Me and my kiddo

Me and my kiddo

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

My Top Three Parenting Books

I had to start this post after midnight because the ideas were spinning in my mind and I just couldn't get to sleep!  Think I'm having fun?  :)

1. How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish

These ladies have it down for communicating skills in an easily accessible manner.  I haven't found any book that so beautifully teaches a parent how to keep the joy in parenting.  I also love their book Liberated Parents, Liberated Children: Your Guide to a Happier Family which is much more of a principles-in-action book.  I recommend doing what I did (by accident).  I read the "How to Talk.." book first (the more abstract presentation) followed by "Liberated Parents..." (concretes in an accessible, storyish format).  Finally, I re-read the "How to Talk" book again which really cemented everything together.  It reminds me of Peikoff ( talking about shuttling from the abstract to the concrete and back again.  In applying the principles of this book, I have taken the authors' advice and copied their "quick reminder" pages.  Each week, I review the principles from this book (and the other two I'll mention).  I then identify an area where I think I can improve or an example of an instance that week in which I utilized a particular principle.  I find this highly helpful in making sure that I'm maintaining principled parenting.

2. Raising Your Spirited Child Rev Ed: A Guide for Parents Whose Child Is More Intense, Sensitive, Perceptive, Persistent, and Energetic by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka
Cameron is intense.  This book just nails the refraiming issue i.e. looking at a behavior or trait in its positive light.  I review several segments each week, but here are two paraphrased items that give the gist of what I'm trying to incorporate in my parenting.

An intense spirited child needs to hear phrases like:
You are enthusiastic.
You are expressive and lively.
You are very upset, but you are a problem solver and will figure out what to do.
Being intense does not mean being aggressive.
I'm wondering if you are feeling anxious, angry, sad (or whatever the emotion might be).
Your body gets very excited.

When intense kids hear these messages over and over, they are able to turn them into "I" messages and tell themselves:

I am getting upset
I'm going into the red zone.
I can be angry without hurting someone.
I am really excited.
I like being enthusiastic.
My blood is starting to boil.  I need to step out of here.
I'm feeling crabby.
I experience very strong emotions, but I don't have to let them overwhelm me.

A persistent spirited child needs to hear phrases like:
You really stick to things that interest you.
You are committed and decisive.
You know what you want.
You're assertive.
Your friends will never talk you into trouble unless you want it.
You are independent and capable.

When persistent kids hear these messages, you can give them the words to help them adapt:

That was a surprise!
That's not what I expected.  I need a minute to recover.
I'm having a tough time with this change.
Can we talk about this?
May I please have one more minute to finish?
I'm having trouble making this transition.
I just need to read two more pages and then I'll be ready to go.
Let's go over the plan for today.

I think this book helps any parent take that step back and reframe a child's actions, but it's especially important for those of us with "spirited" children, those who are "more intense, sensitive, perceptive, persistent, and energetic".  Seeing a child as persistent, instead of stubborn, helps one pause in pulling out the hair to see the value in the trait, articulate that, and thus quell the urge to shove one's door-blocking child help one's dear child to see themselves as possessing positive traits which they can use as assets.

3. Learning as we Grow: Enriching Education for Students With Autism and Other Neurodevelopmental Disorders by Nicole Beaurkens, Erin Roon, and Courtney Kowalczyk.
This book focuses on education for autistic children, but there  is one really golden skill that has universal appeal i.e. prompting in a way that gives children the greatest opporunity to develop their own thinking and problem solving skills.  They have a key sequence, from least to most parent centered, which has been so helpful to me in nurturing my son's growth.  Paraphrasing again:

1. Verbal comment about the situation (I see a yogurt bowl on the table.)
2. Indirect verbal prompt to think about possible solution / action (I wonder what you might do about being out of paper.)
3. Verbalize solution you might use (If I was missing a friend, I might write them a letter.)
4. Provide two options (Will you be rolling out the garbage tonight, or are you planning to set an alarm for the morning?)
5. Direct non-verbal prompt - make sure you have the child's attention by moving closer and getting on eye level  (Point to the students lining up for lunch.)
6. Direct verbal prompt with nonverbal ("Get a piece of paper." + point to the tray)

Automating prompting in this order takes lots of practice, but it has been so powerful and rewarding to see my son pause when given the chance and do the thinking.  This is the fun of parenting!   They're thinking and learning and becoming that independent person!!!  (Have I mentioned how much I love this job?!?)

There is another bonus idea I love from this book; creating a competence journal.  The idea is that children can fill this journal with notes, pictures, school work, any examples of success and refer back to it when feeling down.  Learning is hard work and entails multiple failures for every kid and I love this idea of having a treasure trove of positive memories that they can eventually maintain on their own.

Extra Note:
These are my three top parenting books, but they're not the three books I give to a new parent.  I do give the How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk book as my favorite "how to" book.  But, sleep is so precious and precarious during those first months (years?) that my second pick for new parents is Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Marc. Weissbluth.  While this sleep researcher is not the most lucid writer, I have found the information to be consistently effective (to my great delight) and often counterintuitive (which is why it's a resource I keep handy).  Finally, Going to Sleep on the Farm is a truly delightful book for parents to read with a young child.  The beautiful rhythm of the words makes it so pleasant to both read and hear and the pictures are enchanting as the parent sees so much more than the child, but both identify with this charming bed time story.

So... now it's almost 1:30AM and I've finished the rough draft.  Hopefully, I've gotten enough ideas out of my head to take Dr. Weisssbluth's advice and get some sleep :)

Follow up -
I managed a few hours of successful slumber before I was awakened by something that felt like a giant bug! It turned out to be a puffy winter coat and rough zipper enclosing my child who was decked from shoes to backpack at 6:47AM and pleased as could be with himself for his new pre-breakfast accomplishment.


  1. I love How to Talk and Raising Your Spirited Child too! They are my two favorites. I think your son sounds a lot like my daughter. She is a persistent and intense child. Can't wait to hear more about how you've dealt with that. Maybe it will give me some ideas.


  2. Thanks so much, Kelly :) I'm so looking forward to sharing in this Objectivist moms blog community!