Shifting Ideas: Parenting Books

While I was reading Nurture Shock, by PO Bronson Ashley Merryman, this was a while ago, something came to me about how dramatically parenting styles shift.  This isn’t so much shocking as just simply annoying.  How do parents and caregivers stay on track when the theories on child rearing are constantly in flux, when do we get to just stay still and know we, parents and caregivers, are in fact doing everything right?

….NEVER.

I despise most parenting books, not because the advice in one given book is intrinsically bad, or harmful to society.  I despise the parenting book epidemic, because when we take one parenting book on attachment parenting, and one book on, well just anything else, and mix them together in the brain of one mom or dad,  then these books do become harmful.  Again, not because anything in them is particularly wrong, but because the different styles, and modes of parenting discussed are all different, and in the end don’t help parents and or caregivers do what they do any better. The mix of these books usually only create insecure and ultimately, and most disruptively, inconsistent parenting styles–where an all goes type of parenting happens. And trust me, this does not bode well for anyone, from parents to child to outside caregiver.

I think this is why I liked Nurture Shock so much, Nurture Shock, while it talked about parenting, and children, the book basically stayed clear of any child rearing styles which are not based on science.  Nurture Shock primarily dealt with childrens’ brain chemistry, and based on extensive research essentially shut down many parenting philosophies.

My point is, the moment I had was this.  While I liked and found value in Nurture Shock I also take the studies and the purpose of the studies with a grain of salt, the same I do with other parenting books, well maybe a tablespoon of salt for Nurture Shock, because, and this is the important part….  I take it lightly because I realize that the theories discussed in this book, like most other parenting/child rearing books will one day be disproved, yet with another scientific study.  Why?  Because our research is guided by where we are economically, socially and where we wish to be in the future.

When time, moral codes and cultural shifts occur, so does our idea of good, or right parenting.  We theorize and parent based on theories which claim to uphold or produce a specific type of person.  We perform attachement parenting, or cry it out method, not because it is necessarily easy at the time, but because we picture these things affecting and making up the adults our children will become, and this is good… kind of.  We should imagine, and think about our parenting and caregiving styles as something that will directly affect the adults babies will become.  But we should also know that this too will change.

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Talking Back

images….I don’t mean the dreaded talk back you’ll soon get from your teenage kids.  I’m referring to the talk back I practice with babies and toddlers in order to stimulate language and social skills. I was recently asked by a mom what I recommend to influence unprompted responses from toddlers.  An example, of what I consider a prompted, pushed response would be:

Adult: “What color is the flower?….you know what it is, what is it?…..Please tell me what color the flower is.”

Versus:

unprompted: Adult: ” I like the colors of these flowers.” Child: “I like the pink one.”

Getting to this point, in my opinion happens with consistent talk back, from the adult, from the very beginning. Some parent’s find “talk back” annoying and an aspect of overparenting, but I think it’s a very useful tool in getting babies and toddlers to learn how to say words, and to show them we understand and care about what they have to say.  Hopefully this talk back leads them to feel socially valued and thus more willing to speak unprompted.

Questions:

When your child is learning to talk, make sure to create conversation and ask them questions. Try not to solely ask, what-animal-is-that-questions, ask them free-response questions about their day, where right and wrong don’t necessarily come into play.

Repeat:

When your baby/toddler is first learning how to talk, and or learning new words, repeat what he said back, this will show him a few things:  1. That you understood him. 2. That you care what he says. 3. That you are listening.

Repetition is a great way for children to learn new information. Repeating words and sentences back also insures that you understood what your child is saying, and is a chance for you to annunciate the words correctly for your child to hear and learn.

The Giving Tree: A+

GivingTree-1The Giving Tree, by Shel Silverstein is one of my all-time favorite books for children. Why do I love it so much?  Because The Giving Tree provides lessons in emotional education in a beautiful, and simple way.  I also love that the pictures are in black and white, which allows some room for creative imagination.

Interactive Experience:  Ask your child to find the boy.  Throughout the book the “boy” is often hidden in the branches, finding him is a fun interactive way to make them apart of the reading experience.

Video

Endorse Bad Parenting?

What’s wrong with this commercial? Just about everything. This commercial, in a nutshell, sums up a parenting style I fundamentally disagree with. The commercial implies that our children should not be taken seriously, that we should literally tune them out when they ask questions we are ill-prepared for, or simply too embarrassed to answer. This commercial says: use media distractions as a way to get out of parenting.

Why as a society would we think bad parenting is funny?

