WHEN MY TWINS were newborns, I was forced to make an emergency trip to Target for—yet again—more diapers. An elderly woman in the parking lot who watched me struggle with two infant carriers, a box of diapers, my keys, and my balance as the ice and slush piled around me, saw fit to offer up the completely unhelpful suggestion to “Enjoy it while they’re young!” I dropped all of my belongings, whipped off my gloves, and gave that old bat the double bird. Johanna Stein’s How Not To Calm a Child on a Plane (review below) made me feel better about my own behavior and is full of such equally questionable moments, providing some snorts and chuckles for those of us who have been there. Additionally, this quarter’s reviews offer exciting contributions to the literature, such as homeschooling success stories, advice for military families, overcoming parental alienation, and how to cultivate self-motivation.
Baker, Amy J.L. & Paul R. Fine. Surviving Parental Alienation: A Journey of Hope and Healing. Rowman & Littlefield. 2014. 184p. bibliog. ISBN 9781442226777. $36; ebk. ISBN 9781442226784. CHILD REARING
According to Baker (Adult Children of Parental Alienation Syndrome; contributor, Psychology Today) and social worker Fine (both, Working with Alienated Children and Families), 20 percent of divorces are high-conflict, involving frequent visits to court, allegations of abuse, and chronic disagreements regarding parenting schedules. Often resulting in the alienation of one parent, the “targeted” person loses out on a relationship with his or her child and suffers a great deal of pain and uncertainty. The authors collect some of these heartbreaking stories, put them into their psychological framework, relate them to the academic literature, and finally, offer a last chapter on ideas for maintaining communication. VERDICT This is an important contribution to a rarely visited topic. While aimed at the estranged parent, there is a scholastic curve that makes the text more appropriate for social workers and mediators. That group would also benefit from this text, which is a suitable purchase for academic libraries.
Harding, Kip & Mona Lisa Harding. The Brainy Bunch: The Harding Family’s Method to College Ready by Age Twelve. Gallery. May 2014. 240p. bibliog. ISBN 9781476759340. $21.99; ebk. ISBN 9781476759364. CHILD REARING
The Hardings were high school sweethearts who married a few weeks after prom and went on to raise ten children. They made the choice to homeschool their kids and sent six of them to college by age 12. With a navy doctor, an architect, an engineer, and one superhero in training among their ranks, the Hardings share their incredible journey, from early fears to resounding success. Early on, they address the reader’s obvious questions (“We are not geniuses”) and align their decision to homeschool with their Christian faith, as well as their thoughts that age-segregated environments are not the most effective way to develop social skills. Never judgmental and not without humor, the coauthors intersperse their story with strategies and advice for anyone considering a homeschool curriculum. VERDICT This fascinating read transcends the Christian homeschool market. Written in an engaging and relaxed style, the book tells how all 12 Hardings have accomplished much, and their account is inspirational and uplifting.
Kang, Shimi. The Dolphin Way: A Parent’s Guide to Raising Healthy, Happy, and Motivated Kids—Without Turning into a Tiger. Tarcher. May 2014. 352p. ISBN 9780399166044. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9781101632345. CHILD REARING
The perception of today’s parents as micromanagers who steal all the oxygen is often correct, and as the research trickles in, we are seeing a generation of kids who are lacking internal control. Award-winning physician Kang (Univ. of British Columbia) shows parents how these kids—likened to tiger cubs—are “increasingly dependent on external rewards to stay motivated” and how parents are turning their cubs into the “overworked, middle-aged.” Kang views this tiger style as “underparenting” that includes too much “pushing, pulling, directing, instructing, scheduling, and monitoring.” Seeking to right the scales, the author shows parents how to develop skills such as creativity, critical thinking, communication, and collaboration—what she calls the CQ, or cognitive quotient. By encouraging parents to model dolphins, who instruct by play, exploration, social bonds, altruism, contribution, and family and community values, kids will strengthen their own internal compass and have a stronger core with a greater chance at personal success and happiness. VERDICT Combining scientific research with personal stories, Kang has a soothing and encouraging tone that will appeal to many readers.
Lawhorne-Scott, Cheryl & others. Raising Children in the Military. Rowman & Littlefield. May 2014. 224p. ISBN 9781442227484. $36; ebk. ISBN 9781442227491. CHILD REARING
There is no doubt that a career in the military poses many challenges for families, especially those with young children. In this stellar offering, clinical therapist Lawhorne-Scott, marine corps lieutenant colonel Jeff Scott, and writer Don Philpott (editor, International Homeland Security Journal) give readers a helpful guide to navigating the many demands military families face, such as frequent moves, the loss of friends, deployment, and even the risk of death. The text not only offers a supportive manual to psychological concerns (“what to expect from your children during postdeployment”), but covers such secondary issues as the underemployment of military spouses and dealing with schooling disruptions. Lastly, the book serves as a directory to military services within the context of government benefits (DEERS enrollment, TRICARE health care, and Family Separation Allowances). VERDICT This book should be available to all families who make ongoing sacrifices for our country. Unequivocally recommended.
Levkoff, Logan & Jennifer Wider. Got Teens? The Doctor Moms’ Guide to Sexuality, Social Media and Other Adolescent Realities. Seal: Perseus. 2014. 296p. ISBN 9781580055062. pap. $16; ebk. ISBN 9781580055079. CHILD REARING
Sexuality educator/writer Levkoff (What Your Kids Are Learning About Sex Today) and women’s health expert Wider give parents of adolescents a solid question-and-answer-style guide to the many concerns related to teens and their parents. Covering bombs such as: “How can I explain what a blow job is to my child?” to more mundane matters such as sharing passwords (don’t do it!), the authors clearly have their fingers on the pulse of teens and their ever-changing world. In a conversational and humorous style, they give parents the support they need to converse honestly with their kids toward the “reality-based parenting that we need today.” VERDICT While puberty books are a dime a dozen, this work zeroes in on the peskiest questions that teens ask and gives sound, friendly advice for challenging topics. Recommended with enthusiasm.
