Parenting Books about Raising Market-Savvy Kids

Posted on
Categories Book Review Theme Week, Book Reviews, ParentingTags 3 Comments

A mother of two and marketing professional review three books that help her raise her children to resist the pressures of advertising

I’ve spent my career to date in the field of marketing.  While I don’t often think about it in these terms, I’ve devoted my professional self to convincing you how great is the latest THIS, and how much more you need of the super-awesome THAT.

Although I know many of the tricks of the marketing trade, I am fascinated to read about the impact of our consumer-driven culture on our kiddos…starting before a baby is even born.

review2The first book I read on this topic is “Cinderella Ate My Daughter”, by Peggy Orenstein, published in 2011.  The book documents the birth of the “princess culture” in the early 2000’s and illustrates the proliferation of all things pink and sparkly.  When baby girls come home from the hospital wearing an “I’m the Princess” onesie, suckle a pacifier embellished with a tiara, and wear a tutu before they can walk, our mainstream culture paints a very early, and very narrow, picture of what it means to be a girl.

Orenstein follows the princess culture through toddlerhood and preschool, and discusses how it can prime girls for earlier and earlier sexualization.  She discusses the dangers of this as relate to the risk for depression and eating disorders, along with numerous other topics in today’s media-saturated world.

review1I reviewed this book on my blog a couple of years ago, and a fellow twin mom recommended another book, “buy, buy baby”, by Susan Gregory Thomas.  Published in 2007, the book has a broader focus than the “Cinderella” book, but it ultimately centers around the media influence over many parents.

Specifically, the book discusses the birth of “educational” videos and toys, and how companies use the insecurities of parents to manipulate buyers.  Frighteningly, Thomas points out it is often the video and toy companies who fund research in child development they then use to sell their products.  Evidence is presented that some of these “educational” products could actually impair development.

review3My most recent read is “Redefining Girly”, by Melissa Atkins Wardy.  Wardy hits many of the same points as in the “Cinderella” book, but her focus is on both boys and girls.  Yes, girls are faced with so much pink and lace and tulle…but boys are faced with equal amounts of rough-and-tough positioned toys.  The book opens the reader’s eyes to gender stereotypes on both sides of the aisle.

What I love about “Redefining Girly” is that Wardy provides so many wonderful dialogue examples throughout the book.  Yes, we know that marketing forces are pervasive in our culture…yes, we recognize that our children often see a narrow definition of what is “acceptable” for a given gender…but…this stuff is EVERYWHERE.  How do we navigate our children through the labyrinth of clothing choices, toy aisles, and birthday party themes?

Wardy has suggestions for how to talk to your children in many different situations.  Some of my favorite catch phrases are, “There are many ways to be a girl / boy,” and, “Colors are for everyone.”

I know there’s nothing wrong with fairy tales or dress-up play, and there are “educational” toys that have a place in many of our playrooms.  I love challenging myself to think about the motivations of the companies who sell these products and services to us, though.  Our culture is very media-driven, and I believe it’s my job as a parent to make the best choices for my children, and to educate them to begin to make good choices for themselves.

MandyE is mom to five-year old fraternal twin girls.  She blogs about their adventures, and her journey through motherhood, at Twin Trials and Triumphs.

Share this...Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on StumbleUponShare on TumblrShare on RedditDigg thisShare on LinkedInEmail this to someone

Twin Manibreasto: A Success Story of Milk and Multiples – A Book Review

Posted on
Categories Book Reviews, BreastfeedingLeave a comment

I was given a copy of Twin Manibreasto by the author, Mercedes Donis, for purposes of this book review, but opinions are all mine!

I have twin daughters, and they were my first babies. Being a first time mom of twins, I had to learn a lot of things diving in head first. One of these things was breastfeeding. And having to learn not only how to breastfeed one child, but two, simultaneously, was not a natural process. That’s why I am so grateful HDYDI’s very own Mercedes of Project Procrastinot wrote Twin Manibreasto – A Success Story of Milk and Multiples.Twin Manibreasto - A Success Story of Milk and Multiples

Twin Manibreasto is the book that needed to be written. It’s a short little ebook, but it’s full of practical, straight-forward talk, from a twin mom who knows about the unique breastfeeding struggles twin mothers face (unlike many breastfeeding books). Her twins are 15 months now and still breastfeeding! Twin Manibreasto - You can't get too prepared!

In Twin Manibreasto you will find helps on supplies, positions, pumping, nursing garments, dietary helps, and more. Plus, at the end of the book there is a great list of further resources and articles to read up on, including some recipes. The big thing Mercedes Donis wants you to take away from her book, is that you can do it! If you really want to breastfeed your twins, this book will help!

If you are expecting twins, I suggest picking up a copy of Twin Manibreasto!

If you had twins, did you breastfeed them? What obstacles did you face? Did you find there to be a lack of support, of resources?