Books Books Books

stack_of_books2293x500In general, I’m not huge on reading parenting books. I think people rely too much on them and forget that they are human beings who have natural instincts for these things.  I’ve looked over and read, what I consider to be a fair amount of parenting books, (yes, sometimes reading parenting books for my employers is part of my job) there are a few problems I find with most parenting books.

1.  Most parenting books consist of long monologues with little information.

2.  It’s nearly impossible to know what books to get, because there are hundreds out there, all claiming to be experts on the same topic.

3.  Most parenting books consist of long monologues with little information… OH, I already said this?

I might take for granted that I know what I know about child rearing, safety, developmental stages, etc. because of all my years of experience, (I should also thank my mom for her amazing educated advice) but I do realize some people go into parenting with no experience, thus making it a little scarier and overwhelming.

It would be hard at this point to trace back all the moments when I learned all of the valuable information I take for granted now, such as, that babies have “sleep signals” to cue us for bedtime, that biting babies nails when they’re infants is easier than using finger nail clippers, that letting your baby run around without a diaper for a few hours is the best way to get rid of a rash…. you get the point.  At some point I did learn all of this, there was a moment when it all clicked, and I learned this through experience, not from a book.

All of this being said: For people with little to no experience, and without a ‘model’ parent for which to ask questions I realize it can be comforting, and informative to read a book….or twelve.  My personal opinion is that we (Americans) over-read on parenting.  So far a few books I would recommend are listed below, keep in mind these books for the most part fit into my “parenting” style, or they are simply information based.

Baby and Toddler 411 by Denise Fields and Ari Brown: These are 2 different books.  The books have factual information about your child’s developmental stages they also have products like car seats, discussed and rated. I rarely look at this for developmental stages but I have referenced it when choosing important products, like car seats and high chairs for my bosses. I like the books because they are simple and to the point, you don’t have to read 12 pages to find the one sentence of actually useful information you wanted about diaper rashes.

Bringing up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman:  A great book about an American woman in Paris, and her discovery, and conversion into French parenting.  When I read this book I was shocked by how similar my “parenting style” is to the French parenting style.  The book helped me to feel more confident in my choices and gave me some more useful tips on sleep and eating.  A great book for someone who is unsure of what parenting style they want to go with!

Baby-led weening by Gill Rapley and Tracey MurkettFor those who are interested in, or want to know more about baby-led weening.

Follow Through.

mom-debateIt’s easy to come up with, and devise a parenting style within the confines of your home, it can be much harder to maintain that same style when confronted with the outside, judgmental world. 

It can be hard to follow through on your own parenting style, when others around you are collectively doing something else.  It’s hard when strangers look at you like you’re crazy for implementing some parenting technique, whether it’s enforcing a rule, or letting your child play on the playground with other kids while you’re on a bench watching.

At playgrounds I often have an inner, self-encouraging mantra running, telling myself not to jump into the sandbox, or pointlessly follow ‘my’ kid around on the actual playground. I have to do this because all around me I feel parents judging me for not following their lead of over-parenting (yes, I too judge their over-parenting.)  While I love, and will happily play with the girl I watch, I think that she should play at the playground with other kids, not with me.

The other day, while I was out with the girl I nanny, who is now 22-months, I encountered this stranger-judgment.  I had two choices, 1. stray from my “parenting style” so as not to be judged, or 2. Maintain my style, and possibly be wrongly judged for it.  I chose the latter. While we were walking she (we’ll call her Turtle) decided to set her water bottle on the ground, walk away from it and then demand that I pick it up. The conversation went something like this:

Me: Turtle, can you please pick up your water?

Turtle: No, you pick it up. I need you to pick it up.

Me: Turtle, I’m not going to pick it up.  If you don’t want to carry it, bring it to me and I’ll put it in the bag. But you need to pick it up.

At this moment a stranger glared at me and went to pick up the water bottle, I intercepted saying…

Me, to stranger:  No, thank you, but I want her to pick up the water bottle.

Stranger: [Disgusted face]

Unknown

Me:  Turtle, you can take your time, but we aren’t going to walk any further until you pick up your water.

2 minutes later….

Turtle picks up her water and brings it to me.

Me: Thank you.

Turtle: You’re welcome.

The moral of the story is, yes, it was hard for me to have this stranger judge me, knowing she probably thinks I’m a terrible, mean, evil caregiver, but I have a specific “parenting” style and so, to maintain consistency, I let the stranger judge me.  Plus, I know I’m not a mean, terrible of evil-caregiver, which helps.