One-Year War and Peace E2.9 – External World, Time and Causes

Reading for Thursday, June 25

Well, here we go – Tolstoy delves even further into free will. Sadly, having left this since last week, it’s now even harder to pick up the thread, but I’ll do my best.

Basically, he’s talking about how we have this dual tension between seeing that the world is run by immutable laws (assuming that you’ve bought everything he’s said so far) and thus we have no real free will. However, we perceive we have free will . . .

…depending on how much we know about our relation to the external world, time and causes.

1. External World – so if someone grows up in external circumstances (such as you grow up in a rough neighbourhood with drug addict parents), then we’d say you have little free will if you became a criminal. If, however, you grew up in the good part of town – then we’d say you exercised free will in deciding to be a drug pusher.

2. Time – If you committed a crime a long time ago, we can kind of see the events that led to it. If you did it 5 minutes ago, it’d seem completely out of the blue.

3. Causes – if we understand all the events that led to something, we don’t attribute it to free will. If we do, then we are less likely to say someone had a choice about something.

Does all this make sense? What he’s really saying is that, in his view of the world, while it might seem like we have free will at any particular point, or it might look like someone else did, the more we understand about their environment, the more distance from the events, and the more we understand the causes behind things, the more we can explain everything away as being inevitable.

Book Review: The No-Cry Sleep Solution (Elizabeth Pantley)

Well, here we go – second-last of my parenting books to be finished.  First off, I’ve got to hand it to Elizabeth Pantley – she is a remarkably good writer.  Everything she puts down is calm and very methodical, so even if the advice does nothing, the book calms you down while reading it.

I’ll be interested to see how this book goes while putting it into practice, which Rachel and I are going to try.  Not having tried that yet, I can only comment on the information contained in the book, not on how effective it is.  But here goes:

Currently, when it comes to books on getting your child to sleep, there are really only two different methods that are put forward.  The most common is “let them cry it out”.  This is not rocket science.  At night time, you put your baby in their cot and leave them there. They will cry.  You let them cry until they fall asleep.

Obviously, the main trick with this technique is getting the parent (especially the mother) to put up with the child’s screaming until such time as the baby gets used to it.

On the other hand, there is also a group of people who say that this is quite an inhumane thing to do and that letting the baby scream causes quite severe distress to the baby.  However, what does this mean?  That we’re supposed to just stay up all night, feeding the Baby That Never Sleeps?

In the middle of all this somewhere is Elizabeth Pantley, who suggests all manner of things that parents can try to get their baby to sleep – none of which require letting your baby get all upset and scream.

I quite like the suggestions here (such as establishing a clear night-time routine, having a regular nap each day) and think they make sense from what we’ve seen with Shelby over the last 18 months.  But, whether we can improve her sleep remains to be seen. But for now, we’ll give it a cry.

I’ll give this a 5 out of 5 if it works.

Book Review: The Discipline Book (William Sears)

The Discipline BookIf 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.

Holiday Project: Books on Parenting

Hi all,

Seeing as I’m on holidays till New Years Day in the glorious Atherton Tablelands (seriously, you should come up here sometime!), I’ve set myself the holiday project of reading five books on parenting.

Well, actually, they’re not strictly all on parenting in general.  The pile consists of (along with accompanying reason for reading:

The Discipline Book by William & Martha Sears, which deals with the issue of discipline particularly.  Reason for Reading:  Now that I’m the parent of a toddler (who I can actually hear screaming in the background, actually . . .), I’ve noticed that she’s starting to get a mind of her own, and a stronger temperament. With a range of parenting techniques out there, all claiming to be gospel, I’m interested in understanding what people are saying.  Dr Sears is widely loved by many people in the “attachment parenting” circles (you can Google that if you don’t know what it is), and is certainly not a voice to be ignored when it comes to parenting.  He’s pretty upfront that he’s not in favour of spanking, etc., which I’m not sure that I agree with – but you can’t just complain if you haven’t read the book.  So that’s why that’s on the list.

How to Make your Children Mind Without Losing Yours by Kevin Leman, which is pretty much the same thing. Reason for Reading:  Same as above.  Leman’s another popular psychologist author, but he’s coming from a more distinctively Christian point of view – and he was on Rachel’s shelf, so I thought I might as well add him to the mix.

Grace Based Parenting by Tim Kimmel, which is also on a similar subject, but probably a bit broader. Reasons for Reading:  As the spanking crowd has grown bigger (and more controversial – try googling “Michael Pearl”), recently a new movement has been arising called “grace based parenting” (or something similar) claiming to be getting parenting back to basing it around grace, not punishment or legalism.  Again, you can’t pass judgement if you haven’t read it, so that’s what I’m doing.

Parenting in the Pew by Robbie Castleman, which is specifically dealing with how to introduce your children to church, what to do with them when they’re there, etc. Reasons for Reading:  One of the big issues that I’m wrestling with in my own mind is the idea of children and Sunday School.  When I grew up, we were one of the few families whose children didn’t get sent to Sunday School.  We were made to stay in the service.  I like to think that’s a really great idea for getting kids used to church, but I don’t want to just follow down that path because that’s what I experienced.  So I’m reading a book about it as well.

And, finally, The No-Cry Sleep Solution by Elizabeth Pantley, which claims to offer gentle ways to help your baby sleep through the night without having to make them cry themselves to sleep. Reason for Reading:  Shelby, on the whole is pretty good at sleeping through most of the night, but she does tend to wake up once or twice an evening.  We’re coping pretty well – but, hey, doesn’t every parent like to think that if they could fine tune their child’s sleeping down to a solid unbroken night’s sleep that it’d be perfect?  I’ve never really been sold on the idea of letting your kid cry themselves to sleep.  While I know it was the done thing in the middle part of the 20th century, it also seems to me that the connection between parents and children was so bad, that it was one of the contributing factors of the whole 60s revolution mentality that saw adults giving the flick to everything that was dear to their parents – including church, classical music (actually, all their music, really), clothing styles, etc. 

. . . Sorry, back to sleep . . . So, anyway, I already know what the people who talk about letting your baby cry itself to sleep say.  So I just want to hear a second opinion.

And on that note, I’m going to sign off and get back to reading.