Normally, I avoid parenting books the way I avoid rush-hour traffic on the interstate in Orlando --- that is, with great intentionality. As a young mother, I read enough guilt-inducing “Christian parents beware!” diatribes to last me well into my daughters’ adulthood. The authors seemed to impose impossible rules (cleverly disguised as “principles” to avoid the appearance of legalism) that, if broken, would surely send our children straight to perdition.
Mary Manz Simon, though, is a parenting/childhood author of a different stripe, a genuine expert whose reasonable approach and perspectives I have always found trustworthy. Her recent release, TREND-SAVVY PARENTING, caught my attention, and there I was, intentionally reading a parenting book once again. And I loved it.
Simon does time-strapped parents everywhere a favor by keeping her book brief and to the point. In a mere 150 pages, she covers no less than 35 current trends, providing just as much information as a mother or father needs to increase their awareness of the factors influencing children today and then to make wise decisions regarding their children’s exposure to those influences. But make no mistake; though the volume is slim, you won’t find the simplistic “media bad, church good” kind of information you can find elsewhere in abundance. Simon presents a balanced view of each trend she examines.
Those trends include some we’re familiar with, like the proliferation of edutainment programming and software that blurs the lines between education and entertainment, with varying degrees of effectiveness. There are also factors we’re familiar with whose effect on our children we may not have even considered, such as urban legends and the fear and gullibility that can result when kids hear and believe them. Then there are those that Simon has given a new label, such as KAGOY, an acronym for “kids are growing older younger,” the phenomenon of children trading in their age-appropriate toys, style and activities for those suitable for much older children.
Among the trends are many that not surprisingly relate to media and technology. Others relate to parents behaving badly (brawls at children’s sports competitions) or unwisely (attempts at boosting an infant’s brain power). One that I found particularly fascinating was what Simon calls “Kidfluence+” (her equation: “children + tech talents + money = kidfluence plus”). Simon maintains that some children have gained an inordinate amount of power and a higher rank in the family hierarchy because of their technological savvy; consumer purchases that used to be the sole domain of parents are now highly influenced by the input of children --- and Madison Avenue knows it.
What makes TREND-SAVVY PARENTING especially reader-friendly is the structure of the chapters. Each begins with the question “What is it?” (referring to the chapter title, such as “Magic Money”), followed by a brief definition. Next comes the question “Why should I care?” That’s when Simon describes the influence that particular trend is having on kids, whether for good or for bad. Finally there’s the question “What can I do?” followed by Simon’s sensible and practical tips for ways parents can handle the trend just discussed. Interspersed throughout are boxed quotes from parents describing how these influences have affected their children and family life.
Best of all, this is a terrific parenting book written by a Christian author that you can easily share with parents outside the faith. When faith is mentioned, Simon simply points out that because she and her family are Christians, they have a particular faith-based perspective on the subject. There’s nothing heavy-handed with regard to the faith element. This one is a rarity --- a parenting book I highly recommend.