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The Packer Way: Nine Stepping Stones to Building a Winning Organization by Ron Wolf and Paul Attner

I must admit I skimmed portions of this book, written by the former general manager of the Green Bay Packers. If you are a Packer fan, this is a great book. If you are a football fan, this is a really good book. If you do not like either football or books on management, stay away from it.

Honestly, though, I think I liked the football parts as much or more than the managment parts.

Off Keck Road: A Novella by Mona Simpson

Can you believe I chose this book solely because it is set in Green Bay, Wisconsin?

I don't read much fiction, and when I do it is usually a spy or legal thriller, like Grisham or Clancy. Or something very classic, like Tolstoy (not to brag, but I have read War and Peace. Twice.). This book was interesting and, I suppose, well-written, but not really my thing.

Love and Logic Magic for Early Childhood: Practical Parenting from Birth to Six Years by Jim Fay & Charles Fay, Ph.D.

Generally, I tend towards an authoritarian style of parenting. It’s not something I decided on; it’s just my natural tendency. As a parent, I feel that if I tell my child to do something, they need to do it, promptly and without whining, fussing, arguing, or being told ten times. This is more for their own safety and for the order of the household than just so I can feel like the boss.

Having said that, however, I learned two things early on in my parenting journey. First, totally authoritarian parenting techniques do not work so well on a strong-willed child, and tend to engender animosity and anger between parent and child. Second, the goal of parenting is not to raise obedient children. Just think about it. A child who becomes an adult who always does exactly what he is told, without ever questioning it, is in for some real trouble. Think of the Nazi soldiers, or more recently the dog handler in the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, who uses as their defense “I was only following orders” to no avail. Rather, what we want for our children, and endeavor to teach them, is to be moral, kind, thoughtful people who can make decisions on their own. Who will not only obey a just authority but stand up to an unjust one, and have the knowledge and wisdom to know the difference.

Love and Logic gives parents tools to build “their children’s self-esteem, personal responsibility, and ability to make smart choices.” It is based on four principles:

1. Build the Self-concept (i.e. self-esteem). The idea here is that, instead of berating your child because he will not put on his shoes when you’ve told him for the third time, you help him think through why it would be a good idea to put on his shoes instead of, say, going out barefoot in the snow. My take on this: it is an appropriate technique in some, but not all situations. But the principle – letting a child know you believe he is smart enough to make right decisions – is a good one.

2. Share the Control. You give the child a choice about almost everything they do, almost to the point of ridiculousness. Just two choices, and if they do not choose within ten seconds, you choose for them. “Do you want the red cup, or the green cup?” “Do you want to leave the park now, or in five minutes?” “Do you want to pick your toys up, or let me pick them up?” (mommy gets to keep what she picks up). And so forth. By letting a child make many choices, the authors argue, parents make a “deposit” so that they can make a “withdrawal” – in situations where the child does not get a choice – when they need to. Personally, I think my brain would quickly run out of creativity if I had to think up choices to give them all day long.

3. Provide a Strong Dose of Empathy Before Delivering Consequences. Probably the best principle to come out of the Love & Logic philosophy is that of letting you children experience the natural consequences of their actions, to the extent it is safe to do so, while empathizing with them in a loving and non-sarcastic manner. They reason that a consequence delivered with threats or anger invokes the “flight-or-fight” response which “turns off” the reasoning, learning, part of the brain.

Something else about consequences: you want your teach your children to learn from their mistakes now, when the stakes are small, rather than when they grow up and the stakes are larger.

4. Share the Thinking. Allow your kids to make mistakes, and when they do, allow them to think about a solution.

Here’s an example:

We have a cat scratching post in the living room which is just a rope wound tightly around a pole. My kids were watching tv the other night, and I noticed that the younger one had started to unwind the rope. I told him to stop and leave it alone. When I came back into the room some minutes later, I saw that the older one was sitting in a huge pile of rope.

