Safe House: How Emotional Safety Is The Key To Raising Kids who Live, Love, And Lead Well, by Joshua Straub
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by Blogging For Books/Multnomah WaterBrook Press in exchange for an honest review.]
Although this book, which focuses on emotional safety and how parents can provide an atmosphere that blends protection and exploration, truth and grace, can be painful to read, the author has a savvy approach on how not to make it too painful for those of us whose family backgrounds are deeply problematic. The approach of the author to minimizing, though by no means eliminating, the discomfort for some people in reading this book is to praise those who read this book as having shown their seriousness in providing an emotionally stable home for their little ones. This praise of the reader, which shows through quite often in the author’s conversational tone, is combined with the author’s own candid comments about his own disastrous upbringing, his statements of his own struggles as a father, and generous praise of his own wife, which combine to make this book as comfortable a book as it can be given the immense awkwardness and discomfort of the book. As is often the case with my reading, especially about parenthood , this is not a book that is immediately applicable to me as a reader, but it is certainly good reading as someone who wishes to overcome some very bad family patterns and who tends to approach problems by reading about them long before I plan on needing a solution for those difficulties, as a way of training the mind so that the patterns of behavior can follow.
In terms of its contents, this book straddles the line between humanistic psychology and a book on the theology of parenting from a biblical perspective. Clearly the author works from a Christian counseling approach, and readers who appreciate that approach will find much to offer–the book clearly demonstrates the statistical case for improved attachment coming from a family of faith. The first part of the book, after the introduction and acknowledgements, deals with the importance of emotional safety and for the parent to understand his or her own life story in order to be a more understanding parent. The second part of the book gives tips for a parent to build a safe home: exploration, protection, grace, and truth being the four metaphorical walls of the house, as well as the importance of safe discipline and nurturing the development of the brain, including higher regulatory functions, from infancy through adolescence. The third and final part of the book, which comes up just about to 200 pages of core material, examines how to build a safe village by parenting with biblical understanding, encouraging a safe marriage for parents, and establishing faith as well as a community of supportive and encouraging friends and family members.
Although readers who are neither Christian nor have any interest whatsoever in matters of psychology or counseling will likely not find this book an enjoyable read, the author has crafted a very quotable  and short book that provides a useful way for parents to think about the issue of emotional safety, with the concern for loving better rather than feeling better, and for parents to find greater stability in the house by being more emotionally stable themselves, not berating themselves for failures, but aiming for the best possible example to set for their children. For those readers who, like me, are not yet parents, the book is an encouragement to work as much as possible on our own lives as we prepare for marriage and family, and for those in the midst of family, it is a call for improvement and for moral and emotional development, and if necessary, for repentance and hopefully improvement.
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“So as you read the pages that follow, know that my heart is to remove the judgment and instead for us to come together as parents in our local coffee shops, communities, and churches to encourage and support one another as we all strive toward the same goal: raising kids who live, love, and lead well. I think you’ll be surprised that achieving this goal, though not easy, is much simpler than we might think (ii).”
“The biggest big business in America is not steel, automobiles, or television. It is the manufacture, refinement, and distribution of anxiety (13).” – Eric Sevareid
“Our kids’ answer to the question Am I safe? is buried in their unconscious, implicit memory. My friend instinctively stood up to fight me without giving it any thought. His immediate reaction was I am not safe. His story at the time was not understood as a coherent narrative.
The question Am I safe? can be broken down into two questions that form our core beliefs about how relationships work: 1. Am I worthy of lvoe? 2. Are others capable of loving me (30)?”
“I think of discipline as the continual everyday process of helping a child learn self-discipline (110).” – Fred Rogers