4.10.2007

My Parenting Book List

One of the things that has impressed me about the area in which we live, and perhaps most particularly our church congregation, is the attitude of intentional parenting that prevails in most families that I know here. We do live in one of the most Type-A, micromanaging, overachieving metropolises in America, I am certain, but what I see in parenting is different from that, and it's different from parenting styles where I grew up (both in my own home and in the larger community).

It's an active, caring, deliberate way of teaching and leading, disciplining and guiding, marked by consistency and direction and faith. I really want to be that kind of parent and often don't have any idea where to start, since the parenting of my childhood wasn't something they thought about or planned - the kids just grew up somehow. We did grow up - there's an element of that regardless of a parent's most dedicated efforts, I know - and we did OK, but the little phrase, "Children are an heritage of the Lord," tells me there should be a lot more involved in the endeavor...

Recently, my husband said, "You know, if there is any other thing in the world that I want to know about or need to know how to do, I look it up. I find a book and read it, or look for a website or two that will give me instruction or information. I don't know why it has never occurred to me to do the same with parenting, when it's something that I want to be better at and often have no idea how to approach."

This comment was spurred by my recent absorption in parenting books, which was triggered by a recommendation from our pediatrician about a minor "problem" I was having with Henry. I hated the book she recommended, but it led me to find others, and to also finally look into books that a good friend told us about some time ago.

I think most of us are the same as my husband - a little hesitant to turn to the library for help in parenting. After all, each home is different, each child is different, and each parent - with attendant baggage from their own upbringing - is different. We might have good reason to doubt or mistrust much of the parenting advice that is out there, especially as some tends toward the dogmatic or oversimplified.

Also, I think being involved so intimately in our own homes tends to make us feel isolated in a way, as if we are the only parents ever who struggled with one behavior or another in our children, and we don't really know the question to ask or even how to ask without feeling a little incompetent, because everyone else seems to be doing it better without asking for help.

That said, I've recently read and gained so much insight and help from the following books. I checked them out of the library first and then decided that I needed to own them because of some invaluable lessons they gave me in the realm of parenting. I highly recommend them - and a lot of prayer - as you deliberately and intentionally train up your children in the way they should go.

Here are some books that I have found invaluable in understanding and raising my children, and coping with their difficult phases and personality traits:

Toddlers and Preschoolers, by Lawrence Kutner

This is an older book, but it's an amazing resource in recognizing developmental milestones and has tons of practical advice about the preschool age group. It really clarified for me why kids do some of the things they do, which is the first step in handling situations and behaviors successfully. What I really like is that although it describes normal development and why, for example, kids this age get hooked on annoying (embarrassing) habits like talking about poop incessantly or lying, it never excuses the inappropriate behavior but rather offers practical suggestions for correcting or redirecting a child.

Raising Your Spirited Child, by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka

Even if your child doesn't fall into what Kurcinka would term the "spirited" category (I found that Calvin is most definitely spirited and Henry is mid-spectrum), this book is indispensable in learning what makes a child - and even you, as a parent - "tick." The most important premise of this book is that as parents we can direct our children's extreme personality traits in a direction that will build confidence and capability as adults. We can help them learn appropriate things to say and do when they are emotionally out of control, and we can help their teachers and peers see and react to them differently just by the words we use in describing and dealing with them. Once again, it's a book that doesn't employ a lot of psycho babble or dogma, but instead offers practical solutions and real-life examples. She also offers guidelines and indicators for when your child's behavior might extend beyond "spirited" to diagnosable and treatable disorders such as ADD or autism.

Loving Each One Best, by Nancy Samalin and Catherine Whitney

This book is actually one I think I will come back to more as my children get older, but if sibling rivalry and conflict loom large in your family's life, this is an amazing resource. My favorite admonition here was not to get stuck in the "It's not fair" trap. Samalin and Whitney build a fabulous case against keeping score or trying to always give every child the exact same thing as another child in order to prevent sibling conflict. In fact, keeping score engenders more conflict and resentment, where giving each child what they need when they need it, and not just because you are giving it to their sibling, actually sends the message to a child that, "When I really need Mom, she will make special time or concessions for me. I'm that important to her."

I Don't Have to Make Everything All Better, by Gary and Joy Lundberg

When I first read this book, I was completely moved by the idea that to validate a person, you really, really have to love them. I realized that for me, making validating comments took a lot more sensitivity and patience, as well as an effort in dealing with uncomfortable emotions, than giving them a solution right off the bat. But I also learned that it reaped a closer relationship and better understanding than telling someone, "You should..." or "If I were you, I would..." One of the great things about how this book is organized is that it includes special sections for validating different people in your life, whether it's your preschooler, your in-laws, your spouse, or co-workers. I am far from being able to implement many of the validating principles consistently, but the ideas in this book really opened my mind and heart to making relationships with really difficult people work better. I highly recommend it!

3 comments:

An Ordinary Mom said...

Great recommendations, I am excited to check out these titles. I am actually always on the search for good parenting books and websites, but I am always hesitant to just go look for fear that I won't find anything that relates to me and my children. That is why I prefer going off of recommendations!

Jennifer said...

Ha ha--I mentioned Spirited Child reading the post on top (before I read this one). I read it with my daughter (who is definitely just mid-spectrum as you said), but I need to revisit it for Kyle.

Katrina said...

I am addicted to parenting books, I think, so I enjoyed getting a glimpse into the ones you liked. Like Jennifer, the Spirited Child book helped me understand and interact with my oldest much better. He only displays a few of the attributes as well, but the book really helped me to cope with and handle them more effectively. Thanks for the recommendations!