Thursday, August 28, 2008

Parenting Book Reviews--Part One

Despite my overall busy-ness and poor track record with non-fiction, I have read or listened to several parenting books this summer. Why the sudden interest?

Let's just say that: adding a third teenager to our little brood + a move and all-new friends for those teenagers + a mom [(with a house on the market), (moving), (unpacking and settling into a new house), (making difficult school decisions)] = Stress-Full Parenting.

Thus the first title jumped off the library's audio book rack at me:

Scream-Free Parenting
by Hal Runkel

This book's premise was to focus not on your kids' behavior, but on yourself and your own reactions and anxieties which fuel them. That alone has been a very helpful idea. As the author says, "Stay calm...and control the one person you can control!"

The other takeaway for me was a helpful way to not get emotionally involved with their behavior, by focusing on presenting the situation as a choice. You accept, up front, that they may make the wrong choice, and you calmly explain to them the consequences if they do.

My fuse is still really short, but if I set my brain to work on the problem of deciding the consequences to present along with the choice, my emotions don't have the chance to take over quite so much.

Real life examples:

--with Bantam3: You need to stop screaming and crying. If you stop, you can stay here at the table. If you don't, you are going up to your bedroom.

--with Bantam9: You must do your chores after breakfast. If you go outside after breakfast, you will write "Get up, eat breakfast, do chores" ten times--in cursive--and you will not be allowed to play with the neighborhood kids until your chores are done. If you stay here and do them after breakfast, you'll be free to play with the kids once they're done.

--with Blondechick15: You are not allowed to be on the phone after 10:00. If you are, we will confiscate your cell phone for a day.

There were lots of helpful thoughts here on ways to keep yourself calm. Recommended.

Why Kids--Of All Ages--Need to Hear It and Ways Parents Can Say It

by David Walsh

I checked this one out of the library primarily for the chapter on saying no to teenagers. (He has another whole book on that subject, but I figured this chapter would summarize that book, which was checked out by someone else.) And it was very helpful. In fact, I liked it so much I ended up skimming most of the rest of the book and I would highly recommend it.

I am already a big believer in saying no--my parents said it often to me, and I know I have more character, more self-discipline, and a better work ethic because of it. (Thanks, Mom and Dad!) I just know intuitively that kids need to hear it, and often, but this book gives great practical help on why, when and how.

The author is a child psychologist with great common sense. Like Scream-Free Parenting, he reinforced the idea of presenting choices and spelling out clear consequences, especially with teens. Teens will make bad choices. But they're at an age where you have to start giving them more independence, and with that you lose "control." He gives practical advice like: Think really hard before you give them a cell phone, or a car, or a laptop--because these are things that are nice to have under your control, for you to dole out as privileges, or hold back as consequences.

His anecdotes were so encouraging. One was about the author's son, who felt he was too old for family traditions like decorating the Christmas tree. He wanted to remain holed up in his bedroom listening to music, but Dad made him come down and at least be in the room with the rest of the family. Years later, on his first Christmas at home with his new bride, as they helped decorate the tree, he told her how glad he was that he had nothing but good memories of Christmases with his family. The author, as the dad who had to force his son to participate, privately recalled some pretty bad memories; but the point--which is dear to my heart at this time!--is that they'll thank you later for making them do the right things. It is so much easier to just let them hole up--but not often the right thing.

This book contains lots of empowering practical stuff for younger ages too, as well as a section on special-needs kids. Highly recommended.

Two more tomorrow...


janet said...

Wow, what a stressful chaper of life.

These books sound good. My favorite of the parenting books I've read is 'Boundaries with Kids,' which has some similar principles. I'll put these on my list for further enrichment.

Carrie said...

I just saw this book recently and wondered how it would be. I was glad for your review of it! Thanks!