Share this...Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on StumbleUponShare on TumblrShare on RedditDigg thisShare on LinkedInEmail this to someone

Siblings Without Rivalry – A Book Review

Posted on
Categories Behavior, Book Review Theme Week, Book Reviews, Discipline, Family, Individuality, Parenting, Parenting Twins, Siblings, Theme Week6 Comments

A mother of twins reviews Siblings Without Rivalry

Siblings Without Rivalry is by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish, authors of How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk. If you missed my review of How to Talk… you can check it out here to get a sense of the prevailing philosophy behind these books. In a nutshell, Faber and Mazlish promote empathetic communication between parents and children and collaborative solutions to conflict.

While Siblings Without Rivalry is NOT a book centered upon the unique challenges of raising multiples, its sibling-centric focus does make it very applicable to most parents of twins. The authors wrote it as a follow-up to How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk because they felt they had not had sufficient space to fully explore sibling conflict in the first book.

The most important prevailing theme throughout Siblings Without Rivalry is that parents should acknowledge and respect children’s feelings, particularly toward their siblings, without minimizing or sugar-coating them.  If a child says, “I hate Owen! He always ruins my stuff,” then rather than saying, “Be nice to your brother,” a parent might say, “You really seem angry at your brother! You wish he’d take better care of your things.” Allowing both children to express anger and validating their feelings can help them to work through the conflict on their own, increasing both their autonomy and their sense of belonging within their family.

Other Interesting Takeaways:

  1. Wherever possible, parents should stay out of conflicts between children, and instead provide them with tools to work through their disagreement together. The general formula prescribed for intervening when necessary is:
    •  Acknowledge each side’s anger: “John, you want to watch Curious George, but Kristen wants to watch Elmo, is that right?”
    • Appreciate both sides of the conflict, and express faith in their ability to come to a fair solution: “Wow, that’s tough. There’s only one television, and both of you want to use it. But I know you can come up with a solution that works for both of you.”
    • Walk away.

    I admit that I find this approach a little hard to fathom. My children are two, and while they can express (loudly) what they want, they don’t grasp the idea of compromise. Or patience. But I really like the idea of giving kids the tools to work out problems on their own without requiring Mom or Dad to resolve them. (Note that the book DOES provide a different approach for handling violent conflicts. A parent would never be advised to walk away from a fight that could cause real harm to either child.)

  2. Resist the urge to compare. I think that as twin parents, we generally know better than to do this, but comparisons can pop up in unexpected places sometimes. (“Look, your sister ate all HER food…” for example, or “Your sister put HER jacket away…”) Rather than comparing one child to another (“Why can’t you put away your toys like your brother does?”) describe the behavior that you see: “I see your blocks on the floor.” Or describe what needs to be done: “Please put your blocks away.” Likewise, be careful of comparing one child favorably to the other. Rather than saying, “You are a better eater than your sister,” describe the behavior that pleases you: “I see that you ate all your carrots!”
  3. Don’t allow your children to be locked into roles or personas. People seem really inclined to do this with twins. People often make references to one of my twins as “the shy one” or “the artistic one”. And when they were small babies, a stranger once asked me which was “the good one.” Never tell your kid, “Why are you always so mean to your brother?” The child walks away thinking, “Yes, I know I’m mean.” A better approach is to set a positive expectation for the child: “I know you can be kind to your brother.”
  4. Rather than treating children equally, strive to treat them uniquely, according to their needs. Instead of focusing on doling out identical servings of food, ask, “Do you want a little bit of _________ or a lot?” Instead of saying, “I love you both the same,” say, “I love you because you’re you! No one could ever take your place.” Give time according to need, as well. “I’m spending a lot of time helping your brother with his project right now. It’s important to him. As soon as I’m finished, I want to hear what’s important to you.” And then tune in and engage with the other child.
    This idea really resonated strongly with me. I remember being aware that one of my children really “needed” me more when they were small babies, while the other was more independent and able to accept help from others. I felt guilty about that at the time, feeling that I had somehow neglected the more independent child or affected our bonding. Now, with the space of time, I’m aware of how my relationships with my children have evolved, and I worry less about how much time I’ve spent with each and more about the quality of the time I’ve spent with each.
  5. Set expectations about boundaries of conflict. If kids hit or use name calling, say something like: “You sound mad, but I expect you to talk to your brother without hitting or calling him names.” And then provide some alternative strategies. “Rather than hitting, draw me a picture of how you feel.” “Rather than hitting your brother, go hit this pillow.” But note that insisting upon good feelings between children can lead to bad feelings or lingering resentment. Allowing bad feelings between children can help them to work through those feelings and have a more positive relationship in the long run.

 Overall Impression

As with How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk, a few ideas in the book made me think, “Well, that sounds nice, but what do you do when THAT doesn’t work?” In general, though, I found Faber and Mazlish’s philosophies on how to treat and talk to siblings to be intuitive and thought-provoking. I was even able to (tactfully) suggest alternative ways to think about  and talk to my twins to other family members. All in all, I found it to be a very interesting and helpful read, but as with any parenting book, one should approach it willing to apply what makes sense and ignore what doesn’t.

