Monday, November 17, 2008

Keeping kids out of the middle

I was asked by TLC Book tours to read and review, Keeping Kids out of the Middle by Benjamin Garber, Ph.d.

This is my first so I hope I do a good job! I haven't talked much about it on this blog but I am a big time reader. I used to have more time for reading. I could always be found with a book. I typically used to read a book a day, sometimes two a day, depending on what was going on in my life at the time (more free time, more reading time!) I have books all over the house so I feel like I am well prepared for this review! :)

What is this book about?

The book is about being child-centered, not pulling our children into grown up fights and putting them in the middle of our issues. We are the adults, they are the children.

Who is this book for?

This book is for all parents (and that includes step parents)! While it is geared more towards parents that are separated or divorcing, it has a lot of great tips for all parents. Every one with kids or a big part of a child's life should read it.

What I thought:

This book was about two to three years too late for my divorce and much of the information is not completely relevant to me anymore (such as the parts about how to set up the custody agreement.) However, that doesn't mean I didn't enjoy it or that I didn't get anything out of it. I realized that many of the things that I thought I was doing was right were actually wrong! Wow, eye openers all through the book. I do wish this would have been around 3-4 years ago so I could avoid those mistakes.

Anyway, throughout the book, Dr. Garber gives examples of what to say to the kids when they have questions. He uses a grading scale of A - F, just like from school days. He would give different scenarios and then gives you various responses, saying things like if you say this, then you get an F, say this and you get a B, etc. He also had some interactive sections with quizzes. Always a plus with self-help style books (and yes I have read my fair share of them!)

As I read through, I highlighted lots of things! Many of it were mistakes I felt I made or things I had done right! Some of it was statements that left questions in my mind. Like how to explain to the kids about why the divorce happened (is happening). In the book, on page 110, he writes about the various responses to give for why did you get a divorce. Here is what the A answer was: The A answer? "What do you think?" opening the door to "We stopped loving each other," followed up with reassurance: "But your daddy will always love you, and I will always love you, no matter what."

I have a bit of a problem with this answer. This is exactly what I did with my kids but they immediately asked me "But if you can stop loving daddy, that means you can stop loving me." They believe that love ends. I have tried to explain that it is a different kind of love. Parent to child but they don't seem to buy it completely.

Then when they fight with their each other, they have asked if they can get a "divorce" or why can I divorce their dad and they can't divorce their sibling. I have explained that too but not sure if it fell on deaf ears or not. If you know me, you know that I complain a lot about the fighting between my kiddos and it is getting worse. So Dr. Garber, what do I say them?

There was also a section about when the child wants to go live with the other parent and how to handle it. If you have been reading this blog for a while, you know I have dealt with this. According to Dr. Garber, we did the right thing. Since I am the POD (parent on duty), I was the initial contact to this news. It caught me off guard so I basically tabled it until I could discuss with her dad. Then we agreed together that she was doing it for the wrong reasons. On pages 121 and 122, there is a highlighted section that talks about "Can some children choose." Dr. Garber gives 5 "if this, then yes" type of statements. We were spot on with our reasons for not letting her go. I think that if she were to make this choice now, it would be for the right reasons. We shall see what the future holds.

I guess the other thing that caught me off with the book but not because it was bad or wrong but because it was a hard thing to hear. There are rarely any true single parents. Basically it said if you have any support, you are not a single parent. He says if you are a single parent (no support) find it, even online. So for me, I have my parents, aunts and uncles, two grandmothers, friends and co-workers, as well as online friends. And while these people don't really help me with the care of the kids (my parents do some), they help me because I can vent and get advice from them. But really the parenting is all mine to do. I work, I come home to feed them, I do all the running around.... All of it. So I just don't know what to think about Dr. Garber's statement but I don't think I disagree.

Overall, I really liked his writing style. I really thought it was a well written and thought out book. It flowed well (and that is very important to me in a book!) While I didn't think much of it was useful for me, I still did find things that I can use and things I can change.

I do recommend this book to anyone who is conflicted in a marriage, going through separation or starting the divorce process. Even if you are happily married, I do think there are a lot of things in the book that you can use.

So check it out!


papaben said...

Good morning,

I'm grateful for your very thoughtful, insightful review of Keeping Kids Out Of The Middle, my new book published by HCI (2008). All of the effort writing and bringing this important book to market is worthwhile if you found even a bit of it helpful and -even more importantly- if your kids benefit in the process!

You've asked an important question: What to say to kids who have seen adult love end and conclude therefore that the (necessary and natural - if aggravating) anger between them can also end their relationship.

This is a critical problems encountered by so many kids whose parents are divorced: They think that anger is the opposite of love.

In fact, anger (but never violence!) is as much a part of a healthy, loving relationship as happy, sad and scared. We must teach our kids that the love between a parent and child cannot end even if teh love between adults can AND that its okay to be angry.

Too many of us spend too much time addressing how NOT to express anger: Don't hit your brother! Don't scream! Its time to start spending time teaching (and modelling) the ways in which anger can be expressed and let them discover that anger can make a healthy relationship fuller.

Healthy anger? Yep. Read more in "Taming The Beast Within" available from

Best wishes to all! Keep reading!

Anonymous said...

Wow - very interesting! I don't have kids, but I have extensive experience as a former kid myself :-) My parents are still married, but I do remember how it felt when they was a very scary feeling. It sounds like there were some great hints and tips in this book! And great job on the review!

trappedintime said...

Hmmm, interesting and contemplative. I find the subject thought provoking. Uh huh, yep.

TxGambit said...

Thanks Dr. Garber. I do know about healthy anger. I have tried very hard to teach my kids that they have a voice, that they have emotions and it is okay to feel whatever it is they are feeling. I have been in and out of therapy since I was 17 so nearly 20 yrs. I was never taught it was okay to have feelings. I was not taught what a feeling was.

I am sure a lot of people that know me in real life would say my kids definitely tell you how they feel. There is never any real question.

I wish you all the luck with you book!!! and I do plan to visit your site... I saw a bunch of things I wanted to read/check out.

Mrs. Really Long Name said...

excellent job. :)

Mayberrys said...

Do you think this would be a helpful book for a married family where the kids behave totally differently when in the care of each parent? And use the excuse of "Daddy does it differently" and shows no respect for the mom?
We are going thru this right now and I am trying to find solutions...

papaben said...

Good morning,

Thanks for all of the very positive comments. Yes to the dad inquiring about the value of "Keeping Kids Out Of The Middle" for intact families. The drama (and the trauma)of being caught in the middle has nothing necessarily to do with divorce (or even marriage, for that matter!) "Keeping Kids Out Of The Middle" is about healthy parenting, regardless of gender, generation and geography.

Learn more at

Best wishes to all!

Mister-M said...

It's a pleasure to read your review. I, too, was one of the reviewers and posted my own thoughts on the book today.

I made a point of NOT reading the reviews before mine so as to avoid tainting my thoughts and impressions.

I appreciate your review.