from celebrity tell-alls to husband bashing to why we might want to remove “Good Job!” from our parenting vocabulary, there is quite the array of topics covered in this month’s column. Of special note is Denene Millner’s My Brown Baby, which should be read by every parent of every background. The common theme, of course, is to do right by our smallest citizens, from their early days of nursing to the important consideration of how the world views them when they are older.
Dunn, Jancee. How Not To Hate Your Husband After Kids. Little, Brown. Mar. 2017. 288p. ISBN 9780316267106. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780316267113. CHILD REARING
Memoirist, essayist, and children’s author Dunn (Why Is My Mother Getting a Tattoo?) offers readers a hilarious and scientific look at how men and women differ in both their workloads and feelings about child care and home chores. With intriguing insight, she travels through the decades yet maintains a focus on today’s parents and the day-to-day dealings of the division of labor, seamlessly weaving her personal narrative into relevant research. For example, an Ohio State University study shows that “By the time [a] baby reaches nine months, the women had picked up an average of 37 hours of childcare and housework per week, while the men did 24 hours, even as both parents clocked the same number of hours at work.” Despite that discouraging statistic, Dunn doesn’t fall into a mode of “I told you so,” but rather takes the high road, illustrating how male and female brains file neatly into evolutionary patterns. Verdict This truly fascinating text is delightful. Dunn’s stories add laugh-out-loud moments, such as describing Grandma’s snack cupboard as “Gran’s bag of petroleum and animal by-products.” One of the best books on the subject. Highly recommended.
Lehr, Jennifer. ParentSpeak: What’s Wrong with How We Talk to Our Children—And What To Say Instead. Workman. Jan. 2017. 288p. ISBN 9780761181514. pap. $14.95; ebk. ISBN 9780761189008. CHILD REARING
Parenting writer Lehr (Ill-Equipped for a Life of Sex; GoodJobandOtherThings.com) offers some very sound, thoughtful guidance in examining parental praise, and how this well-intentioned habit can backfire, turning kids into junkies seeking their next compliment. Investigating how the way we talk to our kids “becomes their inner voice—the soundtrack they will involuntarily play back to themselves throughout their lives,” Lehr considers 14 phrases that demonstrate how our “best intentions get bungled.” Beginning with the nearly automatic “Good Job!” (setting children on a path to try not what gives the child joy but what pleases adults) to “Be Careful!” (nurtures risk aversion), she breaks down language that manipulates, objectifies, micromanages, distresses, invalidates, and threatens. Not all parents will agree with the author’s findings, but she provides plenty of research to support her arguments, and her approach to alternative methods is worthy of attention. Verdict Based on the goal to respect children as individuals, Lehr’s work gives much food for thought. Recommended.
Millner, Denene. My Brown Baby: On the Joys and Challenges of Raising African American Children. Agate. Mar. 2017. 274p. ISBN 9781572842120. pap. $16; ebk. ISBN 9781572847934. CHILD REARING
Best-selling author Millner (Dream Girls) here delivers the finest selections from her award-winning blog MyBrownBaby.com, which soulfully and hilariously depicts the delights and sorrows of child rearing from a black perspective. While few blogs on this topic make it to publication, Millner’s deserves every prize earned. Her writing is acutely on target. Holding nothing back, and speaking through raw truth, she gives a keen yet grounded take on parenting from the black viewpoint, both educating and validating readers along the way (“Unless you’re parenting a little black girl, you have absolutely no earthly idea how exhausting it is to be media whipped for not being a white girl”). Verdict Millner is on top of every political, media, and cultural front, making her one of the most relevant and aspiring writers on the issue of black parenting. Lucky is the library that lands her for a speaking engagement.
Phelan, Thomas W. & Tracy M. Lee. 1-2-3 Magic for Kids: Helping Your Kids Understand the New Rules. 2d ed. Sourcebooks. (1-2-3 Magic). Jun. 2017. 112p. illus. ISBN 9781492647867. pap. $9.99. CHILD REARING
Psychologist Phelan’s “1-2-3 Magic” series is an esteemed and effective approach to discipline for kids of all ages. However, this second edition offering, written with educator Lee and aimed at kids themselves, is quite awful. Designed to give children the heads-up that new rules are being implemented at home, it takes a beginning chapter book approach to the program with illustrations and readable text meant to inspire and explain (e.g., “If you refuse to go to your room, your parents may decide to use what we call a ‘time-out’ alternative…. The interesting thing about time-out alternatives is that they’re almost always worse than spending a couple of minutes in your room”). Although the book’s characters describe 1-2-3 as “a nice way for parents to get kids to behave,” young people are likely to smell the rat. This is pedantic and completely unnecessary. Kids don’t need the background to every maneuver parents make. VERDICT Feel free to apply the 1-2-3 program, but skip this edition at risk of your kids laughing you out of town.