Share this...Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on StumbleUponShare on TumblrShare on RedditDigg thisShare on LinkedInEmail this to someone

NurtureShock – A Book Review

Posted on
Categories Behavior, Book Review Theme Week, Book Reviews, Books, ParentingTags , , , 3 Comments

A review of the child development book NurtureShockNurtureShock: New Thinking About Children is the book that has most influenced my approach to parenting. Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman pored through child development, psychology and eduation literature and highlighted some major ways in which our generation, in trying to do right by our kids, may actually be doing them a disservice.

This isn’t light reading. There’s a lot of information packed in there. The authors report on a lot of practical, relevant research and some philosophically fascinating research. With that second category of information, it’s up to us to figure out practical applications in parenting. Each chapter of the book could easily be its own book. There’s little coherence between the chapters, but that’s okay. It’s not like I had the time to read it in one sitting!

A mother of twins reviews the book NurtureShock

Chapter 1: The Inverse Power of Praise

Sure, he’s special. But new research suggests if you tell him that, you’ll ruin him. It’s a neurobiological fact.

If you’re going to read one chapter of this book, it needs to be this one. I really think this applies to all children. In short, generalized praise that tells your child that her inherent superiority is the source of her success doesn’t build her self-esteem in a way that is lasting or constructive. Instead, make praise specific. Acknowledge effort over talent. Instead of, “You’re so smart,” tell your child, “You worked so hard!”

In one study the authors cite, Dr Carol Dweck’s team gave a group of children a pretty easy test to complete. Half the kids were praised for their smarts, and the other for their effort. They were then offered a choice of two puzzles. The harder one would teach them a lot. Ninety percent of the kids who’d be praised for working hard chose the harder puzzle, while most of the other group elected the easier one.

Kids who know that they’re smart are more likely to give up when they need to put forth effort. Guilty. I was that kid. I’d always been a good student and studied hard, but freshman chemistry in college was the first class in which I was frequently stumped. It took an enormous effort of will for me to stick with it, and the shock of not being the best student in the class hit my sense of worth hard. I’d always been the smart kid; needing to study stole from me the core of my sense of self. It was quite the fall.

Kids who feel valued for being hard workers are likely to stick things out and take greater pride in their accomplishments. My children have been consistently labeled as gifted. I am so glad that I read this book before they started elementary school. Instead of praising my girls for being at the head of their class, I talk to them about doing their best. I’m not disappointed if they come in last if they try their hardest. Doing a lazy job and getting the highest grade in the class? That isn’t an accomplishment.

Not buying it yet? Check out this passage from the chapter.

By the age of twelve, children believe that earning praise from a teacher is not a sign that you did well–it’s actually a sign you lack ability and the teacher thinks you need extra encouragement.

Chapter 2: The Lost Hour

Around the world, children get an hour less sleep than they did thirty years ago. The cost: IQ points, emotional well-being, ADHD, and obesity.

This is a hard one for me. It’s so hard to make enough time for sleep, getting home as late as we do, as much as the kids drag their feet getting ready for bed, as late as their bedtime conversations last. I struggle to value sleep; it just feels like this thing that takes away from the time I could spend living life and getting things done.

Interestingly, even allowing kids to switch their sleep patterns on weekends is detrimental. Dr. Avi Sadeh showed that every hour of sleep shift (going to bed later and waking later) resulted in a 7-point drop on an IQ test. As the authors put it, “The more you learned during the day, the more you need to sleep that night.” (p. 34)

Even more alarming is the fact that after pre-school, children are getting an entire hour less sleep every single night than we did as children. In fact, the authors suggest that the teenage moodiness may be mostly the result of chronic sleep deprivation.

Chapter 3: Why White Parents Don’t Talk About Race

Does teaching children about race and skin colour make them better off or worse?

This chapter was really uncomfortable to read. My ex-husband and I must be America’s whitest brown people. His father is of Mexican descent, and his mother is Caucasian. My parents are both Bengali, South Asian – Indian, if you must, although we’re actually from Bangladesh. Neither of us has ever encountered real racism; both military and university environments are meritocracies and we both grew up in open-minded, accepting school systems with open-minded, accepting peers.

Reading this book prompted me to discuss race with my girls, something I’d never done before. We had assumed that the fact that they’re triracial and have friends across the spectrum would be enough to keep them from being prejudiced. Bronson and Merryman call this the “Diverse Environment Theory.”

NurtureShock‘s authors convincingly argue that we’re wrong to refuse to talk about race. They argue that humans look for patterns. Kids don’t assume that groups are random. They look for commonalities and draw conclusions, and it us up to us as parents to encourage them to evaluate their assumptions.

If we don’t talk about the generalizations they’re making, they stick. Bronson and Merryman argue that school desegregation doesn’t bring an end to racism unless race is actually discussed. An example they gave was of an elementary classroom spontaneously discussing Santa’s race after being read a book in which Santa was depicted with black skin.

We all want out children to be unintimidated by differences and have the social skills to integrate in a diverse world. The question is, do we make it worse, or do we make it better, by calling attention to race? (p. 51)

Bronson and Merryman state, “All minority parents at some point tell their children that discrimination is out there, but they shouldn’t let it stop them.” (p. 63) This doesn’t jive with my minority family experience. It was only after reading this chapter that I began to dive into the history of discrimination. They’ve since studied the Civil Rights movement at school.

