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Three Books for Parents March 21, 2008

Posted by TimTheFoolMan in Parenting/Children.
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What is it that brings you here? A search engine? Some well-intentioned friend suggested that you read some parenting advice? Does having two sons (one born in ’88 and the other born in ’91) make me an expert? If you judge a tree by its fruit, is my tree one that is worth pruning a branch from for your own parenting adventure?

five_love_languages how_to_win_friends five_dysfunctions

Since you’re still reading, I’ll assume that, for whatever reason, you believe that I have something worthwhile to say about raising kids. Regardless of the truth of that statement, we’ll accept it as a given for the sake of this posting. Here, I’ll give you my secret. I’ll fill you in on most everything I know (and some things that I need to keep re-learning) about parenting. After reading this, you’ll be able to safely ignore everything else I have to say about raising children. Honest.

Actually, This is a Book Review
This will actually be a multi-book review, because I’m going to point you to three books that sum up virtually everything that I have known and applied when raising my sons. Some of the things here I’ve done better than other things, but I have not found anything in these three books that should not be read by new or soon-to-be parents.

Book 1: The Five Love Languages
This was an amazing book for me, and one that taught me a great deal about communicating love to my sons. (Yes, I know there’s an edition that he wrote with specific instructions for children. Having read this book first, I found the version for children to be a little repetitive. Even though this book is geared toward “significant other” relationships, the principles apply just as well to a healthy relationship with your children.)

Here’s the short version. Human beings tend to communicate love in one of five basic ways: Acts of service, physical touch, receiving gifts, quality time, and words of affirmation.

And now a quick way to make this concept useful: Think of how one of your children most commonly communicates love to you. Do they make you a gift of some kind? Do they want to hug you? Is it one-on-one time with you where they have your undivided attention? However they show love to someone else is possibly the main way that they will hear or feel love from someone else.

Clearly, it’s more complicated than this, but that’s the gist of it. Read the whole book. It’s well worth the time and (minimal) effort.

Book 2: How to Win Friends and Influence People
People who haven’t read this book probably look at the title and are turned off. This is not some Machiavellian treatise about manipulating people around you. This is a basic handbook about human-to-human interaction.

I first read this when I was a teenager (the 1970’s… get over it), and I remember it feeling “dated” back then, so I’m sure it will read even more that way to someone picking it up for the first time today. First published in 1937, it’s filled with references to life that seem straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting.

Regardless, this book is a “must have” for anyone who deals with people. If you’re stranded on a desert island, you can probably do without this book. For everyone else, there are fabulous lessons like, “You Can’t Win an Argument” and “If You’re Wrong, Admit It.” Simple? Absolutely. That doesn’t change the fact that most of us ignore the principles in this book, every day.

Yes, it’s true that you can influence people even if you’re a jerk. Don’t be one of those people.

Book 3: The Five Dysfunctions of a Team
The author of this book, Patrick Lencioni, is seriously ADD. This is not an exaggeration, and it’s something I think he would fully own up to.

I first saw him at a seminar that was rather pompously titled, “Lead Like Jesus,” and watching him was absolutely exhausting. Only Scott Meyers, noted C++ programmer/author, wears me out more during a presentation. (Those of you who aren’t programmers can substitute “Howie Mandel” for “Scott Meyers” in the previous sentence and get most of the effect, unless you’ve never seen Howie Mandel’s stage show.)

Lencioni’s stage antics notwithstanding, he’s a gifted author who teaches in parables. That real-life stories were also the medium most often used by Jesus to teach in the New Testament is not a coincidence.

However, don’t make the mistake of thinking that this is a book of theology. In fact, other than recognizing the similarity of teaching style, you’ll not find in-your-face scriptural references or heavy-handed preaching. This is not a book about faith, or about your walk with God. This is a practical book about figuring out how to make a team of people work together most effectively.

Appendix
Like the part of the anatomy by the same name, this section isn’t strictly necessary. You can live without it. You can stop reading at any time, and your life will still have meaning. Still here? Well, in that case, I’ll try to sum up what I’ve said above. (This is also helpful for those of you who skip to the end of stories… Tiffany.)

First, if you don’t love your partner or your kids, everything else is pretty meaningless. If you love them, then learn how to express love in a way that they will feel. Without figuring this out, don’t bother with the rest.

Second, the relationships we’re talking about here are crucial. Your job isn’t more important than these. Your hobby isn’t more important than these. If they are, see the paragraph above. Don’t these relationships deserve your best effort? Don’t they deserve as much energy as what you put toward other activities?

Third, someone has observed that there are lots of ways for families to be happy, but there are a lot of similarities between dysfunctional ones. This is true at work, at church, and in your home. Build trust, allow (and encourage) healthy conflict, encourage commitment, demand accountability, and focus on what’s really important. Do these things, and you’ll have a strong team, and strong team members

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