I just love Dr. Ray.
Unlike some of the speakers on the schedule at the IHM Conference for homeschoolers in Washington, DC, last weekend, I’ve heard Dr. Ray Guarendi before. (It was very strange to see him in person; I’m used to him being on tape or on TV.) He’s refreshing after book after book after book of, “You should reason with your two-year-old.” Newsflash: you can not reason with a two-year-old. I’ve tried. I’ve tried very hard. It was sort of like that saying about trying to teach a pig to whistle; it wastes your time and annoys the pig.
Some Dr. Ray gems:
” ‘Difficult child’ is redundant.”
Don’t expect to be understood. Your relatives may think you’re “right-wing, knuckle-dragging, over-the-cliff weirdos” for homeschooling. (Nice to hear we’re not the only ones with those kind of relatives…)
Most likely discipline problem for women: “Talk, talk, nag, nag, negotiate…”
For men: “Oblivious, tolerate, tolerate, KILL, oblivious…” (Gee, I don’t know any couples that sound like that… *ahem*)
“A good sign of impending middle age is when your wife gives up intimacy for Lent… and you don’t realize it until the Monday after Easter.” (Ok, that didn’t have anything to do with homeschooling, but it was funny.)
In addition to being funny, Dr. Ray is very down-to-earth, self-depreciating, and chock-full of common sense. Of course, he has ten adopted kids to knock the nonsense out of any “I’m a trained psychologist and this is how things are” theories he might have. And, even rarer, enough humility to know that letters after your name (even PhD) don’t make you omniscient.
(I have a friend whose step-sister married a child psychologist (if I’m remembering the story right). He’s been bragging about everything they’re going to do *right*, including redirection instead of “no”, no yelling, no spanking, etc., etc. The kid is now a toddler and… um… not responding to dad’s methods. Mom finally approached her step-sisters out of Dr. Dad’s earshot and asked, “Ok, so how does this really work?”)
Dr. Ray talks a lot about the culture; many of us homeschool out of concern over the culture’s effects on our children, especially the over-sexualization of younger and younger children. (To judge from the clothes racks, my seven-year-old should be all into Hannah Montana (she’s mostly clean-cut, but a stepping stone to much less innocent entertainers. We’re making sure Diva has no idea who Montana is.). The culture, Dr. Ray points out, is more powerful, more persuasive, more seductive, and more entertaining than parents. “Just a little” is not a good idea.
Another encouraging point was Dr. Ray’s illustration of “strictness”. If the culture considers 40 out of 100 “strict” and you’re maintaining a standard of strictness that rates a 70, you will be considered weird, too rigid, etc. The problem is, the goal of parenting is to raise wonderful human beings, and, hopefully, saints. That requires at least a 90. So you aren’t really thirty points better than average, you’re still twenty points low. (One of his examples was cell phones. If “everyone else” had one by twelve, and you didn’t think your daughter needed one until at least sixteen, but you held out until fourteen, hey, you’re doing pretty good, right? No, not really.) The point is not to compromise between the goal and the world; the point is to strive for the goal. Period.
I’m not going to give away all of Dr. Ray’s points. He’s really good. If you’re struggling to raise saints in a culture that not only isn’t trying, not only doesn’t respect you for trying, but actively seeks to undermine you… well, Dr. Ray is very encouraging.
My new favorite thing about Dr. Ray, though, is his new book, Adoption: Choosing It, Living It, Loving It, available through his website. When he mentioned he had a book on adoption, I knew right away what I’d be buying off the speakers’ desk to get signed. I walked up with the book and my finger in my wallet photo book, and Dr. Ray looked at me and said, “Let me guess: you’re either about to adopt or you’re an adoptive mom.” So, I flashed the photo of my adorable (and obviously adopted) kids and thanked him for writing a book on adoption, since I was so sick of getting pummeled on the adoption boards for arguing against the “adoptees are damaged, and, as parents, we have to be watching for it, if you ignore this warning you’re just naive (or worse)!” attitude as alarmist and largely unfounded. I mentioned one very popular author in particular, and he rolled his eyes at her name. “Yeah,” he assured me, “The book goes into all that…”
Unlike some of the other adoption “experts”, Dr. Ray isn’t relying on his own childhood experiences. He is looking at his ten kids and the hundreds of kids who have come through his psychiatric practice. The news is more encouraging than many people, including adoption agencies, seem to want to believe. Dr. Ray discusses and debunks many of the bogeymen that scare people away from adoption (“adoptees are all permanently damaged by their adoption“, “the vast majority of adoptees seek out their birth parents”, “you have to practice your frequent adoption talks, or you might really mess your child up.” Dr. Ray’s takes: no, less than 10%, and no.)
I’ve been meaning to put together a list of books I thought were really helpful on adoption issues. Dr. Ray’s book is definitely going to be at the top of the list. If you’re considering adoption, are in the process, or have been put off by what you’ve been told to read or have seen on the discussion boards, well, you really, really need to read this book.
More on the conference over the rest of the week. The tapes of the conference are available from the IHM Conference website under the particular locations (Immaculate Heart of Mary- yes, they’re Catholic. If you aren’t Catholic, it was still a lot of good, solid, Christian advice, at least the talks I heard. I’m not saying the other talks were bad, I just don’t generally vouch for things I didn’t observe.) If you can make one of the remaining conferences, I’d highly recommend it. It’s worth the time and money. It’s also a nice vacation without the homeschoolees. 🙂