A few weeks ago, my 7-year-old daughters and I had an interesting conversation about affirmative action and whether it still has a place in our society. That would have never come up had I not read this chapter.

Wow. This review is getting really long. I’d better speed it up. It’s just such a thought-provoking book

Chapter 4: Why Kids Lie

We may treasure honesty, but the research is clear. Most classic strategies to promote truthfulness just encourage kids to be better liars.

When I read this chapter, I was kind of disappointed. I was looking for research-based suggestions on how to teach our children about the value of truth, while also helping them gauge what truths should be spoken where. Parents who have faith in their children’s inherent honesty will certainly be shocked by how much good kids lie. They don’t want to disappoint us and they don’t want to get in trouble. So they lie.

Chapter 5: The Search for Intelligent Life in Kindergarten

Millions of kids are competing for seats in gifted programs and private schools. Admissions officers say it’s an art: science says they’re wrong, 73% of the time.

This chapter was hugely influential for me. My kids are among those who were identified early as gifted. Had I not read this chapter, I would have probably sat happy on those laurels. What I learned, though, was commonsensical enough. Kids bloom at different times. A child who is super-precocious as a 5-year-old may be an average student by middle school. The kid who doesn’t stand out in 1st or 2nd grade may burst into brilliance as a 5th grader. However, our school systems only looked for giftedness once, early in elementary school. We end up with kids in gifted programs who would do better in regular classrooms and miss out on nurturing other children’s genius.

Even worse, the measures of giftedness are limited and miss out on things like emotional intelligence. When I was researching schools for my daughters, I ended up choosing the school district that would allow children into their Gifted and Talented program even if their gifts manifested in only one academic area. While I knew my daughters would qualify in all areas, I wanted them in a program that valued uniqueness and understood that children are individuals.

In December, I read A Parent’s Guide to Gifted Children, which I’ll review tomorrow. When I was telling my daughter M about it, she observed that her teacher was likely good at teaching gifted children because her own daughter was so smart. Her teacher’s daughter is one of the most emotionally intelligent and insightful children I have ever encountered, but she doesn’t test particularly well. She’s struggled with math and reading. I knew that M’s ability to see her friend’s gifts, despite their not being the ones that most schools acknowledge, was a sign that we were doing something right.

Chapter 6: The Sibling Effect

Freud was wrong. Shakespeare was right. Why siblings really fight.

This is the chapter for MoMs. One observation is that sibling relationships stay qualitatively similar over time, at least as long as they’re living together. Those of us with kids who adore each other now can be pretty confident that their connection with stand the test of time. The bad news is for those whose kids mostly ignore each other. Interestingly, fighting a lot isn’t necessarily bad, if it’s balanced out by fun, fun, fun times.

Conflict prevention is the key, not conflict resolution. Kids as young as four can be taught the skills needed to get along with their siblings. Siblings who can work things out without needing parental intervention are in good shape. The sibling relationship is its own thing, not some reflection of each child’s relationship with their parents or sharing parental attention.

Here’s a showstopper: “One of the best predictors of how well two siblings get along is determine before the birth of the younger child… [The] predictive factor is the quality of the older child’s relationship with his best friend.” Those of us who have multiples first seem to have a major advantage here.

Chapter 7: The Science of Teen Rebellion

Why, for adolescents, arguing with adults is a sign of respect, not disrespect – and arguing is constructive to the relationship, not destructive.

If your teen argues with you, it’s because she still cares about your opinion. The kids who agrees with you all the time is just ignoring you as soon as you’re out of sight. Mind. Blown.

As you’ve probably heard elsewhere, teenagers’ brains just don’t work like adult brains. There’s no point expecting them to. We don’t expect that of our two-year-olds, right?

Chapter 8: Can Self Control Be Taught?

Developers of a new kind of preschool keep losing their grant money – the students are so successful they’re no longer ‘at-risk enough’ to warrant further study. What’s their secret?

I found this chapter less coherent that the others. Teens make bad decisions. A bunch of teens together make such insanely bad decisions, it’s crazy. Young children can be taught self-control by being empowered to set their own boundaries and practicing holding themselves to those boundaries. Tools of the Mind sounds like an amazing educational approach, but good luck finding a school that uses it.

Chapter 9: Plays Well With Others

Why modern involved parenting has failed to produce a generation of angels.

There’s a fascinating insight in this chapter about kids’ TV. Modern children’s educational TV programs, despite attempting to teach positive behaviour, does the opposite. So much time is spent building up a conflict and so relatively little time spent resolving it, the kids absorb the conflict and not the resolution. One way to address it? Let your kids see you fight so that they can see you resolve conflict. If you agree with your spouse not to fight in front of the kids, they still pick up on the tension, but never get to learn from you how to make up. Let your kids know that conflict is a normal part of human life… as is resolving it.

Chapter 10: Why Hannah Talks and Alyssa Doesn’t

Despite scientists’ admonitions, parents still spend billions every year on gimmicks and videos, hoping to jump-start infants’ language skills. What’s the right way to accomplish this goal?

