library_mama: (reading)
A while back, I mentioned that I was doing a pirate picture book bibliography. I’m feeling a little too lazy to post everything up here, but it’s here – Not Too Scary Pirate Books.

Pegleg TangoDid I say that Mr. FP would never stop listening to Snack Time? Ha ha! Well, he’s probably still listening to it in [ profile] amnachaidh’s car, but in my car, we are now listening to Peg Leg Tango by Captain Bogg and Salty I’m now hearing “I am a pirate in this world” and “There’s a pirate party shakin’ on the ship!” around the house. Their web sites all seem to be down, but there are a few copies of their two more recent albums (this one included) left on Amazon. This is pirate fun for all ages.

Kids, Parents and Power Struggles coverA little more about tantrums: The parenting book I last reviewed, Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline was recommended by a friend, who heard about it in her Raising Your Spirited Child class. I’ve a couple friends now who took that class, and both have noted remarkable increase in harmony and cooperation since then. Raising Your Spirited Child by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka is on my reading list. Last week I heard from another friend with a four-year-old that reading just the first two chapters of her more recent book, Kids, Parents and Power Struggles: Winning for a Lifetime took tantrums from ten to fourteen down to two a day. I’ll have to interloan it to get hold of it, but I didn’t want to deprive any of y’all that might be in need of such assistance until then. Also still on my parenting to-read list is How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish, who also wrote Siblings without Rivalry, which I reviewed a while back.
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I'm way, way behind on all my reviews, having been sick in bed and reading a lot for two weeks. But here's a start:

A number of my friends with four-year-olds and close to fours have been complaining of resurgent tantrums, worse than two, resistant to the usual disciplinary techniques. Of course, librarian that I am, I turn to books. This one was recommended by a friend with a very difficult child.

book coverEasy to Love, Difficult to Discipline: the 7 Basic Skills for Turning Conflict into Cooperation by Becky A. Bailey Real discipline needs to start with the parents, and start with love. Bailey starts by going over seven key “Powers for Self-Control” that are then applied to the seven discipline skills. For example, one of the seven powers is “Attention: What you focus on, you get more of.” Applied to discipline, therefore, you need to focus on how you want your child to behave, not what he or she is doing wrong, and be assertive about it. Although she’s absolutely right that parents need to look at their own behavior first, I found this first section a little condescending, as well as high on the touchy-feely to content ratio. If you’re short on time, read the headlines and bullets in this section and save full reading for the meatier section later on where she dissects typical problems and how to address them. She divides difficulties into adult and child-based problems – areas where your child isn’t doing what you want, versus where you aren’t doing what your child wants. She has helpful advice on effective praise (an area where I’m always looking for help, since so much typical praise, such as “Good boy” and “Good job” has been shown to be counterproductive. ) Very helpful are the fill-in-the blank conversations that occur throughout the book, as well as a good-sized section of anecdotes by problem to help you review. She also provides a seven-week program, where you focus on one or two skills a week and build up. This is a lot of practical and well-researched parenting help.

Here are some key ideas... )
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A friend with two kids recommended that I read sibling books before I needed them, as I wouldn’t have time afterwards. I’d heard this was good and had been recommending it, so I thought I should actually read it.

Siblings without Rivalry by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish As far as I can tell, the major conflict in siblings books is what to do when siblings fight: do you let them work it out themselves, try to solve their problems for them, or just punish all involved parties without trying to arbitrate? This classic book from the authors of How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk brings a nuanced yet simple-to-implement solution to this as well as many other classic sibling problems. The answer to the first question is first to see if anyone is getting hurt, physically or verbally. If they are, describe what you see, say that hurting is not allowed, and separate them to give them time to cool off. If there isn’t imminent danger, have both of them describe the problem, describe each side back to them. Then tell them that it’s a difficult problem, but you’re sure that they will be able to find a solution. Then leave the room, telling them where you’ll be. They recommend never taking sides yourself, voting only as a very last resort, and not punishing. The last is to protect the other child, as a punished child will be out for revenge and see the sibling, as responsible for the punishment.