Oeth, Annie. Because I Said So: Life in the Mom Zone. Sartoris Literary Group. 2014. 226p. ISBN 9780989945493. pap. $14.95. CHILD REARING
Oeth, a writer for the Clarion-Ledger (Jackson, MS), offers a slyly humorous compilation of brief essays about motherhood and parenting. Covering everything from housekeeping to Santa Claus, this mother of four approaches life like her sweatshirt that reads, “God, grant me the patience to endure my blessings.” There are many parenting truths (“You can’t force them to think nice things, but you can at least get them to act semicivilized”) combined with some household-specific tales that will resonate with anyone who has survived a teenager. VERDICT As a weekly newspaper column, these entries are quite charming and likely have a destination readership. They function less well in book format, but regional libraries will want to consider.
Pegula, Chris with Frank Meyer. From Dude to Dad: The Diaper Dude Guide to Pregnancy. Penguin. May 2014. 224p. ISBN 9780399166266. pap. $15; ebk. ISBN 9781101635377. CHILD REARING
Pegula, creator of Diaper Dude, “hip gear for cool dads,” here offers a pseudocaveman guide to pregnancy and fatherhood. His adventures in fatherhood and baby gear began with an abhorrent selection of diaper bags, whereupon he decided to take matters into his own hands. The onetime actor and dog walker was not to be deterred, however, and not only embraced parenthood fully and is now the father of three, but started his own line of baby gear (think camo). Based on the philosophy that you don’t have to lose your identity after you become a dad, the author covers such masculine-focused concerns as, “Will I ever have sex again?” and ahem, “Where do I fit in?” VERDICT While frequent he-man references to the reader as “Dude,” and eye-rolling clichés such as likening sperm to “the boys,” seem downright dumb if not merely immature, Pegula still offers fathers-to-be an accurate look at becoming a dad and an enthusiasm that is admirable. A solid selection for men on the journey to parenting who simply can’t tolerate What To Expect When You’re Expecting.
Schwartz, Kevin & others. BabySafe in Seven Steps: The BabyGanics Guide to Smart and Effective Solutions for a Healthy Home. Ballantine. 2014. 304p. ISBN 9780345547125. pap. $15; ebk. ISBN 9780345547132. CHILD REARING
Schwartz and Keith Garber are the founders of BabyGanics, a line of baby-safe household and body care products. Cognizant of ingredients that might be safe for the earth but not good for baby, they here offer a question-and-answer-style guide to products such as cosmetics (beware of hydroquinone, an antiaging product linked to compromised immune health), food and water (beware of bisphenol, a suspected endocrine disrupter), and even mineral oil, which can form a layer on the skin, sealing pores and trapping bacteria. While much of the information screams, “danger!” the authors aren’t fans of the antibacterial hype, and also serve up such common-sense advice as “air out your house each day.” VERDICT Children definitely have more porous neural pathways than adults and thus should be pampered with that information in mind, however, not everything can be controlled, so the book seems a bit much at times. This work might freak out the uninitiated, but those who are already fans of the BabyGanics line will appreciate. Purchase accordingly.
Stein, Johanna. How Not To Calm a Child on a Plane: And Other Lessons in Parenting from a Highly Questionable Source. Da Capo: Perseus. May 2014. 224p. ISBN 9780738217345. $19.99; ebk. ISBN 9780738217352. CHILD REARING
Stein works the comedy circuit from such venues as Comedy Central, VH-1, and even the Disney Channel. While the author might proclaim herself as a “questionable source” when it comes to parenting, her credentials in chuckles are undisputed. The offering itself is nothing new (brief, humorous essays on the trials and tribulations of parenting), but Stein has such a delightfully immature sense of humor (“…about my perfect motherhood…I feel so happy I could puke a friggin’ rainbow”) that the reader feels compelled to continue reading in anticipation of what she might possibly say next. VERDICT From birthing classes (“We persevered…we were about to be parents, it was important that we rise above our juvenile tendencies”) to labor itself (“I am going to tear the linoleum off the delivery-room floor and eat it”) Stein gives a laugh-out-loud presentation sure to be a hit with the no-punches crowd.
Whitson, Signe. 8 Keys To End Bullying: Strategies for Parents & Schools. Norton. May 2014. 240p. ISBN 9780393709285. pap. $19.95; ebk. ISBN 9780393709292. CHILD REARING
Norton’s “8 Keys” series focuses on mental health issues such as recovering from trauma, brain-body balance, and stress management. This title covers the prevalent and often tragic issue of bullying, both in schools and in online environments. The author illustrates eight core strategies that adults and teachers can use to address this aggressive behavior, beginning with an important chapter on differentiating bullying from other common behaviors, such as rudeness (unintended) and meanness (usually an isolated incident). Whitson addresses the psychology behind why kids bully and outlines signs for parents and educators to heed for recognizing bullying. Emphasizing that strong connections with adults are key factors in both preventing and addressing bullying, the author then moves on to specificities, such as building emotional competence, turning bystanders into buddies, and reaching out to kids who bully. VERDICT Complete with example scenarios, exercises for readers, and sample responses, the author does a convincing job of helping adults feel empowered to address this important issue.