Perhaps it’s because my academic background is in linguistics, but this chapter didn’t do anything for me. Social interaction is critical to language development. Responding to your child, even before the child can produce meaningful speech, helps him learn to speak. Reponses can be verbal, tactile, eye contact. All of it matters.

Conclusion:  The Myth of the Supertrait

This book has no that-explains-everything insight. Raising kids is a complex exercise. There’s no one aspect of childhood that fixes everything if you tweak it just right. Well-rounded parenting helps kids.

Pretty straightforward, that, but there were a lot of good details along the way.

Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced mother of 7-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. She lives with them and their 3 cats in the Austin, TX suburbs and works full time as a business analyst. She retired her personal blog, Double the Fun, when the girls entered elementary school and also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.

Share this...Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on StumbleUponShare on TumblrShare on RedditDigg thisShare on LinkedInEmail this to someone

Happiest Baby on the Block – A Book Review

Posted on
Categories Book Reviews, Infants, Parenting3 Comments

2

 

The Happiest Baby on the Block was one of the first books I bought when I found out I was expecting, although at that time I hadn’t discovered I was carrying twins.

The main premise of the book that Dr. Karp really hammers home is that baby humans are not quite ready to be born yet, and that we must recreate a womb-like environment for them during “the fourth trimester,” or the first three months post=partum.

The Five S’s

How do we simulate a womb, you ask? Dr. Karp proposes the 5 S’s: Swaddling, Side or Stomach position, Shushing, Swinging and Sucking. These strategies can work alone or layered in various combinations to soothe your fussy baby, and he explains how to do so safely.

Great for First Time Parents

The book is a great tool for new parents, especially for those who have not been around babies. It is very simple information. He explains the basic needs of an infant, and the reasons that the very act of existing in the real world can be enough to make little one cry. He also addresses colic, and interestingly compares different cultures, their attitudes and behaviors towards newborns and their rates of having colicky, fussy babies.

Short on time? Watch the DVD

The only downside is that the book gets a little redundant towards the end. Since I am a book junkie, I enjoyed reading the book, but if you are short on time I would recommend watching the DVD. You’ll see Dr. Karp handle various babies, wrapped up like baguettes, all of whom stop crying as if he’d flipped a switch. The DVD doesn’t convey as much background information on the “why” of the techniques, but it is effective at showing them in action.

What Worked for Us

1) Infants have a strong need to suck, whether that is from the breast or a pacifier. I had been anti-pacifier until reading this, and even had my doubts after the twins were born because I didn’t want to foster any nipple confusion. I waited about a week before giving my exclusively breastfed babies a pacifier, it did help and I didn’t have to feel guilty about it.

2) White noise is a winner. During our oh so brief periods of sleep at night, we had a white noise machine. It had an automatic timer and the longest interval it had was 45 minutes. That didn’t work! Once we got a decent, loud, unlimited white noise machine, the sleeping periods were a little longer. That was great.

It’s important to remember to take it with a grain of salt, of course. My twins certainly didn’t have off switches, not matter how much I rocked them or breastfed them. But for minor offenses, it was good to have these tools handy. There is no magic, really! But it is important to be aware of things that can help you, even if it is just slightly lessening your load.

Mercedes is the still sleep-deprived mother of 16 month old boy/girl twins. She is the author of Twin Manibreasto and blogs at Project Procrastinot.

Share this...Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on StumbleUponShare on TumblrShare on RedditDigg thisShare on LinkedInEmail this to someone

What to Expect the First Year – A Book Review

Posted on
Categories Book Review Theme Week, Book Reviews, Books, Development, InfantsTags 4 Comments

Mom of twins Sadia reviews this bookWhat to Expect When You’re Expecting is a classic that most moms have heard of even if they haven’t read it. It lays out all aspects of pregnancy (singleton pregnancy, mostly), from what’s happening within your body to possible complications to what will happen at your medical appointments and your childbirth options.

What to Expect the First Year is another book in the same series. It is laid out similarly to its predecessor, but focuses on your child’s first year of life. It’s not the kind of book your read cover to cover. I certainly didn’t! Not with two infants showing up 2 months ahead of schedule, a full-time job, and a husband in Iraq! What it is, in my opinion, is the perfect reference book for that first nail-biting year of motherhood. It was my crutch as I discovered my maternal confidence and faith in my instincts. It was my touchstone, letting me know it was all going to be okay.

A review of What to Expect the First Year

During the period in which I leaned on this book, I hadn’t yet discovered the blogosphere and the kinship of other MoMs. My grandmother, the only member of my family I would have trusted with childrearing advice, had died when I was 19. My in-laws were supportive and loving, but they lived 2000 miles away. My neighbours were wonderful, but their babies were 2 and 6 months younger than mine. I was supposed to be the local expert on babies. Ha! I was cheating, passing off nuggets of wisdom from What to Expect the First Year as my own.

The book isn’t perfect. Its content pertaining to twins was limited, generic, and generally unhelpful. I was completely unprepared for the realities of prematurity and the NICU. What to Expect had failed to warn me about what it was going to mean to have a child with a birth defect or the challenges of getting it diagnosed.

