If you haven’t heard of William Sears, we can safely assume that a) you don’t have any children and b) you don’t read any books on children. For everyone else, his name is practically set in concrete in the child-rearing world. Bill is a pediatrician and his wife, Martha, is a nurse, and together they’ve both parented eight (I think?) of their own children.
This always makes them fascinating reading, because they’re able to approach issues from a medical/developmental point of view and a hands-on “we’ve-tried-it-too” point of view as parents themselves. They’re also Christians, but the majority of their books (including this one) are written for a secular audience and by secular publishers, so they don’t refer very much to their faith in this book.
For that reason, you will find that this book doesn’t help with the spiritual side of raising children, and the type of goals that the Sears are aiming you towards are the more vague goals of raising “responsible adults” and having kids “that feel right”, etc.
Also, as per the previous post, you will respond more or less favourably to this book based on your own attitudes towards children and discipline. The Sears are strong proponents of “attachment parenting” which, to sum it up very briefly, involves making sure that you spend lots and lots of time with your children during the first two years of life. This includes wearing them in slings, letting them sleep in your bed, cuddling them whenever they want a cuddle, breastfeeding them whenever they’re hungry, etc.
It is the Sears’ belief that if you do this, you will have developed such a strong attachment (thus the name) between parent and child that you will be on a much stronger footing when it comes to enforcing discipline.
Now some people take this to mean that the Sears are promoting letting their children run your life and making the world revolve around them. To a degree this is true (certainly, relative to putting your child in a corner and only feeding them at set times during the day, etc., attachment parenting is quite child-centric). So if that rings alarm bells with you, you’re probably not going to like it.
However, it seems to me that no marriage would survive if you only showed love to your spouse on a scheduled, mechanical basis. If your spouse needs you, you respond to her/him. So why would you treat your children any differently? You do have to take into account their immaturity, and the Searses certainly do, but their is no good reason to treat a child any less than you would your spouse.
All that out of the way, if you can buy into the attachment parenting approach, this book is amazingly comprehensive. Covering everything from toilet training to tantrum throwing to helping them share their toys, this book has it all. Also, none of it is written in an abstract theoretical style. Bill and Martha have seen most situations with their own kids, so they’re writing about things that they have seen work for them. (Which is where the age thing comes in. Being only young, with one toddler daughter, I haven’t seen all this for myself and have to take the Searses word for it.)
Given the proviso about the lack of a spiritual dimension, and whatever qualms you may have about attachment parenting (I don’t have that many myself), I quite like this book. The Searses approach is calm, and everything they say about the development of a child seems quite sound to me.
I don’t know that I’d push this book on everyone, because it is quite distinctly in a certain camp about child-rearing, but it’s certainly worth considering.
Should also mention (because let’s face it, for most of us discipline = spanking) that the Searses are anti-spanking, and I’m still not sure what I make of that myself. I’d like to be able to say more about it, but I’m still thinking that one through.
So for now, I’ll give this book a 4 1/2 out of 5 for what it is, but recommend that you supplement this book with others from a Christian perspective.