need to be in your kid's life. No volleyball coach or piano teacher can take your place.
You can't cheat a child in your priorities and then somehow make it up with a bit of “quality time”, which is almost always defined by the parent's convenience and availability, not the kid's preference.
Leman also uses analogies that fathers can identify easily. For example, “Being gifted without having a healthy life attitude is like a Formula One race car without much rubber left on the tires – fast in the straightways but dangerous in the turns. Life is mostly about navigating those turns, some of them hairpin sharp.”
In the same chapter (Chapter 4), Leman postulates that parents worry all the time about their child's performance because they “see those grades as a reflection not only of their child's worth but also of their own as well”. However, he notes that grades are simply a measure of what a student has been able to achieve in the classroom and may not even indicate whether he or she is learning.
Unfortunately, some of the chapters are a bit repetitive and the points raised by Leman sound like common sense or overused arguments. Halfway through, the book meandered to parenting advice (e.g. on discipline) that's unrelated to the subject matter of its title.
It's a good read, but it probably won't win many converts despite the liberal dose of humour sprinkled throughout the book.
Proud father of two lovely kids, who at times pushed me to seriously consider editing out the word “lovely” from this sentence. (I am not alone in this.)