However, What to Expect the First Year covers 90% of parenting. For pregnancies and infants without major complications, it might get close to 99%. I started acting upon the advice in the early chapters of the book while I was still pregnant. Of course, while pregnant, I actually had time to sit down and read the first few chapters.

It hadn’t occurred to me to select a doctor for my babies ahead of time, but when I read that recommendation in What to Expect, it made perfect sense. I lucked out in my search, the first practice I interviewed being The One. I had confidence bringing my 4-pounders home from the NICU knowing that I had a doctor I trusted with their care.

I read through the section on preparing pets for a new baby voraciously, and was more interested than alarmed at our cats’ reactions to their arrival. I was an expert on matters of car seat choices, much to the pride of my husband. When we were registering for a travel system, I was able to show off my knowledge of what LATCH stood for. Yep, I’d read it in the book.

When I heard J’s Apgar score, M was being pulled out of my body. I was grateful to have read that far in the book. I knew that her score of 9 was really, really good, especially for a 33-weeker. I hadn’t, however, prepared myself to have my wrists strapped down or for the doctor to tell me he was going to have to cut, whether or not my epidural had kicked in.

Once the babies were actually in my care, What to Expect turned into the reference document it would serve as for the next year. I quit looking at the table of contents altogether and began relying on the index. (It turns out that after the initial chapters about baby care and preparation, the book describes a baby’s development month by month.)

M has a fever. Do I call the doctor? I check for “fever” in the index and learn that anything over 100.4 °F for my newborn meant a call to the doctor was in order.

J is refusing the breast. What do I do? I read through the entire section on breastfeeding and am inspired again to try contacting La Leche League only to, once again, get no response.

I had crazy food allergies as a kid. What can I do to minimize the chances of my kids suffering as I did? I read through the “thinking about solids” section and come away with an understanding of the American Academy of Pediatrics‘ recommendations. I also google the Great Ormond Street recommendations in a nod to my British heritage.

Review of What to Expect the First YearI looked to the staff at the pediatrician’s office as my real partners in figuring out what to worry about and what to let go. They were very knowledgeable about what to schedule based on my daughters’ age adjusted for prematurity: introducing solid foods, immunizations, watching for developmental milestones. They were the ones who let me know that it was okay to have babies in the first percentile for length and weight as long as their growth curve mirrored the shape of the standard curve. For the everyday questions, though, that didn’t rise to needing to call the doctor, this book was my source of knowledge.

More than once, my friend Sara, her son 14 days younger than my girls, her husband deployed with mine, called me up not to talk to me, but to ask me what “The Book” said about her latest question about infant development, diapers, or puke.

This was nearly 8 years ago. A lot has changed in that time. If I were to have newborns now, I’d be much more likely to turn to the internet. I’d have other mothers to turn to. I’d be more confident in knowing what advice to adopt and what to reject. For a first-time mom with a limited support network, though, What to Expect the First Year was indispensable.

Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced mother of 7-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. She lives with them and their 3 cats in the Austin, TX suburbs and works full time as a business analyst. She retired her personal blog, Double the Fun, when the girls entered elementary school and also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.

Share this...Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on StumbleUponShare on TumblrShare on RedditDigg thisShare on LinkedInEmail this to someone

Beyond the Sling – A Book Review (Attachment Parenting)

Posted on
Categories Book Review Theme Week, Book Reviews, ParentingTags , , Leave a comment

3

I remember seeing Mayim Bialik a few years ago on What Not to Wear.

She had this bohemian-bag-lady look going on, and she reminded me of some of the women in my family: quirky and intelligent. I learned that she has a PhD in neuroscience. Then, several years later she showed up in the Big Bang Theory as Amy Farrah Fowler! She’s my favorite character.

(And, did you see the Valentine’s Day episode? Squee!)

Beyond the Sling So, I’m a big fan of hers.

I was in my first trimester of my twin pregnancy when her book, Beyond the Sling, came out. I mainly bought it out of curiosity.

I really liked her no-nonsense approach, and the way she rejects the gimmicks and consumerism of parenting (as our culture would have you believe).

Essentials

According to Mayim, these are the true baby essentials

  • a smooth birth (drug-free, vaginal when possible)
  • milk (breastfeeding is natural, bottle feeding should mimic breastfeeding as much as possible)
  • to be held (baby wearing is a biggie)
  • nighttime parenting (no “crying it out” or sleep-training;  co-sleeping or bed-sharing is appropriate)
  • potty (also known as Elimination Communication)

And here is what baby DOESN’T need

  • all that stuff (can I get an amen from MoMs everywhere?)
  • unnecessary medical intervention (holistic remedies)
  • pressure (“teaching” before baby is ready)
  • punishment (positive parenting vs. traditional discipline)

(There’s also a section on what mommy does need, but that part wasn’t as interesting.)

Attachment Parenting

If you couldn’t tell by her idea of what baby does and doesn’t need, Mayim is an advocate of attachment parenting. I really didn’t know much about it before reading the book, and I definitely think it’s a good “primer” in the logic of attachment parenting.

