Book Rave: How to Behave and Why

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An Introduction:
We love children’s books. So much, in fact, that we have decided to celebrate our favorites for you in writing. Not so much a review, but a RAVE. The books we rave about are books to own, books to adore, books for your grandchildren to inherit. When you don’t seem to know what to say about a certain topic, these books will have the words your children need to hear. If your child is feeling low and not much seems to help, these are the books that pull them out of their funk. Lifesavers, memory-makers, knowledge-gainers, smile-savers, imagination benders … you get the idea. So, without further ado, here is AWUP’s first ever Book Rave:

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How to Behave and Why, by Munro Leaf (Rave by Julia)

It will come as little surprise to you that many of our rave books are ones our mothers read to us as children. How to Behave and Why, by Munro Leaf, is one such book – and a book for life. When I read it to my children, I get just as much out of it (if not more) than they do. It’s simply written and to the point, which is great for children. But better than that, Leaf’s words are sensible. Any life situation can be better understood, resolved even, in reference to this book. Self-help for all ages, Leaf breaks down some of life’s most important lessons, including “How To” be happy.

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How to have the most fun in living.
Sounds great to me, what about you!? Leaf roots the rest of the book to a central notion: “…there are certain ways we all have to behave if we want to live together pleasantly.” He describes these as the “good rules for behaving.” The brilliance of calling them rules! Leaf knows that children thrive within parameters; they must know what is expected of them. These four rules (which are actually ways of being) organize the contents of the book:

Honest, fair, strong and wise.

Sure, I have words to describe these traits to my children, but (and maybe you can relate) sometimes they aren’t hearing me. Sometimes it’s better to OUTSOURCE.

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Honesty
Being HONEST is a tough concept for children to understand, and just as trying for a parent to teach. The next time a discussion about lying is required, I’ll outsource, leading in with Leaf’s words:

“Some people think they can be smart and fool others when they tell a lie – but sooner or later the truth usually is found out and then the liar is sorry because he knows he won’t be trusted or believed the next time. Nobody knows what to do with a person who doesn’t tell the truth.”

Leaf also covers sensitive topics like cheating and stealing in describing what honest people don’t do. I feel certain my children would never cheat or steal, but who knows what they would do if I never explained why they shouldn’t! My daughter’s eyes were as wide as saucers when I read, “Grownups who steal are put in jail in almost every country – and that is one way a person loses all his friends for a long long time.” She won’t be forgetting those words any time soon.

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Fairness
The section on being FAIR is tremendous. Sharing, selfishness, poor sports, laziness… all this and more is addressed, and thank goodness. I’ve been struggling; I think I’ve spoiled my children when it comes to their one-on-one time with mommy. They demand my attention because, since birth, I have given so much of it to them. But I need time for myself, too. I love how Leaf applies fairness to the family dynamic. Reading these words aloud to my children and opening that line of communication has helped us achieve more balance.

Real Strength
When children think of being STRONG, they think muscles, superheroes, running fast or jumping high. They don’t usually think of the other ways of being strong, which are far more valuable.

Leaf writes, “Real strength comes from having a clean, healthy mind and a clean, healthy body.”

YES! Now here are some words I can really run with. Those veggies aren’t the only thing that make you strong. Standing up for a friend, staying in your own bed at night, listening the first time, even being nice to your brother MAKE YOU STRONG. Leaf explains it’s about doing what is right, no matter what.

The Value of Why
Leaf also describes that while it’s unacceptable for children to whine and complain when they don’t want to do what is right, it’s good to ask parents WHY. I have always felt a need to answer the question WHY for my children. I feel they deserve to know, and maybe they’ll be more inclined to listen if they can understand the very good reasons behind my expectations. So I explain: WHY I ask them to turn their socks out before they put them in the hamper. WHY I want them to request and not demand. WHY I ask that they PLEASE, drink all their milk.

So naturally, this is one of my favorite quotes in the book:  “Grown ups aren’t some kind of weird monsters that have fun making us do things we don’t want to do. They just know a whole lot more than we do because they have been here longer. Listen to what they tell you and you will be surprised how right they usually are.”

Message of Tolerance
Finally, Leaf reminds us that “If we are honest and fair and strong we won’t find it hard to be WISE.”

I findpage-56-small it overwhelming, and at times very frightening to be raising my children in today’s world. Will being honest, fair, strong and wise keep my children safe from harm? I have faith that it will help, and belief that for anything in this world to get better we must accept and embrace what makes us all unique, in all ways. I rave about How to Behave and Why for many reasons, but its message of tolerance takes the cake – a celebration of humanity at its best.

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And to conclude this rave:
The moments spent reading with our children are some of our most treasured. We look forward to the end of the day, when we can snuggle up with our littles and open that book. We travel to faraway lands, off on another adventure. We learn new things about our world. We connect to characters that help us better understand ourselves. We come closer to making sense of the more difficult questions in life. And the best thing? We do it all TOGETHER, strengthening the bond we have with our children in more ways than we could possibly imagine. We wish you happy reading together, always.

Do you know How to Behave and Why? Share your memories of growing up with this book or your thoughts of its many messages with us!

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