Book Review – All Joy And No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood

Here at FamilyTech, you know we are big fans of reading. We’ve focused on encouraging kids to read and recommended reading to your kids out loud. And we’ve even reviewed a bunch of kid’s books here on our blog as well.

But today, we wanted to take the time to recommend a book about parenting. It’s not brand new, but it came across our radar late last year, and we found it to be a great read. The book is All Joy And No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood.

The title of ‘All Joy’ drew us in. It’s not easy to try to negotiate the conflict between a deep love for our kids and a constant obligation to their well being. Author Jennifer Senior states that “children are the last binding obligation in a culture that asks for almost no other permanent commitments at all.”

The book looks into the history of parenting, and points out that in the past twenty or thirty years, kids have gone “from being our employees to our bosses.” This is in part because parenting is continually changing. What are we responsible to do for our kids? While that seems like an easy answer, it’s not for many. Whether it’s dealing with picky eaters, practice schedules, or school stuff, it’s obvious that our kids run the show in more ways than we are willing to admit.

What parents can agree on, whatever their approach, is that it’s “for the child’s sake, and the child’s alone. Parents no longer raise children for the family’s sake or that of the broader world.

Senior also touches on middle-class children. She talks about how as parents, we tell our kids they can do anything they want, they can achieve any goal with the proper determination and work ethic. This is, of course, true, but this attitude can be detrimental to parenting.

The very same skills parents encourage in their children, can and do lead children to challenge, and even reject, parental authority.

And finally, some notes about teens in the book were interesting. I’ll touch on just one quote that stood out to me as a parent of two teenagers.

Being a parent consists, in large part, of correcting the growth pattern of a person who is not necessarily ready to live in a civilized society.

We could not agree more with this statement and have felt it to be true for quite some time. But the author states it so succinctly. Our teens are, for the most part, not ready to live in a civilized society. And without some direction and parenting, will have a much more difficult time when they are forced into that environment.

Of course, there are exceptions to this line of thinking, but even those that overcome enormous obstacles are forced to learn how to adapt to the world around them at some point.

All Joy And No Fun is an excellent read for parents with kids of any age and provides a unique perspective on parenting. It doesn’t force a cookie cutter approach parenting but instead examines the history and current state of one of life’s most essential tasks. If nothing else, there are some fantastic conversation starters that should liven up your next social interaction with other parents.

Joe Long

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