Of course, that chapter comes close to the end of a book, following on topics like avoiding comparisons and assigning roles. Every chapter includes a discussion of the topic, stories from group participants, cartoons for three different age levels illustrating the good and bad way to handle the problems, and summaries at the end of the chapter. Faber and Mazlish are experts on the topic, both as parents and as students of Haim Ginott, the eminent psychologist. Their techniques have been worked out in lots and lots of groups over the past couple of decades, but they still include a lengthy resource list at the back in case you want more. In spite of the title, they are reassuring in saying that rivalry will happen in the best of families. The techniques are invaluable for anyone who has to deal with multiple children, whether or not they are siblings. The book might even shed some light on your relationship with your adult siblings.
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The No-Cry Discipline Solution by Elizabeth Pantley “No-cry” may sound radical, but this is a gentle and practical guide to parenting. Pantley starts out with a chapter devoted to parenting myths, such as, “If my kids don’t behave all the time, I must be doing something wrong.” Kids will misbehave, and you will do things you’ll wish you hadn’t. Then she covers a basic theory of discipline: understanding why children misbehave, looking at the long term to decide what’s important when dealing with younger children. She has chapters dealing with major everyday problems such as tantrums, whining and hitting. An important and unusual chapter deals with managing your own anger and frustration as a parent. These are the core of the book, but the second half or so is devoted to short sections on a multitude of common problems with targeted solutions, such as biting, trouble with daycare drop-offs and pick-ups, and so on. I don’t agree with her on everything – I’d wish for a more nuanced discussion of praise, for example. I do like the approach, starting with a discussion of each problem, how to prevent it from happening in the first place and what to do when it happens. In an analogy that stuck with me, Pantley says that having just one or two parenting techniques is like having a little sandwich baggy of solutions. If they don’t work, you’re out of luck. She aims instead to offer you a laundry bag full of techniques, for you to practice and find ones that work for you and your family. Pantley may not have any child-related degrees, but she knows what she’s talking about. In addition to four children of her own, ranging from primary school to college, she has done a lot of research, both of the reading and the hands-on variety. Her methods are tested with a couple hundred kids, from several countries, of many ages, and from many different types of families. They are aimed at raising loving, happy and functional adults, as well as maintaining peace and order now. This is an extremely useful and excellent book.
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1-2-3 Magic by Thomas W. Phelan I am always suspicious of parenting books that say, "If our method doesn't work for you, you're not following the instructions correctly." Different kids work very differently. At any rate, this is a punishment-based book. Your kids are out to get you, says Phelan, and you'd better punish them quickly before they get out of hand. Don't talk to them, because kids aren't capable of reasoning. The only punishment he offers is the time-out, a popular one to be sure, but ineffective for some kids, and emotionally difficult for others. This emphasis on instant obedience without understanding seems geared to produce adults who can say they're "just following orders". After you've gotten the worst of their bad behavior out of them, you can start using some rewards and praise to encourage good behavior, and then you might actually start to like your kids. The author appears to be a pediatrician who leaves most of the actual kid-rearing to his wife, and this book is based on his experience with patients who have followed his advice and come back and said that it works. There's a lot of research out there on discipline techniques and their effect on child behavior and psychology, but Phelan doesn't reference or appear to have read any of it. He is also very rigid, saying, for example, that there is no excuse for parents and children to be in the same bed together ever, even in cases of nightmares, illness, or thunderstorms.

This is an enormously popular book, though. It seems to me that the appeal is primarily that he offers one simple solution to the difficult problem of parenting. Also, the idea that kids are primarily savages with no naturally good impulses who need to suffer when they do something wrong is pretty deeply held in our society. Phelan's approach appeals to that by telling parents that they can be in control, even though their kids really are out to get them. The best I can say about it is that it is consistent and avoids yelling and hitting. From my own experience, the little of Phelan's style that has crept into my own since reading his book has made me less patient and everyone in our household less happy.


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