BACK TO A BALANCED APPROACH
Ten years ago the child-rearing literature was rife with harried time lines, limited windows of opportunity, benchmarks of necessary accomplishments, and a generally frantic approach to raising kids. We were encouraged to teach foreign languages to toddlers, register for preschool while our kids were nursing, flash Christmas lights at our infants to “improve” their development, and pipe Mozart into the womb.
These days, the literature has regained its integrity, and we have a much more balanced, helpful approach to parenting. While there are few of us left who begin Olympic training at age five, we still struggle with letting our kids struggle. The experts know this, however, and we continue to see the ongoing publishing trend of encouraging mom and dad to let kids make mistakes. Kenneth R. Ginsburg, Amy McCready, and Jessica Lahey all make sound arguments for the helpfulness of the “epic fail,” as it’s called in my house, and Ann Gadzikowski creates a compelling case for play-as-preparation (including experimentation and—gasp—failure). Summer represents the best of play for most of us, so here’s to getting out and messing up. Bring it.
Brott, Armin A. The New Father: A Dad’s Guide to the First Year. 3d ed. ISBN 9780789211774.
Brott, Armin A. & Jennifer Ash. The Expectant Father: The Ultimate Guide for Dads-To-Be. 4th ed. ISBN 9780789212139.
ea. vol: Abbeville. 2015. 333p. pap. $13.95. CHILD REARING
Brott (“Ask Mr. Dad” column) updates The New Father, now in its third edition, with a month-by-month look at baby development, supplemented with sections on what’s going on with your partner and what you’re going through as a father. Every topic relevant to infancy is addressed, including colic, breastfeeding, sleep, developmental milestones, and vaccines.
The Expectant Father, coauthored with Ash (Tropical Style), is similarly arranged, with additional breakdowns of what’s happening with the baby and staying involved. New in this fourth edition is expanded information on adoptive fathers, multiples, overcoming infertility, the ART (assistive reproductive technology) of fatherhood, and GI dads. The third edition is less than five years old, making this update optional. VERDICT These phone book–sized volumes are among the most comprehensive (changing a diaper takes ten steps and covers two pages) father-to-be books. Brott’s pleasing style steers clear of the caveman humor usually associated with “from dude to dad” texts.
Fei, Deanna. Girl in Glass: How My “Distressed Baby” Defied the Odds, Shamed a CEO, and Taught Me the Essence of Love, Heartbreak, and Miracles. Bloomsbury USA. 2015. 320p. ISBN 9781620409916. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781620409930. CHILD REARING
When she was only five months into her pregnancy, novelist Fei (A Thread of Sky) unexpectedly went into labor and delivered a one-pound baby girl who was not expected to live. Fei and her husband were told that if Mila survived she would be at risk for blindness, deafness, chronic lung disease, cerebral palsy, mental retardation, and the inability to lead an independent life. But Mila did live, and after a year in the NICU, she came home. What follows is a heartbreaking yet beautiful story of motherhood and love. When news headlines such as “AOL CEO Tim Armstrong blames benefit cuts on ‘distressed babies’ ” began to surface, the term went viral. Armstrong’s statement that AOL had to change its 401(k) benefits because two AOL families (Fei’s husband worked for AOL) had “distressed babies,” which cost the company a million dollars, became a launching pad for evaluating the bottom line in terms of the price of prematurity. Fei dedicates the last section of her book to this discussion, both personally and politically. While Armstrong apologized for his words and implications, the author outed herself as one of the mothers of the distressed babies and began a national conversation. VERDICT Fei is a gifted writer with a courageous tale to share. This memorable book belongs on the shelf of every library.
Gadzikowski, Ann. Creating a Beautiful Mess: Ten Essential Play Experiences for a Joyous Childhood. Redleaf. Aug. 2015. 184p. ISBN 9781605543864. pap. $15.95; ebk. ISBN 9781605543871. CHILD REARING
Early childhood educator Gadzikowski offers a charming book on play, outlining the various types, importances thereof, a historical look back, and ideas for implementation. Arguing that “the concept of balance in children’s play experiences is similar to the concept of nutritional balance,” the author provides ten essential play experiences for a “balanced and joyous childhood.” While educators categorize play into domains of development—and parents think in terms of its when and where—Gadzikowski’s arrangement represents a child’s experience. VERDICT From blocks and make-believe to turn-taking games and stories with toys, this work’s encouraging and gentle perspective is sure to motivate even the most authoritarian parent. Warmly recommended for all messy mischief makers.