Rowland, Kelly & others. Whoa, Baby! A Guide for New Moms Who Feel Overwhelmed and Freaked Out (And Wonder What the #*$& Just Happened). Da Capo Lifelong: Perseus. Apr. 2017. 192p. ISBN 9780738219424. $19; ebk. ISBN 9780738219431. CHILD REARING
Grammy Award–winning musician Rowland (of Destiny’s Child fame) offers first-time moms an honest and humorous look at all the odd changes and often gross repercussions that accompany childbirth. In conjunction with her obstetrician Tristan Bickman, “Dr. B.,” and writer Lauren Moser, the author addresses issues such as swelling, constipation, hemorrhoids, incontinence, and more unfortunates relevant to the birthing experience. From reactions to husbands who try to speak for their laboring wives to Dr. B.’s explanation of the common skin condition melasma as something totally normal that makes you look like “you’ve grown a mustache and been punched in the eye,” they have the 411 covered. VERDICT While there isn’t anything new about a celebrity pregnancy tell-all, Rowland is indeed very funny, and along with the medical advice of Bickman, offers a winning and entertaining sampling of how pregnancy and birth—while lovely—is sometimes just totally disgusting.
Schwartz, Mireille. When Your Child Has Food Allergies: A Parent’s Guide to Managing It All—From the Everyday to the Extreme. AMACOM. Apr. 2017. 240p. ISBN 9780814434055. pap. $17.95; ebk. ISBN 9780814434062. CHILD REARING
Today’s kids with food allergies are an entirely new—and vulnerable—demographic. Allergic reactions do not only cause discomfort, they can be deadly, within minutes. Hypervigilance is the name of the game, and Schwartz (columnist, Allergic Living), who suffers from food allergies herself, presents just that—an extremely watchful approach to life for people with these conditions, covering everything from early symptoms and diagnosis to managing family gatherings and working with schools. Of great importance is teaching kids to advocate for themselves, but instructing young ones to decipher nutrition labels or decline the birthday cake is no easy feat. VERDICT From EpiPens to which grocery chains stock the most allergy-safe food, Schwartz presents a thorough process for safeguarding child and home. Appended recipes are a bonus. Recommended for parenting and education collections.
Simpson, Alicia C. Boost Your Breast Milk: An All-in-One Guide for Nursing Mothers To Build a Healthy Milk Supply. Experiment. Feb. 2017. 256p. ISBN 9781615193462. pap. $18.95; ebk. ISBN 9781615193479. CHILD REARING
Board-certified lactation consultant and vegan cookbook author Simpson (Quick & Easy Vegan Comfort Food) provides women with a complete if scientifically heavy analysis of milk production, nutrition, supply, and more. Arguing that Western culture is “full of more misinformation than good education,” and that “low milk supply is a man-made issue born of a century of falsehoods,” the author touches on a variety of topics, from preparing to nurse to returning to work. Those dedicated to breastfeeding will find a wealth of information and context that supports their decision, although the technical nature of the text makes it rough going at times. That said, Simpson is realistic (if strict) in her guidance; for example, reminding postpartum readers wishing to lose weight that “temporary changes will get you temporary results.” Simpson closes her book with recipes deemed “breastfeeding superfoods,” such as sweet potato muffins and fried green papaya with smoky cilantro remoulade. VERDICT A solid choice for collections with deep lactation holdings.
Sugarman, Lisa. Untying Parent Anxiety: 18 Myths That Have You in Knots—And How To Get Free. Familius. Mar. 2017. 184p. ISBN 9781944822576. pap. $16.99. CHILD REARING
Writer and humorist Sugarman (Life) advises parents with kids ages five to eight to stop trying to raise perfectionists and let kids make some mistakes. In brief, readable essays, she tackles such myths as “technology is wrecking our kids” and “if I punish my kid, she’ll hate me,” and encourages parents to remember that the goal is not “to raise perfect kids but…to raise well-adjusted…people who can handle whatever life throws at them.” From moms and dads who constantly compare their child to others to those who bail little Johnny or Susie out every time they forget their lunch or mitten, Sugarman’s sane, funny advice will ring true with today’s parents. Verdict Sugarman has quite the online following with her nationally syndicated opinion column, “It Is What It Is.” Excellent for public library collections.