All Joy and No Fun (★★★★★)

all joy and no fun jennifer senior

Jennifer Senior   *   Ecco   *   January 20, 2015   *   336 Pages

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All Joy and No Fun, by Jennifer Senior, is one of the best books I’ve ever read about parenting–and, ironically, it isn’t even about parenting. At least not specifically. Senior makes it very clear in her introduction that this is more a book about the history and changing definition of what it means to be a parent, rather than a book of parenting advice. She warns the reader that she will have to sift and sort through the information given in order to find that “advice,” but, honestly, I found so much here that will influence my future parenting style and decisions.

For example, it was interesting to learn that parenting as we know it is a relatively new concept. It wasn’t until after World War II, when the US began enacting child labor laws, that “childhood” came into existence. Before then, our kids were expected to work, contribute, or be invisible. Once we started protecting them more, though, and requiring less and less of them, our kids became, as Senior somewhat playfully puts it, useless. This uselessness (or maybe purposelessness is a gentler word?) has kind of snowballed over time and led to a whole host of other issues, including bored and unchallenged teenagers and parents who have made it their jobs to fill in their toddlers’ spare time with hosts of educational, time-consuming, character-building activities. As kids have become more useless, their restlessness has grown–and parents have taken on the burden of relieving this restlessness.

In short, one of the lessons I am taking away from this book is that my kids (ages 4 and 2) need to be challenged!–and not necessarily through intense or chaotic play dates and heavily-managed planned activities. Instead, I’m focusing on increasing their responsibilities when it comes to taking care of themselves and our house. They can clean, put on their own clothes, maybe even start cooking. I’m going to let them feel boredom and frustration…and I’m going to let them wait out the negative feelings until they experience those wonderful sensations of accomplishment, personal responsibility, and that feeling of belonging that comes when you contribute to something that benefits you AND the people around you.

At any rate, this book is packed with interesting information and insight. I loved it from start to finish, and I know I will be reading it again at some point in the future. Just a great book all around. Highly recommended!

Advanced Reader Copy provided through Amazon Vine.

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