A tantrum had been narrowly avoided, and as I was thinking about it, I realized that in that moment, I'd applied the one piece of advice I remember from when I read The Happiest Toddler on the Block: Narrate what they're thinking. Most of the time, they just want to know someone knows why they're so mad, so just say it for them again and again and again.
Over the past eight years, I've read my share of parenting books. Most of them completely motivate and inspire me while I'm reading them (and for maybe a couple of weeks after), and then I promptly forget everything except for maybe one or two takeaway messages. (And sometimes, sadly, even with books I liked very much, I really do forget the entire thing. It's mom-brain at it's finest.)
Today I thought it would be fun, or maybe depressing, to see what has stayed with me from some of the books. In each case, I haven't looked back at my review, which surely would have helped me remember a lot more (and sometimes, it was very tempting to take a quick peek, but I'm a girl of my word).
The Happiest Baby on the Block by Harvey Karp
To sooth a crying baby, try one (or several) of the five S's: Swing, Swaddle, Shhhh, Suck, and . . . dang it, I can't remember the last one!
Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Marc Weissbluth
Put your baby to bed earlier, and he'll sleep longer.
Love and Logic Magic for Early Childhood by Jim Fay and Charles Fay
When you want your child to do something (for example, leave the park), give him a choice, "Would you like to leave now or in five minutes?"
The Happiest Toddler on the Block by Harvey Karp
Your toddler is like a little caveman. When he is upset, mimic his words/feelings in short, primitive sentences.
Parent Power by John Rosemond
There should never be any question that it is the parent who is in charge.
The Parenting Breakthrough: A Real-Life Plan to Teach Kids to Work, Save Money, and Be Truly Independent by Merrilee Browne Boyack
It's the parents' responsibility to teach their kids how to work and to raise successful adults out of them. This is best accomplished through an organized plan. (For example, at three, teach them how to get dressed; at seven, teach them how to use the microwave; at twelve, teach them how to schedule appointments, etc.) I modified the plan she outlined in the book to fit our own family, and we still reference it every year.
Free-Range Kids: How to Raise Safe, Self-Reliant Children by Lenore Skenazy
My kids won't die if they eat cookie dough.
Baby-Led Weaning: The Essential Guide to Introducing and Helping Your Baby to Grow Up a Healthy and Confident Eater by Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett
It is better for babies to learn how to handle real food at six months when their gag reflex is at the front of their tongue rather than at nine months when it has moved farther back. Cut up food into stick shapes at the beginning for early success.
Screamfree Parenting: The Revolutionary Approach to Raising Your Kids by Keeping Your Cool by Hal Edward Runkel
Be very careful not to label your kids, especially when they can hear what you're saying. You might think they don't have a natural inclination towards ______, but if they hear you say so, they most certainly won't. (Full review here)
Bringing Up Geeks: How to Protect Your Kid's Childhood in a Grow-Up-Too-Fast World by MaryBeth Hicks
If my parents were to write a parenting handbook, it would be this book. (Full review here)
Bringing Up Bebe: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting by Pamela Druckerman
Kids don't need to eat a snack fifty times a day. One snack, that's it. It's okay for kids to be hungry before meals. (Full review here)
Boys Adrift: The Five Factors Driving the Growing Epidemic and Underachieving Young Men by Leonard Sax
Most active boys do not have ADHD and do not need to be medicated. Boys are active because they're boys. Video games should be severely limited or avoided altogether. Boys thrive on competition. (Full review here)
All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood by Jennifer Senior
Validation! Also, I'm terrified to have teenagers. (Full review here)
Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child by John Gottman
It is not bad to feel mad or sad or scared. Those emotions can be a catalyst for growth and change. (Full review here)
How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish
Basically the same book as Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child but easier to read and with more practical, hands-on tips. Reflect back your child's feelings rather than force them into a different emotion: "I can see you're feeling angry right now. Why don't you go take a break in your room?" Not, "Get into your room, and don't you dare come out until you're happy!"
Raising a Reader: A Mother's Tale of Desperation and Delight by Jennie Nash
A mistreated book is not worth freaking out over. (Full review here)
Calm and Compassionate Children by Susan Usha Dermond
Get a pet. (Full review here)
Strong Mothers, Strong Sons: Lessons Mothers Need to Raise Extraordinary Men by Meg Meeker
Your son should never ever ever question your love for him. Never. (Full review here)
MotherStyles: Using Your Personality Type to Discover Your Parenting Strengths by Janet P. Penley
I am an ISTJ. I can't come up with imaginative ways for my kids to eat their food or get ready for school. But I can make a long list of summer goals, check them all off, and have fun doing it. (Full review here)
Little Men by Louisa May Alcott
Taking the time to have one-on-one, weekly interviews with your children will go a long way in raising productive, successful, faithful adults. (Full review here)
This list represents hundreds of hours of reading. I can remember forcing myself to painstakingly read every word of The Power of Positive Parenting by Glenn Latham, and you'll notice that it didn't even make the list because I couldn't remember a single thing from it. That's sad. It almost seems like it's not worth all the time and effort if I'm just going to forget it all anyway.
But here's the thing: Reading is as much an experience as a memory. As I read each of these books, they influenced and shaped me. Some of that influence was retained as a tangible phrase that I could apply in tricky parenting situations, but some of it actually changed who I was, and that is harder to measure.
Which books have shaped you as a parent? What are some of your mantras in moments of crises? Do you have any fail-proof tips you use to calm a screaming toddler or to get your kids to stop fighting? Please share!
And bonus! Here are a few other parenting books I've read that didn't make the list because they were so memorable I couldn't remember anything. Oops.
- Siblings Without Rivalry: How to Help Your Children Live Together So You Can Live Too by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish
- Girls on the Edge: The Four Factors Driving the New Crisis for Girls by Leonard Sax
- A Joyful Mother of Children: The Magic and Mayhem of Motherhood by Linda Eyre
- Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv
- How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character by Paul Tough