Monday, March 12, 2012

Reading From the Parenting Nightstand

On Amazon alone, there are more than 80,000 books about parenting. I haven’t read all of them. I also haven’t read the much talked about Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom (I admit, I heard the story about how she kept her daughter at the piano until her daughter chewed the piano keys in protest, and I got scared.) or the much talked about Raising Bebe (I read the reviews though and that seemed enough). But I have read a lot, and I read a lot that the people I respect and admire recommend. So here’s some of my all time favorite list; I’ll post another list next week of more of my current favorites ( and if you have a favorite that’s not here, put it in the Comments!)

Parenting for a Peaceful World by Robin Grille

I think everyone should read this book – it’s by far my most favorite book and Grille is my personal hero. He goes into parenting practices of the past and explains the evolution of how one generation improves upon the other, and he does so in a way that is compassionate without placing blame on previous generations for child rearing ideas that now would be considered abusive or just plain whacko. He also links shifts in parenting to shifts in philosophy and world events (ie why the Holocaust started in Germany, not France or England). It's absolutely fascinating and eye opening.

Unconditional Parenting; Moving From Rewards and Punishment to Love and Reason by Alfie Kohn

My other all time favorite book that I refer to regularly. I love it because it applies to all ages, all kids and all parents. Kohn gives us the tools to raise kids who behave, are respectful, who follow their inner values, and are intrinsically motivated. When I recommend this book, I often receive a doubtful look, as if Kohn's ideas are too good to be true, but I find he's dead on. I'd even consider it common sense; in a relationship based on rewards, it only works if kids want the rewards (or the bribes), which leaves parents constantly looking for a new trick to sway their children - and that doesn't sound fun for any one. Raising kids with love and reason, however, grants both parents and children with a relationship they can delight in.

Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves by Naomi Aldort

Often parents are told that they should ignore parenting books and advice for the simple reason that they know their children, they know themselves, they know their situation and values, and they therefore have enough to go on and should just trust their instincts. While I believe this to be often true, I also know that there are times that we think we're following our instincts, and what we're actually following is our own hard wiring - which isn't necessarily a good thing for some of us. Our children do something, and we react only to realize a moment later that our reaction doesn't reflect the kind of parent we are or want to be. Aldort points out that this is true for all of us and it doesn't help to beat ourselves up over these moments, but it does make a difference to get to the root of our reaction, for the sake of our own growth and development as parents.

You Are Your Child's First Teacher: What Parents Can Do With and For Their Children From Birth to Age Six by Rahima Baldwin

I read this book when my son was two, and it’s the one book I wished I had read before he was born, if only because of her insistence that you trust your instincts and your connection to your child. It’s a fantastic reminder to just relax and BE with your child – rather than rushing them off to some overpriced nonsense that advertises to increase your child’s aptitude for music, math and the arts and have them reading by the time they are done with diapers.

NurtureShock By Po Bronson and Ashley Merrill

Not necessarily a book that needs to be read before the arrival of baby, but definitely by the time a child enters pre-school. My husband teases me how I have my instincts about things, do a bunch of research until I find the people that agree with me, and then armed with their book in hand, I feel empowered enough to talk back to the people that suggest I’m off my rocker. This is why I love Bronson and Merryman: they did all the research that I didn’t have to to know I’m making the right choices for my son (and baby to be). I have a huge pet peeve when adults accuse children, toddlers and even babies (!) of being manipulative or lying, (especially when kids are actually just asking to have their basic needs met), now I can confidently talk back and point out that they probably are – because they learned it from their parents. They also deal with why praising backfires, and why the evaluations for giftedness are actually off.

Bright From the Start by Jill Stamm

I’m not one of those moms who wants her children reading by the time they turn three or is especially focused on future academic achievement. Mostly, I want to encourage my child’s natural curiosity and creativity, and Stamm offers the tools for this while also explaining developmentally what’s happening in the baby’s world. I find the more I understand the developmental phases, the easier it is to not take some of the difficult moments personally, since I know that whatever my child is doing is exactly the appropriate thing for him to be doing.

The Philosophical Baby by Alison Gopnik

I’ve long been a fan of Gopnik’s brother Adam and his New Yorker articles, but after this book by Alison Gopnik, I’d honestly do anything to be a guest or a fly on the wall at a Gopnik family Thanksgiving. Gopnik illustrates that babies are more conscious than we think they are, and even more conscious than adults are. They are busy little scientists and explorers, and while I was always in awe of my child, this book left me even more so – and just marveling at my son’s mind and in profound respect for his process.

Ice Pop Joy by Anni Daulter

Cookbooks or even cookbooks for feeding children don’t usually make lists of parenting reads, but Anni Daulter’s Popsicle cookbook makes the difference for me in my parenting life on an almost daily basis, given my son now eats between 1 and 4 a day. Consequently, this is the book I give as Christmas gifts and to new moms at baby showers.

In both of my pregnancies, popsicles were the mainstays of my happiness. I still get weak knees at the sight of a Trader Joe’s Key Lime Popsicle. My son shares my addiction, though my son also has a profound love of green juice (that green juice full of spinach, wheat grass, and algae. It sounds disgusting, but he loves it.) I, on a whim, one day took his beloved green juice, threw it in the blender with some pineapple and filled the Popsicle mold with it. Then, the next day when he asked for a popsicle for breakfast I felt like the best mom ever. Except for the fact that I had a rather limited repertoire.

Then I found Anni Daulter’s Ice Pop Joy. She has recipes for popsicles with yogurt, fruit, vegetables, tofu, even chocolate and all of them are kid-friendly. By kid-friendly, I mean all have some nutritional value and have enough sweetness to taste good, yet are not full of the kinds of sugar that send kids over the edge (I know many doctors say sugar intake and hyperactivity are not related. I don’t know that these doctors actually have children. If my child has 3 ounces of orange juice, he turns into a demon. He’s sugar sensitive, so we’re happy for recipes that use agave nectar or honey.) Those who have children with food sensitivities will find the recipes easy to amend (replace wheat germ with flax seeds for example).

My son loves the Breakfast Pops (Almond butter, bananas, yogurt, walnuts and wheat germ) though he will eat any of them for breakfast, even the Harvest Pops (apples, butternut squash, dried cranberries, wheat germ). Many of the recipes feature vegetables many kids won’t usually eat, spinach, zucchini, or yellow squash. Your child is sick? There are popsicles that boost her immune system and keep her hydrated. She also has tidbits of nutritional information sprinkled throughout that I refer to when I'm making things besides popsicles.


Shawna said... [Reply to comment]

"Playful Parenting" by Lawrence J. Cohen. I LOVE it!

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