What I appreciated most about the book was the simplicity of her statements, backed up by science. But she writes in “plain English,” so it is easy to understand.

Diaper-Free Baby??

I particularly found the section on Elimination Communication intriguing, if not a little wacky. (At the time, I didn’t yet know I was carrying twins. I seriously contemplated EC, then discarded the idea at the thought of two diaperless newborns, then reconsidered and had an interesting couple of months!)

Positive doesn’t Equal Permissive

I also liked her section on punishment or rather, not punishing. She plainly explains why conventional discipline strategies like time-outs or threats are not effective, or why they work “for the wrong reasons.” She gives lots of examples of things to do instead and stories from her own children.

I enjoyed reading how the ideology played out for her family. There are many things that wouldn’t work for my own family, or that would be more challenging with multiples, but it was still neat to read about.

Give Yourself Some Credit

As with any book, this is not the answer to all your questions, nor is it a “quick fix,” and Mayim is the first person to tell you. I love that one of her first messages is that “you already know the majority of what you need to know to be an incredible parent.” What first-time mom doesn’t need to hear that? Now, as a parent of multiples, we generally need a little more logistical guidance, but when it comes to the meaty heart of parenting (or maybe its tofu heart, since Mayim is vegan), we should trust ourselves to make good decisions for our families.

For me, this book was an eye-opener and was kind of a “gateway book” into the world of attachment parenting. I would recommend it to anyone with an open mind who enjoys reading pieces that are straight-forward and scientifically backed.

Mercedes is a toddler-wearing, breastfeeding MoM to boy/girl twins living in Scotland. She is the author of an ebook, Twin Manibreasto, and blogs at Project Procrastinot

Share this...Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on StumbleUponShare on TumblrShare on RedditDigg thisShare on LinkedInEmail this to someone

How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk – A Book Review

Posted on
Categories Book Review Theme Week, Book Reviews, Discipline, Emotion, Parenting, Talking to Kids, Theme WeekTags , 3 Comments

6

First published in 1980, How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk, by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish, is a book that I’ve seen referenced over and over in parenting conversations online since before my kids were even born. Now that R and J are two, I’m much more anxious to find and implement consistent parenting strategies that will work well for us and promote a spirit of cooperation, rather than constant discord, in our household. How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk largely fits the bill.

Because How to Talk… was first published over thirty years ago, I found many of the philosophies and parenting strategies it suggested to be fairly commonsensical. The book primarily promotes empathy with children, encouraging parents to acknowledge their child’s feelings rather than dismissing or ridiculing them. This seems like a parenting philosophy that is more mainstream now than it might have been in 1980, and it has been reinforced over the years in educational television programming like “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” “Sesame Street,” etc.

But while much of the book seemed fairly straightforward and self-evident, the authors pointed out a few things that well-meaning parents often do that might undermine their children’s feelings without ever even knowing it. For example:

  1. Parents often try to reassure their children by saying, “You’re alright!” or, “It’s okay!” if a child falls or encounters a minor mishap. While parents are trying to diffuse the situation and cheer up the child, he or she may not feel alright, and parents may seem unsympathetic. Instead, the book suggests acknowledging the child’s feelings and letting them know that it’s alright to feel what they feel. The parent could instead say, “Oh, you fell and scraped your knee. That looks like it hurt!” to a child asking for comfort and reassurance. Expressing sympathy builds trust from the child to the parent. Another pitfall that well-meaning parents sometimes fall into is immediately turning the situation into a teaching moment. While our impulse might be to immediately say, “This is why I told you not to run on the sidewalk,” kids can perceive that you haven’t “heard” their distress.
  2. Parents often try to solve a problem or resolve a conflict on behalf of their child, rather than giving children the tools to do it themselves. This is a problem we face a lot in my house, where my kids are struggling to assert their own autonomy but lack the skill to do everything by themselves. Rather than jumping in to help by saying, “Here, let me open that for you,” the authors suggest showing respect for the effort and tools for success, by saying, “It can be hard to open a jar. Sometimes it helps to tap the lid gently on the counter.”
  3. Parents can provide harmful praise. Instead of evaluating or categorizing your child, the book suggests describing what you see. If a child brings home a good grade on the spelling test, rather than saying, “What a smart boy you are!”, try describing what you see: “You put a lot of work into studying this week, and it really paid off!”

I found many parts of the book to be helpful, and I’ve been working over the last few weeks to put some of them into action. As the mom of two-year-olds, it can be challenging at times. My kids aren’t quite old enough to understand cooperation and collaboration, and because frustrating moments come about pretty frequently in our house, I don’t always have the wherewithal to think through my initial (often negative) response and replace it with something more constructive. I did find myself asking myself, “Okay, but what happens when THAT doesn’t work?” as I read through the suggestions and examples.

How to Talk… is largely opposed to punishment as an outcome, preferring solutions allow kids to have some input into the outcome. A lot of these solutions are ideas I’ve heard before, like asking children to choose between two outcomes the parent can deal with, or allowing the child to experience the natural consequences of their actions. But the book also suggests some very collaborative problem-solving, involving brainstorming solutions and choosing a combination of solutions that work for everyone. I really like this idea, as it gives kids buy-in into the final outcome, but my two-year-olds don’t really grasp the concept yet.

