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The Big Answer

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What Do You Really Want For Your Children?

a book by Wayne Dyer

(our site's book review)

This book centers on helping one’s kids in ways very much like those which readers used to help themselves in his other books: Pulling Your Own Strings, The Sky’s the Limit, and Your Erroneous Zones. It helps the reader give his kids the best chance for developing self-esteem. It includes teaching kids good self-talk. It shows how events from your past will try to use stealthy, covert tactics on you and get you to treat kids in the negative ways you experienced when you were young. It shows how to be a good example because kids learn most from examples to emulate. It guides readers through feelings, communication, how to listen, no-limit living, the victim trap, replacing win-lose with win-win, conflict resolution, teaching kids self-reliance rather than dependence.

The book follows exactly Maslow’s principles of child development and growth (see Toward a Psychology of Being), including how kids get secure when their needs are filled and they feel loved, so they explore and adventure and run around and find out for themselves how the world works, and when they get insecure, they come back to the security of the parents and get their needs filled again. Eventually a permanent security evolves and they become choosers, not losers, and they learn to exist in an independent being state rather than a dependent need state. He advocates parents’ letting kids explore and find out for themselves as much as is safely possible, and allowing kids to have the privacy of their own room for alone space or whatever. He’s a firm advocate of alone space, as he (Dyer) has accomplished his own best work in just such a place.

Each person in each MC is to have his/her own personal space—Dyer supports alone space wholeheartedly as well
Each person in each MC is to have his/her own personal space—Dyer supports alone space wholeheartedly as well

He’s a bit too encouraging of the use of praise, which, as every student of P.E.T. knows, is full of pitfalls: it too easily defines the child and puts him at effect of you and manipulates him—it’s better if one simply says how the good things a kid does, says or creates makes a parent feel. (However, he does modify his advocacy of praise by saying that it should focus on what the achievements mean to the child, rather than how they compare to others, and it should not get the kid seeking external rewards, since his internal feelings should be stronger than his response to others’ comments about his achievement. He’s rightly seeking here to get the reader to remember to let his kid learn to be at cause, not at effect.) Kids don’t need judgments or praise; they need encouragement and good communication about their effects on others. This feedback is a great learning mechanism.

Verbally encouraging, which is bad for kids if it is done with You statements but good for kids if it is done with I statements
Verbally encouraging, which is bad for kids if it is done with You statements but good for kids if it is done with I statements

He uses inner-directed in a sense much different than the originator of the term: David Riesman, who wrote The Lonely Crowd. Dyer’s meaning is “self-directed and autonomous as opposed to other-directed and approval seeking.” Riesman meant by the term inner-directed a person who is directed by his superego, which is the internalized directions of parents and other authority figures, and it is only the Riesman term autonomous that describes the self-actualized person that makes inner choices that are not aimed at pleasing an extrinsic entity (parents, teachers, etc.). Since Riesman’s autonomy is a term that describes the exact goal of Dyer’s books, and the Riesman definition of inner-direction is a fate to avoid in Dyer-think, it’s a mystery why Dyer would use the inner-directed term to portray that goal, except if one allows that he misread Riesman. However, it must be admitted that several others have similarly misread Riesman (e.g., Allan Bloom) and misinterpreted him to others, so a likely scenario is that Dyer never read Riesman himself—he merely picked up what others have erroneously said about the man. (So the bigger mystery here is: Why hasn’t anyone written Dyer and corrected him?)