Dr Carlos González sets out his stall very clearly in the first pages of his book:
This book assumes all children are essentially good, that their emotional needs are important, and that we as parents owe them love, respect and attention [p13]
He demonstrates this last point over and over again, by taking the statements of various childcare experts and graphically substituting the word ‘child’ with ‘wife’ or ‘colleague’ or ‘prisoner,’ revealing shocking double standards in our expectations and our treatment of children.
The book is roughly divided into two main chapters, the first of which presents children’s behaviour in terms of survival, adaptation, and genetic predisposition. González reframes disobedience as instinct, explaining for example a toddler’s preference to be carried rather than walk as a deep instinctive drive for safety and security.
The other half of the book is given over to demolishing various parenting theories including sleep training, therapeutic crying, and smacking. It is particularly gratifying to read his meticulous critique of Dr Christopher Green, that unpleasant advocate of smacking, whose basic assumption is that children are all ungrateful tyrants in need of taming.
González’ style is ranty in the extreme, and occasionally it is hard to tell if he is being sarcastic. This book gave me a lot to reflect on with regard to the way I talk to new parents and try to help them understand their babies’ behaviour. But however much I enjoyed this most arid humour, and however valid his premise and instructive his examples, I am wondering whether I would recommend Kiss Me! to new or expectant parents.
González writes with great empathy for children, but much less for parents; who, he explains, are inevitably confused by woolly and non-evidence based ‘advice’ from authoritative experts. His suggestion to combat this is that all parenting books should state on the cover what the author’s basic philosophy of human nature is.
Kiss Me! is an interesting book, and its most useful chapter focuses the mind on understanding, respecting, and empathising with children. Despite his strident tones, this is a very healthy approach to parenting.