Authored by Dr. David Swanson, Help — My Kid Is Driving Me Crazy is written in an easy-to-access style. Reading the first few pages made me think that this book was really a session from the therapist in his office. The book strives to lay out different objectives in each of its four parts: How did we get here?, Tools of Power, Developing an Action Plan, and Setting Structure Based on Child’s Behavior. The reading is fast if you know what you are looking for, although it does repeat chapters a few times without adding anything novel to the overall discussion. One example of this is tools of power section; it could have been pared down because some of the tools sounded exactly the same (punishment and blackmail being a good example).
Without diving too deep into child/education lingo and models of thought, most of this title stems from the seeming thesis of this book, which is, “The frustration of the parent may really stem from misplacing logic on a child. Children’s minds don’t work the way adult minds work.”(pg.138) If there is one idea I believe he wants to get across more than any other, it is that the child is not equipped to think like an adult. Even basic things we take for granted, like empathy for others emotions, is really an unacceptable expectation of a child. The first time I read through the first few chapters, I was thinking exactly like what he is warning against, thinking children are capable of regulating their emotions like adults, and then I had a troublesome student in my office and I was effectively redirected to the truth of the statement that kids are not like adults.
The tools of power section of the book is more made to be like a reference section where you can quickly read the chapter and employ the tactic without reading the rest of the work. The problem is that with the strategy of a quick fix, you also attain a quick effectiveness. I believe that the desire from parents for fixing problematic behavior is a long term change in that behavior, so you really need to read the rest of the book to truly understand how to make those positive choices happen.
If I were reading this book again, I would have started with part four first and then read from beginning to end in order. I say that because I think part four is the most valuable piece for me with my position in the education system. I see first and foremost the effect parents have on their children in projecting their fears and anxieties on those children and seeing the children model that behavior. If nothing els,e I would want parents to know that they are growing with their child, and they really need to fix those anxieties and fears that seem to keep them from being “comfortable” with their kids because these are exactly the same problems their kids see in them. I think Dr. Swanson frames this growth well in this section of the book and gives sound advice on how to change those behaviors and fears in the parents.
Would I recommend this book to parents and the general public? Yes. I would recommend it to parents with the caveat that this is not a manual, which Dr. Swanson says as well, but is another resource in the parents forming their decision on how to best care for their kids. I would most certainly recommend this book to education administrators, counselors, and anyone who works regularly with kids in crisis. In fact, I already have recommended it to the superintendent of my school district because I think it is that important to know how to work with children in crisis in a positive way that encourages growth towards a solution instead of the punitive “don’t make me call your parents” mode that we sometimes fall into. The pitfalls in the organization of the text are well worth the wealth of information and reassurance that you can work with and raise children in many different and fruitful ways.
Chris Weber is a school liaison. He and his wife make their home in Azle, TX.