A review of Good Inside: A Guide to Becoming the Parent You Want to Be
by Dr. Becky Kennedy
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“Understanding has one goal: connection. And because connecting to our kids is how they learn to regulate their emotions and feel good inside, understanding will come up over and over again as a goal of communication.”
As you can tell by the title, Good Inside is a parenting book, not a book about grandparenting. When I set out to read it for a chat with Emily and Mike Morgan for The Grand Life Podcast, I didn’t plan to review it for you. Normally, I review grandparenting books, and books for your grandchildren. I don’t review parenting books.
Yet here I am, reviewing a parenting book--because I think grandparents should read it.
Why should grandparents read this review, and then read this book? Two reasons. One, it may help you understand how your grandchildren are being raised. And two, it may help you improve the relationships you have with…well, everyone.
Let’s address the first reason. Good Inside is a how-to book for parents who want to raise their children with an emphasis on connection rather than control. Dr. Kennedy, like many modern parenting experts, believes that the healthiest way to raise a child is to help them learn to regulate their emotions, their moods, and eventually their actions. By recognizing that a child’s actions are age-appropriate expressions of their emotions, a parent can strive for connection rather than control.
This approach is the basis for parenting philosophies like positive parenting and gentle parenting. It doesn’t mean parents don’t set boundaries; in fact, strong boundaries are a crucial part of the picture. If your children are following one of these current parenting trends, reading Good Inside will help you understand and support them as they raise your grandchildren.
As for the second reason grandparents should read this book: it contains simple wisdom that will help you better communicate with your spouse, your parents, your children, your boss, your employees, your neighbors, your friends…you get the picture.
Dr. Kennedy has two easy-to-remember mantras that make true connection possible. One is the “Most Generous Interpretation” or MGI. This is the idea that in any situation, thinking the best of the person instead of the worst will help you respond in a kind way. For parents, this may be recognizing that the child who pushed a toddler off the slide is not a bad kid, and not a product of bad parenting. Instead, it’s a child who is having a hard time, and acting badly because of it.
Try summoning the MGI next time you are cut off in traffic by an inconsiderate driver. What if, instead of swearing that they need to do something about giving licenses to idiots, you think of a scenario that explains their action in a generous light: maybe they are distracted because they just got bad new on a phone call. Maybe they are racing to pick up their wife who called to say she’s in labor.
Doing this won’t change the fact they cut you off, but it is likely to make you feel calmer and less upset. Applying this same principal to the people in your life will help you treat them with grace and respect.
The other principal that Dr Kennedy encourages parents to embrace is the idea that “Two Things Are True.” You’ll see in this paragraph from her book why this will help you in all your relationships:
Building strong connections relies on the assumption that no one is right in the absolute, because understanding, not convincing, is what makes people feel secure in a relationship. What do I mean by understanding and not convincing? Well, when we seek to understand, we attempt to see and learn more about another person’s perspective, feelings, and experience. We essentially say to that person, “I am having one experience and you are having a different experience. I want to get to know what’s happening for you.” It doesn’t mean you agree or comply (these would imply a “one thing is true” perspective), or that we are “wrong” or our truth doesn’t hold; it means we are willing to put our own experience aside for a moment to get to know someone else’s. When we approach someone with the goal of understanding, we accept that there isn’t one correct interpretation of a set of facts, but rather multiple experiences and viewpoints.
A good portion of Good Inside is made up of advice for specific behavior struggles. Grandparents may find this less interesting, unless they are involved in day-to-day care for their grandchildren. Because of this, you may hesitate to buy the book. My suggestion? Buy a copy and pass it on to your kids when you are done. Don’t tell them you think it’s how they should parent, just let them know you found it interesting and would love to know what they think after they’ve read it.
It's likely to be a great conversation!
Speaking of conversations, make sure you’ve subscribed to The Grand Life wherever you get your podcasts so you don’t miss the episode where I discuss this book and more with Emily & Mike Morgan.