Love, Warmth and Discipline
Lessons from Boys Town for Successful Parenting
by Rev. Val J. Peter
As a parent, I am always open to reading new material on the subject of child-rearing. When I selected this book as part of the reviewer program with The Catholic Company, I was encouraged to see the subtitle: Lessons from Boys Town For Successful Parenting. Boys Town! I saw that movie! I also know that it's a place of healing and hope for hurting and troubled kids from all over the U.S., founded by the beloved Fr. Flanagan. Authored by his successor, this book was sure to hold some gems from some of the most challenging parenting situations ever faced.
Rev. Val J. Peter uses his experience with generations of kids to outline the challenges and solutions facing modern parents. First, by way of deconstruction, he explains the decline of the mental and behavioral health of our youth since the 1940s, and points to the weakening of parental and societal authority as the root cause. Next, he distinguishes three types of parenting: permissive, authoritarian and "authoritative" - which is not just a middle ground, but a combination of all the parental qualities that have been proven to help young people thrive. Fr. Peter describes it as "warm and nurturing, imposing firm limits, demands and controls." It's the model that has been used at Boys Town with great success.
A good part of the book is given to the research that backs up this model of parenting. Fr. Peter very generally outlines some of the goals of his approach: character formation, family skills, self-esteem through virtue, to name a few. He further develops his thoughts on the importance of fostering resilience, a moral compass, and appropriate self-love. The text is ripe with anecdotes from real kids at Boys Town, which are mainly testimonials to the changes in their lives brought about by the program there. There is no doubt that kids are responding to these methods - something is working, and these once-broken adolescents are rising to the challenge of becoming secure, happy and healthy adults. Our own families can learn from these principles.
I think Fr. Peter offers readers a wonderful tool for developing their "big picture" parenting goals. His words are positive and hopeful, and he has a gift for inspiring parental confidence in those who might be confused or unclear on a solid path to happy, healthy family life. These are good reasons to read his book. At the same time, he left me wanting more - and I hope he is planning to write more on the details in a sequel! I'd love to see specifics about the family skills techniques, and the limits, consequences and structure used in the family groups at Boys Town. The "how-to manual" would be a great companion for this excellent overview.
Love, Warmth and Discipline can be purchased from The Catholic Company here. I was sent this book at no cost in the review program.