I don’t have any world-class worriers in my house, so as I started this new book by the author of Raising Creative Kids, Dan Peters, I wondered how much it would apply to my parenting life. But as is always the case with a well-written, thoughtful book, I found plenty of thought-provoking ideas, inspiration, and creative solutions to a wide variety of problems.
The first thing that happened as I was reading the book was that I realized that although I don’t have a world-class worrier, we have often sailed these waters when it came to individual situations that our children faced. Neither is what I’d call a worrier in general, but both have gone through periods of specific fears, avoidance behaviors, and other issues that are covered in this book.
Peters takes a strong stance right from the beginning that worrying and fear in general is something that therapy hasn’t addressed well in the past. He points out that now that we have such a detailed picture of what physically happens with the fear response, we have much stronger and more targeted tools at our disposal.
The first tool he wields is knowledge: His book trains parents to understand what the fear response is and where it comes from. He offers a picture of why fear happens, what physically happens to a child experiencing fear, and why simply identifying the fear and talking about it is not enough. He also details the various diagnoses that our children might receive related to their fears, while cautioning us not to fixate on the diagnosis itself but rather on how to manage the fear reactions. Using examples from his own practice, Peters shows us that no matter where the fears came from in the beginning, they have a common physical expression that can be identified and targeted.
Peters’ method of choice is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), which addresses the symptoms of the problem rather than trying to find root causes. The bulk of the book is devoted to detailing what this approach is, how it works, and how families can implement it in their daily lives.
Of all that I appreciate about this book, the greatest is the respect and trust that Peters offers his young patients. The book is not about something that parents can do to their children, but rather a manual on forming a partnership with their children of any age to gain understanding of and control over their fear responses. Peters repeatedly stresses that this approach will offer children useful tools, not just to overcome a specific fear but to gain an understanding of living with their brains and overcoming other obstacles they might face.