I typically prefer parenting advice to come from a biblical perspective and this book does not offer that specifically. But while no parenting book is perfect for every parent, there are usually a few gems of truth, and this book is no exception. Dr. Rimm's desire is to help parents foster achievement and an intrinsic desire to learn. I was encouraged when in the introduction about the importance of schools and teachers, she adds: "...parents are at least as crucial--in fact, even more so--in shaping children's attitudes towards learning." I knew then that the advice in the book would emphasize parental responsibility over that of schools, and that certainly there would be some advice for a homeschooling mom such as myself.
Dr. Rimm's book is divided into four main chapters, with additional resource lists and references in the final pages. Chapters include many sub-topics, but the main four include Empowering Your Children with the "V" of Love, United Parenting, Teaching Habits that Encourage Learning, and Setting Positive Expectations. My praise of Dr. Rimm is in her ability to pinpoint specific numerous troublesome behaviors in parents and in children and to advise on how to manage those behaviors towards a goal of academic achievement. It would be difficult to read this book and not find your own family's behaviors in its pages at some point.
In the first chapter about empowering children with love, she includes descriptions of how to empower, but not over-empower children. The "V" of love for which the chapter is named refers to how parents should begin at the bottom of the V, giving youngest children only small amounts of freedom, praise, and choice. As the child grows, so grows the opportunity for responsibility. Encouraging parents to take charge, set expectations, and be positive are all part of the first chapter. Dr. Rimm's discipline suggestions are firm and will not be acceptable to all parenting styles, however, there are numerous excellent tips and insights in this chapter.
The "United Parenting" chapter is extensive, and it discusses how parents sabotage each other, sometimes without even realizing it. Several scenarios are played out to show how these behaviors may impact children over time. Dr. Rimm's primary goal is to show how the impact relates specifically to academic achievement, so the end results and lessons are presented in this light. The lesson of providing a united front extends beyond parents, and advice is provided for divorcing parents, for single parents, and for abusive situations. In addition, the unique concerns of foster and adoptive parents are addressed, as well as how childcare givers, nannies, grandparents, aunts, and uncles can form a united front with the parents of the children for whom they care. Techniques for maintaining healthy sibling relationships are included as well. This chapter concludes with an extensive section about the parent-teacher united front, which would be helpful and practical for after-schoolers or families who see public or private school in their future.
The third chapter about habit instruction covers a lot of ground. Tips on study habits, developing self-discipline, limited TV use, and diligent academic work are all included, as well as specific studying tips for various subject areas. At times, I felt the emphasis was too heavily placed on figuring out what the school teacher wants and then working to that end, but overall the advice is towards independent learning habits and fostering a desire to succeed for success' sake rather than to please a parent or teacher.
Chapter four focuses on setting positive expectations, primarily through role models, both inside and outside of the home. Sub-topics include immigrant parents, peers as role models, TV or sports "heroes", adolescent self-image, and pursuit of a college education. It is, indeed, a wide range, which is consistent with earlier chapters, resulting in a book with scenarios and tips for countless family situations.
Throughout the book, sample scripts are offered to demonstrate ways parents might speak to each other and to children about behaviors and achievement. At the end of each chapter is an extensive set of questions Dr. Rimm has received over time, followed by her very thorough responses. These cover a broad range of topics related to the chapter and provide the reader with specific situational solutions that demonstrate the application of her teachings.
At just over 300 pages, this book is jam-packed with as many lessons, tips, and scenarios as possible. For this reason, it would be impossible to implement Dr. Rimm's advice after a single reading. Rather, the book would be useful as a reference, and to assist in this, large black arrows labeled "Parent Pointer" are placed in the margins to draw attention to helpful tips. These are very easy to see while thumbing through the book and the tips they point to are in bold type. Suggestions for what words to say and how to say them would take practice, and to implement much of what she suggests would be an on-going discipline for parents. At times, I found the volume of advice to be overwhelming, providing almost too many do's and don'ts.
Dr. Rimm's style is one of direct, no-nonsense practicality, which appeals to me as a parent. However, while her parenting tips regarding general family-life, behavior, expectations, and communication are applicable to all families in some manner, Dr. Rimm's primary audience is likely to be parents of publicly schooled children which leaves homeschool families to sift through to find applicable information. Homeschool families seeking advice on how to develop the parent-as-teacher role in their homes will want to choose a different book. There are, doubtless, many other resources for this kind of advice. In addition, Christian parents will need to view the author's advice through a biblical filter to weed out a few questionable philosophies. Utilizing Dr. Rimm's book in our home as a reference will prove to be helpful as we attempt to raise our own "happy, achieving children" and we will simply implement only the advice that applies to our family.