TLC Book Tours Book Talk: “Keeping Kids Out of the Middle”

Thanks to Lisa Munley of TLC Book Tours for offering me the chance to read and review this book!

Keeping Kids Out of the Middle: Child-Centered Parenting in the Midst of Confiict, Separation, and Divorce
Benjamin Garber, Ph.D
HCI Publications, 2008 (ISBN 0757307116 / 978-0757307119)
Nonfiction: Health/Relationships, 292 pages

Book description (via TLC Book Tours website – summarized):

When co-parents conflict, their kids get caught in the middle. They become “adultified,” infantilized, and alienated. They’re made into messengers and spies, implicitly forced to grow up too fast or to remain needy for much too long. The antidote: practicing child-centered parenting–consistently creating parenting plans and conflict resolution strategies that genuinely meet children’s emotional and psychological needs–first and foremost and for the rest of their lives.
Keeping Kids out of the Middle is not about divorce, and it’s not about you. It is about your kids. This eye-opening and highly pragmatic book is a here-and-now guide toward better understanding and meeting the needs of your children. You will learn what child-centered parenting is, how to implement it productively, and how to communicate effectively with your parenting partners, no matter the legal status of your relationship, the distance between your homes, or the quality of your intimate relationship.
This is your guide to putting your children’s needs first and giving them the safety net they must have in order to become healthy adults who are able themselves, to some day, keep their own kids out of the middle.

Comments: I think reviewing self-help books can be more challenging than novels or memoirs, so I don’t do it often. However, when Lisa of TLC Book Tours offered me a spot on the blog tour for this book, I couldn’t say no. Because I’m a divorced parent and a stepmother, I guess she thought I had the right qualifications to assess it. I think books like this really have just two criteria to consider in reviewing them: are they effective, and do they communicate well?

In the case of Keeping Kids Out of the Middle, I think the answer to both questions is a qualified yes.

Some of the other participants in the blog tour for this book have mentioned that the highly-conflicted parents who most need the material presented here are probably among the least likely to seek it out, and I tend to agree with that. However, I think there’s a lot of helpful material here for parents who are in the process of splitting up and want to prepare their kids for the future as best they can, as well as for those who want to keep their continued child-rearing relationship functional.

While reading this book, there were times that the situations and reactions that Dr. Garber described made me second-guess some of my own prior behavior, and I wasn’t terribly comfortable with that, especially since I tend to think that my ex-husband and I were pretty good co-parents overall, and that our now-adult son seems to have turned out reasonably healthy and well. But while there are things that I probably could have done differently had I known better, this book is aimed at going forward, not looking back.

The emphasis of the book is “child-centered co-parenting.” “Child-centered” in this context does NOT mean that the kids call the shots. It means that parents truly “co-parent” – cooperate and communicate with one another with the intent of providing a secure and safe environment “centered” on the healthy development of their child. Essentially, it calls on parents to put their children’s needs and welfare first and not work through their own needs via their children.

One thing that intrigued me about Dr. Garber’s approach was his discussion of the “co-parenting team.” He believes in the “it takes a village” concept of child-raising, and that even single parents rarely parent truly on their own; a “co-parenting team” might include parents married to one another, parents who used to be married to each other, formerly married parents who are now with other partners (who are, by extension, also involved in raising the children), never-married parents, and even extended-family members who regularly participate in childcare. I feel that in my involvement with my stepchildren, their father, their mother, and I have become such a team. For the most part, we operate pretty well, but I think I may be able to take some things from this book that will help us be more effective.

The book includes informative material about children’s perceptions and psychology. There are also detailed discussions about parenting plans and related matters that would be particularly useful to parents who are preparing to divorce. If the couple is striving for an amicable split and being responsible parents is their priority, Keeping Kids Out of the Middle could be a good resource.

The keys to keeping kids out of the middle of parental conflict in any context are cooperation and communication between the parents – and while they’re not always easy to apply consistently, this book makes their importance in raising healthy kids very clear, regardless of the marital status of the parents.

Rating: 3/5

Benjamin Garber’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:

Monday, November 17th: Single Mom Finding Herself
Wednesday, November 19th: I think I can, I think I can
Thursday, November 20th: The Psycho Ex Wife
Wednesday, November 26th: Stepmama Metamorphoses
Tuesday, December 2nd: Mommy Vents
Wednesday, December 3rd:  A Stepmom’s Say
Thursday, December 4th:  Rebellious Thoughts of a Woman
Monday, December 8th: The 3R’s: Reading, Riting, and Randomness
Tuesday, December 9th: Their Wicked Stepmother
Thursday, December 11th: No One’s The Bitch

**** Have you entered any of my FOUR giveaways yet? Find out more here! They’re open until Friday (December 12), and you may enter any or all.

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  1. My parents probably could have learned something from this book. 🙂 They never divorced, but growing up, I was often right there in the middle, playing the messenger and mediator all too often. It’s a role I catch myself falling into all too often in other types of relationships in my life even today.

  2. Literary Feline – I know what you mean. Those patterns can be so hard to break, even once we realize we have them.

    The book reinforced some things for me and gave me a lot to think about.