Most helpful critical review
11 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Good for ideas, not so much for guidance
on April 30, 2014
I read this earlier in the year with a free Safari trial. Full disclosure: I'm an Evangelical Christian, so I read it less as a guide for non-religious child-rearing and more for general ideas for raising children who are genuinely curious about the world around them. For those purposes I found it to be a very useful book, though I did have certain issues with it.
My biggest complaint about the book was the strawman of religious parents in contrast to non-religious parents. The author repeatedly insinuates that religious parents discourage curiosity, shame children for thoughts or actions beyond their developmental control, or that religious parenting results in children who hate or resent science and knowledge. Despite the reality that millions of children of religious parents contradict that stereotype, this is a typical complaint of Atheists who seem to believe that as long as they keep repeating it and basing their arguments upon that presumption, we'll simply accept that it's true. This kind of narrow-mindedness completely undermines any advice to teach freethinking children to accept that there are people who think differently than they do, and that those differences are equal in value to their own ideas. Such oversimplification often leads to children who express the negativity and general anger against religion seen by many of the most extremist Atheists, who are anything but free-thinkers.
My other issue was one the author never really addresses, which is that by teaching children that all thoughts are equal and that there are no inherently good or bad ideas, you're just as much indoctrinating children into a worldview as are Theists or anybody else. True freethinking does not discount the possibility of things such as objective reality, transcendent moral order, or absolutism; by encouraging children to reject such ideas (or to see them as merely transitory concepts), true freethinking is discouraged. Parents genuinely concerned about raising freethinkers must address the foundations of their wishes: Do they really want children with no objective basis for truth outside of their own thoughts, and are they truly prepared to deal with the presuppositions such a worldview requires? (I haven't read the companion book, so it's possible that these concepts are discussed in more depth therein.)
All in all, I liked a lot of the ideas for dialog prompts and game ideas. A lot of the suggestions for conversation starters and games work well as general organic learning prompts. There was enough good there for me to not discount the usefulness of the book entirely. If you're looking for a parenting guide that's truly free of worldview, however, look elsewhere. This book is just as much about promoting a particular worldview as any other religious parenting book out there.