Monday, October 25, 2010

The 5 Best Parenting Books.

I have previously mentioned that I often scour parenting books to locate advice which comports with my own views on parenting. I don't just read one book and accept the advice given as the gospel. I read book after book after book until one strikes accord in my own heart and mind. Knowing this truth, I have a hard time recommending books to others. Just because I loved a certain book does not mean it will speak to you (unless, of course, we are like-minded). I realize this and appreciate that mothering is quite personal.

That said if the theories I implemented were effective, well then, now clearly it is the gospel. Or, at least, my gospel. So here are the 5 books that make up my parenting gospel:

1.  On Becoming Baby Wise:  Giving Your Infant the Gift of Nighttime Sleep.  

Yes, this is a controversial book. Yes, not everyone believes a baby should be scheduled and allowed to cry himself or herself to sleep. But mothers of the world, please stop judging me because I do. Be nice.

On Becoming Baby Wise: Giving Your Infant the Gift of Nighttime Sleep (On Becoming. . .)I believe with every fiber of my being that this book provided me with the structure needed to parent and breast feed twins *while remaining sane*. Twins who both slept 10-12 hours per night by 4 months. Was crying involved? Yes. The babies cried too. But for heavens sake -- babies cry. Crying is inevitable. And I could only manage to feed one at a time so crying occurred often. Daily. Sometimes, it seemed, hourly.

{Pause here and imagine me trying a few initial times to be the wonder woman of all moms who successfully breast fed two children at once - imagine two children shrieking wildly and being sprayed in the eyes and up the nose with my wild-out-of-control milkers. It was a sight. This is when my crying began. The realization that I was not indeed wonder woman followed.}

Baby Wise provided exactly what I needed -- structure. I needed need structure. And, as I said, the proof is in the pudding. My babies were incredible. When I put them in the crib, they slept. When I fed them, they ate. When they were toddlers they still slept without argument or delay. They would occasionally tell me "night-night" when they were sleepy and ready to head to bed. Still to this day (7 years later) we do not nor have we ever had arguments about sleeping. And besides, who can argue with this preciousness?

As with everything, of course, your own motherly instincts and common sense are your greatest guide. I followed the overall framework of Baby Wise, but I certainly made adjustments that made sense for me and my children. Having a plan gave me confidence in my own instincts. I do not, however, advocate ignoring your own instincts or altering your mothering personality to fit a plan. That will never work.

2.  How To Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk.

This somewhat dated, self-help-centered book reminded me of discussing a thorny subject with an eccentric college professor: He or she might be disorganized and a bit unconventional but the luminance of great ideas shines through.

How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will TalkThe ideas introduced in this book simply make logical sense to me -- responding to children's questions not with long lectures but with more questions and affirmations often opens them up. Instead of undercutting or contradicting how a child is obviously feeling ("oh, just cheer up!"), help him or her drink in these emotions; they'll learn what emotions are for, how to identify them, and develop a healthy perspective toward them in general.

This book is clearly geared toward parents who *need* help and have probably been engaging in behavior that the authors specifically attempt to remedy. This is *not* a "parenting manual." Many of the techniques mentioned are specifically geared toward breaking bad habits, not necessarily cementing good ones from scratch.

I will certainly not openly admit to having problems to remedy {other than the not-wanting-to-squirt-my-babies-in-the-eye type problems}, but I think we all realize that our tirades have an affect on our children. A threat or two may have been leveled at my house a time or two or three. In those few dark moments I reached for this book. I knew I needed to train myself to talk to my children. To talk to my children in a way that prepares them for a satisfying emotional life and strong interpersonal relationships. This is that book.

3.  Parenting with Love & Logic.

My BFF recommended this book to me. I'm certain it was after a teary discussion regarding my duo's ability to double-team me and bring out my worst. "Just read it, you'll see." So I did. And yes, at first, I had to push my ego out of the way and had to quit the "but"s and "well"s to get to the point that this book isn't about someone else - what they do or don't do - but rather it is about me and how I communicate. Yikes!

Parenting With Love And Logic (Updated and Expanded Edition) In the context of a healthy, loving relationship, Love and Logic parents allow their children to make their own choices, solve their own problems and learn from the consequences (within safe parameters, of course). This method of parenting provides children with skills for coping in the real world and, ultimately, raises responsible children. The key to this is the way in which we communicate.

This book is not for the meek. The premise is to make your child own their problems and think. Truly, you must be smarter than your children, which I realize is not for everyone. It also requires you check your emotions at the door. Now this is a challenge -- staying level-headed in the midst of chaos!? It is not my default, I promise you that. But I have redirected myself with fabulous results.

I cannot tell you how many times I've picked up Little Miss Thang in the midst of a full-blown tantrum, said "I cannot control how you behave, but I can control where you behave badly", and deposited her in her room. And left her. Until she was calm. It is not easy. It takes strength and determination. But if I scream at her to stop screaming we generally get nowhere. Unless, of course, I scream so much I scare her, which does indeed work, but which makes me feel like I am indeed not smarter than my children. Remaining clam and redirecting or allowing the natural consequences to occur -- well, I've found that not only does it work, but it lessens the mommy guilt and does not lead to a sore throat.

Quite simply: by stripping your emotion from the situation, the point of the discipline is more evident and well-received by the child.

4.  Girls will be Girls:  Raising Confident and Courageous Daughters.

Enlightening, provocative and powerful, this is perhaps the most useful book on raising daughters that I have ever read. In the book Deak covers the problems, confusion, motivations and fears that are all a normal part of growing up female. But more than just noting that they exist and their basis, she also provides practical advice on how to deal with the problems in a proactive and productive manner.

GIRLS WILL BE GIRLS: RAISING CONFIDENT AND COURAGEOUS DAUGHTERSThis book landed on my bed-side table at exactly the right moment -- age 7. The tween years are on the horizon and girls, well, let's just say girls can be hard on each other and themselves! Understanding the science of those years as well as reminding myself of the myriad of confusing emotions helped focus me on what Little Miss Thang was up against.

It stands like a lighthouse warning parents of dangerous shoals and how to avoid them as well as offering guidance on how to help their daughters negotiate the dangerous waters we all travel. This book truly lives up to the title and empowers parents with the tools to mold young girls into confident, courageous and well-adjusted adult women.

5.  That's My Son:  How Moms Can Influence Boys to Become Men of Character.

Johnson offers wise, insight-filled, down-to-earth guidance for mothers of boys. He explains how and why boys are different from girls psychologically and spiritually. He shows what boys need in order to become men of strong, healthy character, and how moms {even moms without husbands} can find ways to provide for these needs.

That's My Son: How Moms Can Influence Boys to Become Men of CharacterAnd he gives practical steps moms can take to raise a boy well--how to communicate in a boy's "language," how to discipline a boy effectively, and several other areas of importance.

My Little Guy has a tender soul. I want to encourage him and motivate him without damaging that endearing trait I adore so much. I want to ensure he is strong and brave and courageous, and yet, remains gentle and loving and compassionate. This book provides the framework.

And I'm certain my future daughter-in-law will thank me.

So what is your favorite parenting book?  What should I read next??

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