Safe House: how emotional safety is the key to raising kids who live, love, and lead well by Joshua Straub has probably been the hardest book I have read in order to review here on the blog.
The reason for the delay was not due to boredom, or forgetfulness, or any other such reason. It all had to do with me not being able to sit down and read through the book. I emotionally could not do it; it was hitting too close to home. The topics it was touching on are the exact things we as a family have been working hard at creating. We are not fully there and probably will not be for many years. Progress is being made, there are many signs of it, but there are also signs of where our walls are weak or too high.
Joshua Straub points out both research and biblical references to support his claim that emotional safety is important. I can attest via personal experience. When there is not a solid connection with your child, there is no personal growth in them. When kids feel like they can not trust you, they are in a constant state of stress, hyper-vigilance, anxiety, or other such negative states. Even writing those last few sentences have increased my heart rate due to remembering how things used to be in our household for several years.
Safe House is not written specifically for families who have adopted kids, or who are helping raise kids with a hard early childhood. It is a good book for those families, but it is also a great book for every family to have. Safe House is not a how-to book nor a new philosophy of ways to parent. Instead it encourages you to approach parenting from a new view point. Once you stand back and look, think about what you are trying to do and analyze if what you are doing will actually get you there, then you can take a breath and jump back in.
Joshua Straub begins the book showing various studies concerning childhood development, long term results from various parenting styles, and how certain traits in kids lead to certain traits in adults. He shows the good and not so great. (click here to get a preview of Chapter 1)
Next Straub goes into how using this information can lead us to becoming better parents. If we understand the needs at certain stages, we can address them, fulfill them, and avoid some problems later on. Using the analogy of a house, he explains how a balance in four various area helps fulfill these needs, thereby creating adults who can go into the world knowing how to live, love, and lead well.
The four walls of a Safe House are Exploration, Protection, Grace, and Truth. If any of these walls are too high (stressed too much) or short (not often present), then your house will not be stable (your kids will not feel safe). The look of these walls change over time, but they are always present.
While scoring the parenting quiz at the end of Chapter 5, I became worried. See, I know my tendencies and the results were showing them clear as day. I am definitely not a BFF Parent, a do as you want, parent, my score was pretty much zero. I tend on the Religious and Bossy side of things. As for being a Helicopter Parent or a Boss Parents or a Religious Parent, the scores were pretty evenly divided.
I began to worry as there was no clear winner in any one particular category. How was I going to improve if I had no idea what I kind of parent I really was? Was I sending similarly mixed signals to my kids? Was I the reason why they did not seem to know how to handle themselves in various situation? In other words, I started to freak out.
Then I got to the scores as a Safe Parent. The results were twice what they were for being Religious or a Boss type parent. It seems I have not been as wishy-washy as I had feared.
I took both of those results to mean that while I usually hold a balance, at times behaviors or situation call for me to act more in one realm than others. Part of this also has to do with the different way my kids function, which I took into account while interpreting the result.
After years of trying various behavior management and failing, I no longer promote parenting in that way. I usually have to clarify, though, as there is nothing inherently wrong with sticker charts or time outs or earning privileges. It is the way you approach them. If you give a time out because a kid is acting poorly,but do not connect with them emotionally to figure out what is really happening and why, then you are managing the behavior. The kid will not learn how to regulate himself. He will only learn that he should not do that action if he does not want to get into trouble. But he does not learn what he should be doing.
Yes, we still give our kids consequences, both good and bad. We still use the wrong wording at times and say they have ‘earned’ a privilege by behaving well and not draining our energy. Yes, we/I still have room for improvement on the language side of things.
At school, George has a sticker chart for homework that he loves to have filled in and gets very protective on it if someone even dares move it. It works very well for him in that setting. The difference is, they are not parenting him. They are teaching him and really do need to regulate behaviors of multiple kids from multiple backgrounds. In that setting this method works very well for them. We, however, are in it for the long haul and are worried about more than our kids sitting still in their seats while practicing this week’s spelling words.
The final chapters of the book take a look at one aspect of parenting many of the books I have read tend to ignore, your marriage and you personally. If our marriage and our personal lives are in chaos, how can we give provide a stable, safe house for our kids? If we are not seeking after God in a healthy way and demonstrating it in our lives, how can we expect our kids to understand how to do it?
I appreciated these final chapters, showing how our parenting come out of our lives as individuals. Who we are as individuals will spill over into who we are as parents.
Safe House: how emotional safety is the key to raising kids who live, love, and lead well by Joshua Straub is a great resource to understanding our roles as parents in creating a life for our children to become great adults. We are not in control of the choices they will make, but we can do our best to set them up for success by creating a safe environment from which they can grow.
There are no affiliate links in this post. I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.