Overall, I found How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk to be a good read, though perhaps not a complete, bullet-proof parenting strategy. I appreciate the book’s philosophy of treating your children as people to be respected and heard, and I’m continuing to work on implementing some of the ideas I’ve read in my own home.

Share this...Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on StumbleUponShare on TumblrShare on RedditDigg thisShare on LinkedInEmail this to someone

Collection of Parenting Book Reviews from a Parenting Book Lover

Posted on
Categories Book Review Theme Week, Book Reviews, Books, Discipline, Parenting, Pregnancy2 Comments

I was so excited when Sadia thought we should do a week of parenting book reviews here on HDYDI. I love reading books, and especially good parenting books. I will be reading all the reviews my fellow authors will be sharing in the hopes of finding my next parenting book to pick up!

What's Up FagansOn my blog I have written several parenting book reviews, and I’d though I’d share a little blurb about each one (with a link to the full review on What’s up Fagans?) instead of reposting each one separately. Also, my personal affiliate links are used in this post.

Pregnancy and Birth Books

In one post I reviewed the six different pregnancy and birth books listed above, giving them all letter grades (for your convenience). I was researching and reading about natural childbirth at the time as I was preparing for the birth of my singleton. I desperately wanted to have a VBAC, and since I hadn’t actually experienced labor with my twins, I wanted to learn what to expect and how to handle it.

Beating Bed Rest

Our very own Angela gave me a copy of her Beating Bed Rest book which, had I ever been on bed rest, would have been a godsend! I am grateful for her honest perspective on something, that frankly, isn’t talked about at nearly the depth it should be in pregnancy books!

Christian/Religious Parenting Books

The Christian Parenting Handbook

I reviewed this book on my blog as part of the book’s launch week, and also shared about it on HDYDI that week as well. But, I do think it is one of my favorite parenting books. Despite being Christian-based, the principles apply to all sound-minded parents, no matter what religion. And the book isn’t judgmental, but very encouraging, helping you do more than just behavior modification. It’s helping you do heart modification. And that is what great parenting should really be about!

Together: Growing Appetites for God

I haven’t written a review of this book, though I’ve always meant to. This book is about how one mother decides that she is going to get her kids into the word of God by reading aloud, straight from the Bible (and not a Children’s version), cover to cover. She sets realistic expectations for it, leaving room for sick days, weekends, and vacations, and plots a course of finishing the Bible in… seven years. Yes, she calculated that it would take that long. Thankfully, it took only three (I think?). I loved her honest recounts of how it went, and how her family grew through the experience. I have tried numerous times to do this with my family, but usually only last a week or two, so I find this book inspiring!

Standing for Something

While not quite a “parenting book,” this book is all about 10 neglected virtues in our society and how we can reestablish them in our society and in our homes. I read this book when my kids were not even a year, but it’s a great book that gives us hope of great things yet to come, even in a world that too often seem amoral.

Other Parenting Books

Into the Minds of Babes: How Screen Time Affects Children from Birth to Age 5

This is a great book that I think all parents should read! Some parents drive themselves batty over the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation that children under two have NO screen time, at all. This book, written by a mom, is well researched, but easy to read and understand. It helps dispel some myths and shared light on bigger issues than focused TV watching.

Cleaning House: A Mom’s 12-Month Experiment to Rid Her House of Entitlement

This is a great parenting book, especially if you have fallen into the rut of believing that it is just easier to do everything yourself, instead of waiting for your child to do whatever chore. Each month this mom conquered a new entitlement and kept building from it. She repeated over and over again how she wished she would’ve started it much sooner, when her kids were younger, as the oldest one was the most resistant to some of her changes. In my review, I reflect on how I was raised (which things I was “entitled to” and which things I definitely wasn’t) and what I love about this book!

Every Natural Fact: Five Seasons of Open-Air Parenting

This book is definitely different from most parenting books. The author takes a very reflective role instead of an authoritarian role, sharing and reminiscing about her son growing up. They often go walking in nature, learning about various life, but also strengthening their relationship. It’s a beautiful little read.

1-2-3 Magic:Effective Discipline for Young Kids

This book will be given a proper book review for HDYDI later today, but I wanted to share my review on this parenting book. Since reading this and many other books, I am on the fence sometimes about time-outs. I use them, but I really use them sparingly now (my twins are almost four). But, the thing I still think about from this book is the “Little Adult Syndrome!” I cannot tell you how many times I need to remind myself that they are kids, they cannot reason like me. Helps me keep things in perspective and not get so upset with my kids.

Have you read any of these books?

ldskatelyn is a stay at home mom of almost 4yo fraternal g/g twins and an almost 1yo baby boy. She loves reading books, especially parenting books! She writes all about her family and her simple life in Indianapolis over at What’s up Fagans?

Share this...Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on StumbleUponShare on TumblrShare on RedditDigg thisShare on LinkedInEmail this to someone