Bloom: 50 Things To Say, Think, And Do With Anxious, Angry And Over-The-Top Kids, by Lynne Kenney and Wendy Young
As is often the case when I read books like this, I have a complex set of feelings and opinions about this particular book and the approach of its authors. In many ways there is a strong temptation to review this book based the way I would have wanted it–with some strong biblical insights and a Christian perspective about how to help children cope with the struggles of their existence, recognizing the fallen nature but also the fact that children can and should learn how to communicate better and seek to explain where they are coming from rather than shutting down or resorting to violence against those who bother them. Yet this book is not the one I would have most preferred to read, and like many books of its kind it appears to lack both moral insight into children and the behavior of parents as well as a tendency to desire to smuggle in Buddhist rituals as worthy ways of reducing stress. As is often the case with books about anxiety, there are references to mindfulness as well as suggestions to practice in yoga and the authors seem uninterested in looking at the Bible as an inspiration in shaping behavior, which limits this book’s appeal and effectiveness.
In a bit more than 200 pages this book contains eleven chapters that discuss some challenging situations for children and suggest what the authors view to be wise and compassionate responses to these situations on the part of parents (and to a lesser extent other adult authority figures). The authors discuss the skills-based approach of the book and point out that children, like flowers, are very different in the amount of care that they require in order to bloom. After that the authors discuss the problem many children have with getting up and getting ready in the morning (1) as well as the challenge that cleaning one’s room is to children (2) and admittedly many adults as well. There are discussions about biting (3) and how to deal with it as well as help for parents to teach their children not to hit other people (4). The authors have some advice on sass (5), avoiding yelling (6), and children who fidget and simply cannot sit still (7), another problem some adults face. The book then closes with some discussion about better behavior at school (8), separation anxiety (9), trauma (10), and how children can effectively handle grief (11), which ends the book on a rather serious note, along with some more resources for the reader.
There is certainly a great deal to praise the book for, not least in the way that it encourages parents to help build up the skills their children have in communication. Children (and adults) who are able to make themselves understood and whose communication is respected are, after all, far less likely to resort to more violent means of making themselves heard. If this book is not the be and end all when it comes to addressing questions of morality and decency, the authors are savvy enough to point out that children learn a great deal of disrespect and sass from their parents, and the way that parents deal with each other and with other authority figures. It would have been worthwhile had the authors focused on the proper order of activities (think, say, and do) and if they had been able to view Christian approaches with the same degree of favor (if not more) than the fashionable siren call of Buddhism, but again, we must read and review the books we have and not the books we would wish. There are some worthwhile approaches to gain from the book, even if there is plenty of dross here as well.