Book Review: The Continuum Concept: In Search Of Happiness Lost by Jean Liedloff

The Continuum Concept: In Search Of Happiness Lost by Jean Liedloff

What an interesting read!  Some aspects really good and some aspects really “off.”  And it can really mess with your confidence as a parent, at the same time, building your trust in your instincts.  How’s that for confusing?

This book was written back in the ’70s and I can imagine it being one of the books and concepts that really triggered the “attachment parenting” movement.  It’s written by a woman that, by chance, ended up living with and studying a tribe of natives in the deep Amazon jungle. Over many trips back and forth, she learned a lot about how they raised their children and lived with each other, noticing the differences between them and us. She is a little over the top in her admiration of these people and seems to lose her ability to objectively judge the situation; also, given that it’s about 40 years in the past, there are certain observations that really turn you off (like how homosexuals are a certain way because of how their mother treated them!)  But overall, her observations are something to learn from, as long as you take them with a grain of salt! I can imagine that coming from the 60’s the advice she was giving was quite extreme.  Nowadays we tend to practice a lot of this already, just as the trend of the times.

My biggest takeaways:

Your children become what you expect of them.  If you talk down to them, they will have a poor vocabulary.  If you speak intelligently and of intelligent things, you show them that you expect them to understand; and they do! Or they will.  If you tell them “be careful, don’t fall” – they will do what you expect of them – and fall!  Ok, maybe that one is not 100% believable, but I do agree that you want to put things in a positive perspective to give them confidence rather than add to the epidemic of worry in our society.

Live your life and take your baby and children along for the ride.  So many parents today just play with their kids all day long, let the laundry slide, don’t have a social life, get utterly depressed, and then wonder why their kids feel so entitled.  I like the idea that we should live our lives as we would like to, and bring our kids with us!  They will learn how to behave better through example than by playing with a multitude of toys.  If you’re vacuuming and they’re interested, give them a mini vacuum to help you.  If you’re cooking and they’re interested, find things to allow them to help you.  If you’re going out to eat, take them with you and show them how to behave.  I couldn’t agree with this one more!  As I think back on the really good days with PJ, they are the days when we just had to get things done and he was right alongside us helping.  It makes him happy too!  It also really helps me to feel that I’m setting a good example for my kids by living my life, working and going out with friends.  Now, if this author were to have her way, I would take my baby to work with me and let him be a part of my whole day. Unfortunately that’s not ideal in our office world.

Ease the transition from the womb to the world a little bit better. Don’t just move your baby from crib to stroller to swing.  Hold your baby. Wear your baby.  Let them hear the heartbeat they have known since they’ve existed.  This part really touched me and made me want to hold LJ tighter. The hard part here is the advice to keep your child in your bed as long as possible – until they’re ready to be on their own.  I seriously don’t have a problem with the family bed, but with both boys, they were in their own room by 6-8 weeks.  We all just sleep better that way (them and me!)  Now that PJ is older, I’m sure he would LOVE to sleep in our bed.  But I can’t say that it would be fun.  We would all sleep horribly for some time.  What this book makes me wonder is what type of lesson I’m missing out on teaching him by doing this.  But alas!   We can’t all do everything. If I’m to get enough sleep and work too, I need my space and quiet!

Don’t help when they don’t need it, but once they ask, help right away. This can help to build confidence and allow them to see that their needs are responded to, that they have a place in their world.  I’ve always thought this, but it helps to have someone say it explicitly to believe that it’s worth it and working.  It’s hard to hold back showing them what to do and how to do it better. I know it’s better if they learn to do it on their own.

I rate this 4 out of 5 stars.  Mostly because the message it gives is so different than other parenting books.  I’ll be passing it on to my next pregnant friend or relative.  As the quote on the front says…

“If the world could be saved by a book, this just might be the book” – John Holt


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