Book Review: The Good News About Bad Behavior
Book Review: The Good News About Bad Behavior by Katherine Reynolds Lewis.
This book does an excellent job at presenting what best research tells us about trends in mental health. Katherine Reynolds Lewis shares a number of alarming statistics such the rapidly rising rates of behavioral disorders like ADHD, mood disorders, and substance use disorders, and most disturbing: rising rates of death by suicide and suicidal thoughts and actions in young people. What does Katherine attribute these trends to? Well, it’s complicated, of course, but the world of childhood has changed and parenting hasn’t necessarily caught up. I agree full-heartedly that the “epidemic of misbehavior”, as Katherine puts it, is attributed to a crisis in self-regulation skills.
I’ll share one quote that I think does an excellent job at expressing what this book, and the research, is all about: “Children’s response to discipline has fundamentally changed--forever. We can’t just give up on the tens of millions of kids who misbehave or have anxiety, ADHD, or depression. Obedience is no longer our goal. We must tackle the defining challenge of our era: teaching our children how to self-regulate.”
YES. This is the point that needs to be driven home and I'm happy to see it said so beautifully here.
For me, the goal is to help parents gain the information, skills, and resources (both internal and external), to help their child learn to self-regulate. This includes things like naming and validating feelings, demonstrating coping skills as a parent so that the skill is modeled to your child, and overall, practicing responsive, connected parenting.
We know that parents who have some understanding of child development and understanding of the developing brain are able to parent in a way that minimizes behavioral challenges and reduces outcomes such as the mental health issues Katherine describes. Not all parents need to study child development and neuroscience on their own but there are some basic facts that we need to understand in order to help our children. Katherine does a good job describing what parents need to know about the brain. She comes to the same conclusion as all our evidence-based parenting methods: connection, building relationships instead of hierarchy, and showing empathy towards our children all make a big difference on how the brain develops. That's right. The way we treat our children literally affects brain development. Another takeaway is the power of positive reinforcement, a strategy that is proven to benefit a child’s behavior. We need a shift from focusing on what is wrong with our child’s behavior to focusing on what is going “right”.
I really like so much about this book. I think Katherine does a great job at laying out the background to why all of this matters, the science behind how to help, and then practical steps to take. She describes three important C's: connection, communication (bringing awareness and empathy to our child's experiences), and capability (little by little, helping our child develop things like impulse control, patience, frustration tolerance).
One more thing I will mention is how Katherine discusses the role of jobs for our children. I am a HUGE advocate for giving children responsibilities in the form of jobs.
Just some of the benefits of giving your child age-appropriate jobs are that jobs teach children responsibility and accountability, time management skills, follow-through, and more. Children who have jobs to do are more likely to develop positive self-concept by seeing themselves as capable and effective. The act of creating the maintaining jobs in the home can build connection and communication skills (children do best when the jobs are created as a collaboration with their parents), and it gives parents a chance to positively reinforce desirable behavior.
I recommend this book to everyone; I think it has a lot of important information and I love the journalistic style. It's fun to read in addition to be informative and helpful.