Me: “My goodness, what a mess.”
Him: “Uh huh” (or something like that)
Me: “How are you going to fix that?”
Him: “Huh?” (or something like that)
Me: “How are you going to fix that?” (pause) “Would you like some ideas?”
Him: “Yes”
Me: “You could fix it yourself. Or we could call Paw Paw [who built the post in the first place] and ask him to come over and fix it.”
Him: “Let’s call Paw Paw.”
So, I call Paw Paw, put DS on the phone, and let him ask Paw Paw to come fix the post. At one point, he asked me to call Paw Paw, but I refused, telling him, “you broke it, it’s you’re job to fix it.” It was not hard for me to stay calm throughout the process using this technique.

Well, that’s the basic gist of the Love & Logic approach. I do think there should have been a little more discussion in the book of how Love & Logic should be used specifically at different ages, and also with multiple children (what if you don't know who put the peanut butter on the cat?). I don’t think it’s necessarily right for all children in all situations, but this book does provide a lot of good tools for parents to use.

The Reluctant Parting: How the New Testament's Jewish Writers Created a Christian Book, by Julie Galambush

Ms. Galambush write from a unique perspective. She is a former ordained Baptist minister who converted to Judaism, and is a professor of religious studies. This book basically goes through the books of the New Testament and explains who the author was, who the audience was, who the different groups were, what the authors meant when they used terms like "Greek" and "Jew". Obviously, she takes a scholarly approach which 1) for the layperson, can get a little dull at times; and 2) may bother some people as she does not accept the inerrancy of scripture. Overall, though, I learned a lot from this book.

Here's a gem from a sidebar:

According to Rom. 3:22 as translated in the NRSV, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, "through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe."... Remarkably, the translation reflected in the NRSV (and all modern translations) is almost certainly incorrect. While it is possible to translate the Greek pistis iesou as "faith in Jesus", it is grammatically awkward to do so. Scholarly consensus has moved steadily toward accepting the translation "faith of Jesus," with faith understood as faithfulness of fidelity.... The choice of translation is crucial; at stake is whether one is saved by Jesus' faith or one's own.
Wow... think of the implications...

I have a pile of books that I've read but haven't blogged yet, so in an effort to make some space on my desk top, I'm going to do a short blurb about each one. If you have an interest in any one book in particular and want to discuss it, leave me a comment.

Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton - Somehow I managed to graduate high school without reading this one. It is an interesting character study, but awfully depressing.

The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success by Rodney Stark - I've read other books that make a historical argument such as How the Irish Saved Civilization by Thomas Cahill and How Capitalism Saved America: The Untold History of Our Country, from the Pilgrims to the Present by Thomas Dilorenzo, both of which I highly recommend. Maybe it is just my mommy brain, but this book, unlike the other two I mention, does not make its point. There is some great information in this book about the origins of capitalism, and the effect that personal, economic, and religious freedoms have on progress. We learn why some countries prospered and why others are a big mess, and why the dark ages weren't really dark. There is a lot of really good material here, unfortunately it does not add up to the promise made by the book's title.

A Mind at a Time by Mel Levine, M.D. - Forgive me if I just quote from the book jacket. I won't let it happen again:

Different minds learn differently, writes Dr. Mel Levine, one of the best-known education experts and pediatricians in America today. And that's a problem for many children, because most schools still cling to a one-size-fits-all education philosophy. As a result, these children struggle because their learning patterns don't fit the schools they are in.

In A Mind at a Time, Dr. Levine shows parents and others who care for children how to identify these individual learning patterns. He explains how parents and teachers can encourage a child's strengths and bypass the child's weaknesses. This type of teaching produces satisfaction and achievements instead of frustration and failure.
This would be a great book if I were a teacher or the parent of a child who was struggling in school or had been diagnosed with a learning disability. I am neither, so I did not get as much out of the book as I had hoped.

Sharkproof: Get the Job You Want, Keep the Job You Love . . . In Today's Frenzied Job Market by Harvey Mackay - another winner by Mackay, although unlike Dig Your Well Before You're Thirsty, it is not the only book on job hunting you will ever need.

Desecration: Antichrist Takes the Throne by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins - Believe it or not, I may be the only person in the English-speaking world not to have read any of the Left Behind novels, until now. I am now wondering whether I should go back and read the entire series, or if it would be a complete waste of my time. Probably. It was slow moving, the characters were shallow, and I don't agree with the authors' eschatology.

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