When I read the sentence “The U.S is one of the least affectionate civilized nations on Earth” in Little People: Guidelines for Common Sense Child Rearing, I knew I was in for a fun ride. The discussion about the mindset of parent-child interaction is excellent. The general philosophy of this book is that the parent is the teacher. (This differs from 1-2-3 Magic in which the parent is a benign dictator dealing with the power inequities in the house.)
In the parent-as-teacher theme, Edward R. Christophersen covers common situations in play and discipline. I initially thought 1-2-3 Magic immersed the reader in the mindset of parents and children, but I now realize that most of 1-2-3 Magic only applies to “discipline” situations.
1-2-3 Magic is great for dealing with the daily logistics of being a parent and the behavior management required. 1-2-3 Magic’s broader discussion about the nature of being a parent is not as good as Little People. That depth is Christophersen’s strength–he really understands and elegantly nests his advice in childhood development.
His examination of the parent-child relationship is fascinating although his views can occasionally be a little off-kilter. For example, he places a huge emphasis on non-verbal physical contact (patting heads, tussling hair). He recommends that each parent should try this 100 times a day to their child up to ten years of age. The phrase, “time-in is touching, not speaking” struck me as a little strange, however, his discussion of the idea is more interesting than anything else that I have read.
He takes advice that I give in the office, like “put your child down drowsy but awake,” and re-frames the discussion to remove the parent as the transition object during bedtime.
Another topic addressed grandparents, who are not to handle the baby upon return from the hospital. When dealing with the newborn, parents should allow grandparents to help with mundane tasks are the house. He also covers topics that I had not previously read: How to talk to your children about divorce and sex.
There were some limitations to the book. It tells you a lot of “why” and not as much “how” in a narrative fashion that may annoy a new parent who is trying to quickly find an answer. Overall, I felt like I was reading a good novel at times.
I know that my dad would not agree with a light spank being added to the “Silent Return” routine at night. That may be an anachronism from an earlier edition. By that same token, the television section is inadequate. Of course, media is changing so quickly that research on media and children from five years ago seems outdated.
In conclusion, Little People: Guidelines for Common Sense Child Rearing is a wide-ranging book that deftly explores what it means to be a parent. His influential writing demonstrates that he has a better understanding of parent-child relations than some other authors. This book is not for every parent but it is a hell of an interesting read. If you like this book, you can also check out Christopherson’s Beyond Discipline: Parenting That Lasts a Lifetime. Happy reading!