Monday, February 04, 2008

Reading Ahead

One of the benefits of Pumpkin's improved sleep is that I have more time to read. You'd think I'd take this opportunity to read some of the novels and general interest non-fiction in my large "to read someday" stack. But no, I'm reading parenting books instead. More specifically, parenting books about toddlers and older children. Wait, you say. I thought Pumpkin was only 10 months old. This is true. (Really? 10 months already???) I've always been prone to reading ahead of the class- when I was in college I was one of those weird, geeky students who had always read the chapter before the lecture. So now, I am reading ahead of Pumpkin, trying to prepare myself for her marvelously free-form lectures on life. (Yes, I know my sidebar says I'm reading The Mommy Brain. I am. I can only read one novel at a time, but can happily have several non-fiction books going at once.)

I am a little freaked out by the fast approaching need to have a discipline plan worked out. We certainly don't want to be one of those parents- you know, the ones with the wild, out of control toddlers who disrupt public spaces and run roughshod over their wimpy parents. But, we don't want to be one of those other parents, either- you know, the ones who fail to nurture the inherent exploratory urges in their toddlers, and crush their little spirits before they ever have a chance to blossom.

So, I've been reading books with an eye towards what sort of discipline plan Hubby and I might formulate. I am really drawn to the ideas in Playful Parenting, by Lawrence Cohen. And I have already benefited from reading this book, even though it is primarily focused on children older than Pumpkin. I used to struggle with how to play with Pumpkin. His idea of "following the giggles" has helped me let her show me how best to play, which right now involves a lot of peekaboo and chase. (I know. Duh. Do what makes the baby laugh.) I also took his idea of making games out of things the child doesn't like to do and have used that to help with getting Pumpkin in her car seat. (This also involves a lot of peekaboo. I suspect the other parents at day care think I'm crazy, but getting her into her car seat in between rounds of peekaboo is a lot easier than trying to wrestle her in. She can do a mean plank, let me tell you. I wish I had abs like that.)

Still, I am skeptical that we can truly avoid the need to discipline, so I have looked at other books, too. I haven't found one I really like yet. I expected to like The Science of Parenting, by Margot Sunderland. However, I have been disappointed by the way this book doesn't include the caveats and limits on what has been found by research. For instance, in her section on crying and separation, she mentions a study on Romanian orphans that show defects in brain development in children than were deprived of love and comfort. However, she fails to mention that the babies in these orphanages were often deprived of almost all care and affection. (See this summary of some of these studies.) This is quite a bit different from the treatment the children of most readers of glossy parenting books are likely to receive! This (and the rest of the section) could easily freak out a parent, particularly a working mother. She goes on to imply that day care may be harmful to children's emotional development. In fact, the research on the impact of day care is mixed. Grace at badmomgoodmom has a good series of posts on the most recent research. Lise Eliot, in What's Going on in There? has a good summary of the older research. (I really liked this book, by the way- I think I may reread it now that Pumpkin is heading towards toddlerhood.) When I come across areas where I know that an author has glossed over the complexity of the research, I find it much harder to trust any of her other points- which may be quite good. It is certainly a nice book, with lots of pictures and an interesting layout.

So my reading continues. Now I'm looking at The Mother of All Toddler Books, by Ann Douglas. I liked her sleep book, so I suspect I'll like this one, too, but it is too early to know. I'll keep you posted.


  1. The problem with parenting books is that my child didn't read any of them. She is destined to be an iconoclast. She doesn't follow any of the 'normal' development patterns.

  2. I swore off parenting books because I hate their prescriptive attitude and condescending tone that suggests we don't know a thing and need to be taught everything about our children. Oh - and it seems that every book says there is only one way to do things right. There is more than one way to raise a child, and I think if you trust your instincts you'll be fine.

    It probably helped that exactly NONE of all those sleep suggestions helped us, except to make me feel like a failure. Even Dr. Sears didn't have answers we could live with and we were pretty much doing what he suggested, it was just the tone.

    Oh -- and I'm pretty sure if men were mothers there wouldn't be half as many parenting books.

    We didn't need to start thinking about discipline until at least 18 months and really more like 22.

  3. I'm the same way about reading and researching. I love the Playful Parenting book. It was a new way for me to think about things, and I'm already using some aspects, like making wiping her face or nose into a fun game (I will have to try the peek-a-boo for the carseat, which she also hates).

    I just bought my sister a copy of The Happiest Toddler on the Block. I really liked the Happiest Baby on the Block DVD, in which he talks about what is nature for the babies at their age, and that makes sense to me. So I thought his book on toddlers might be good, and I will borrow it when my sis is done.

    Tell me if you find any others you really like. I'm getting worried because the Pumpkin currently thinks it's very funny when I tell her no or try to remove her from something. Sigh... Did you read Moxie's Q&A about when does a kid understand the word "no"? It has some good info.

  4. Wow. You are such a scientist when it comes to reading parenting books. I'm a little more of a literary critic / cultural studies critic about them, reading for class or ideological bias. We should be a team!

    Anyhow. I know the book you're talking about. Munchkin is nearly 20 months old, and I can tell you: I think you'll be surprised at how much you do by the seat of your pants, but also by how much you just know. Really.

  5. Yeah, Mimi, we'd make a great parenting book review team!

    Grace is right, though, our kids don't read the books (although I seem to remember Cinnamon posting about her very awake baby pulling the No-Cry Sleep Solution off the shelf....) I suspect we'll end up handling discipline on the fly. I am really reading the books so that when I have to make something up I have a few ideas bouncing around in my head. I think the Playful Parenting book resonated with me because I agree with his basic premise that young children don't misbehave just to annoy us- there is usually a reason. At least I hope that is how it turns out!

    And Caramama, my Pumpkin totally grins at me when I say no and move her away from the TV (she is fascinated by it, even though she almost never sees it on). I remembered reading somewhere (probably Moxie) that kids don't understand "no" until ~18 months, so I'm not worrying about it too much. I just keep saying no and moving her.

    Anyway, I'm glad to hear I have several more months before I really have to worry about this stuff!


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