Ginsburg, Kenneth R. Raising Kids To Thrive: Balancing Love with Expectations and Protection with Trust. American Academy of Pediatrics. 2015. 250p. ISBN 9781581108675. pap. $16.95; ebk. ISBN 9781581108712. CHILD REARING
The esteemed Ginsburg (Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania) presents a true gem, which beautifully balances such questions as: “How do I protect my child while letting her learn life’s lessons?” with poignant specifics, “You might be tempted to do what comes easily; you might even feel like you’re a natural, but you’ll get bored if you lack interest and the field doesn’t challenge you,” to create an inspiring yet task-oriented read. Interspersed with heartfelt quotes from youngsters, the narrative will renew parents’ appreciation for the struggles of growing up and the oh-so-important things parents do and say that make a difference. VERDICT With an easy style and research-based advice, Ginsburg has his finger on the pulse of today’s parents and children. Read. Learn. Do.
Glowacki, Jamie. Oh Crap! Potty Training: Everything Modern Parents Need To Know To Do It Once and Do It Right. Touchstone. 2015. 288p. ISBN 9781501122989. pap. $15.99; ebk. ISBN 9781501122996. CHILD REARING
Glowacki, the “Pied Piper of Poop,” gives parents an experienced and enthusiastic helping hand for the often frustrating experience of toilet training. Showing parents how “it takes most kids about three to seven days for the potty training to ‘click,’ ” she aims to bring a child’s awareness from “Clueless” and “I Peed” to “I’m Peeing” and “I Have To Go Pee.” She explains there is a good time to start training (between 20 and 30 months) and why “waiting until she’s ready” often backfires. Within that age range, asserts the author, parents receive other markers for identifying readiness (retreating to a private place to poop, ability to recite the ABC song, etc.). The author also dispels common myths (e.g., “boys are harder to train than girls”). VERDICT Glowacki’s firm and entertaining style invites confidence. Her methods are appropriate for any healthy child, and her sense of humor is contagious. Who knew pee and poop could be so fun? Recommended for all parenting collections.
Lahey, Jessica. The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn To Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed. Harper. Aug. 2015. 320p. ISBN 9780062299239. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062299246. CHILD REARING
If your kid forgets his lunch, should you bring it to school for him? What about his homework? Should you intervene if your daughter’s friends are leaving her out? These common scenarios usually send today’s parents into fix-it mode, but according to educator Lahey, the best of intentions can be a disservice to children, depriving them of valuable lessons and halting their growing confidence. Here the author gives the would-be helicopter parent a look at the consequences of “protecting” children from failure and demonstrates how natural consequences help build resilient and autonomous kids. In short, “what feels good to us isn’t always what is good for our children.” VERDICT Lahey’s conversational tone, combined with research and narratives from both children and parents, delivers in-depth insight into the value of mistakes. With chapters on specific age groups (middle schoolers and high schoolers) and hot-button issues, such as household chores, homework, and friendships, any parent who needs assistance reining in the supermom tendencies will find sound advice here.
McCready, Amy. The “Me, Me, Me” Epidemic: A Step-by-Step Guide to Raising Capable, Grateful Kids in an Over-Entitled World. Tarcher. Aug. 2015. 336p. ISBN 9780399169977. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9781101992357. CHILD REARING
Parenting coach McCready (Positive Parenting Solutions) feels we are in the midst of an “entitlement epidemic,” resulting in narcissistic attitudes in kids of all ages. These brat-like behaviors won’t get kids very far in life, so McCready comes through with a wealth of tools and sample dialog to guide parents in raising more self-sufficient and capable youth who will “learn to pitch in around the house, solve their disagreements respectfully, take responsibility for their actions and even put down their smartphones once in a while.” From giving in to overcontrolling to “dishing out empty praise and lavish rewards” for expected behaviors, McCready’s advice redirects parents into “creating a consequential environment” and producing “reasonable” (not great) expectations. VERDICT Whether using her tools for the first time with the youngest set or curbing the preteen already in the throes of entitlement, parents applying McCready’s practical methods will get the information they need to convert a tyrant into a responsible and enthusiastic citizen.
Villanueva, Sara. The Angst of Adolescence: How To Parent Your Teen (And Live To Laugh About It). Bibliomotion. Sept. 2015. 192p. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781629560762. pap. $18.95; ebk. ISBN 9781629560779. CHILD REARING
Developmental psychologist Villanueva renders perspective and support for parenting through the turbulent teen years, outlining the three distinct domains (biological, cognitive, and social) of adolescent development. Covering expected topics such as risk-taking behaviors, family conflict (thankfully it is “generally not indicative of major problems for either the individuals or the family”), and puberty and sex, the author reminds us what is normal behavior and what teens really need from parents. While Villanueva briefly addresses problems that can crop up during the teen years (depression, eating disorders), she mostly concentrates on the normalcy of teen angst and encourages focusing on the positive, reaffirming the belief that a deeper bond awaits us after the clouds clear. VERDICT Even though the content doesn’t offer anything new to the literature, this engaging book would be a fine acquisition for libraries needing a subject update.