Parenting Reviews | November 15, 2013

Two of the titles reviewed this quarter reminded me of the French concept of terroir. Usually associated with wine, terroir assumes that the characteristics of a land impart a unique quality to a given wine. Applied to parenting, it’s a rich example of the age-old nature vs. nurture debate. For while no two children are alike, we all carry specific, indelible characteristics that result from the parenting styles of our families. Whether our terroir is the sadness of a childhood spent in poverty or the memory of a melodic family at play, it is impossible to deny the influence of the attitudes and examples our parents set for us. Coauthors Derek O’Neill and Jennifer Waldburger write nicely about how to counteract through mindfulness the negative impact stress can have on early infancy, and Julia Cameron gives a spiritual and uplifting look at raising creative children by prioritizing time for one’s own creative gifts. In these offerings, combined with Gallagher’s look at standard child development milestones, we see the best of both our commonalities and our unique abilities to conquer and create.

Cameron, Julia with Emma Lively. The Artist’s Way for Parents: Raising Creative Children. Tarcher. 2013. 288p. ISBN 9780399163722. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9781101613061. CHILD REARING

Cameron’s acclaimed The Artist’s Way (1992) is practically an institution in and of itself. Here she focuses on how parents can nurture creativity in their children ages 0–12. Cameron gently reminds readers that we are spiritual beings with creativity a part of our DNA. By using three basic tools (morning pages, creative expeditions, and highlights), Cameron demonstrates how to cultivate curiosity, connection, self-expression, discovery, and more. Unlike many parenting titles that put the bulk of the work on mom and dad to institute change and/or orchestrate activities, Cameron concentrates on clever ways for children and parents to develop their own individual and spiritual creativity while at play. She is a strong advocate for independence, arguing that we do not need to abandon our children to get back to ourselves. VERDICT Cameron’s approach of valuing the artistic process in all people makes the book feel like familial terroir, where a parent’s creative habits trickle down into the souls of the youngest scribblers. Her style is uplifting, spiritually motivated, and rich in narrative. Recommended for the many readers who loved The Artist’s Way.

Dais, Dawn. The Sh!t No One Tells You. Avalon. 2013. 224p. ISBN 9781580054843. pap. $16; ebk. ISBN 9781580054850. CHILD REARING

There’s no doubt that first-time motherhood is one of the most soul-altering awakenings women experience, and it’s almost never a cakewalk. Freelance writer Dais aims to tell those would-be blindsided moms what really happens during and after childbirth, and she’s not pulling any punches (“My hope is to give you what I didn’t have: the ability to say, ‘I am not the only parent in the history of the planet to have their asses handed to them by something they could fit in a purse.’”). The author combines her own advice with that of several BFF moms in chapters that range from “You Just Pooped Out a Baby (Your Body Post-Baby)” to “It May Not be Love at First Sight.” VERDICT Dais gives mothers decent guidance with a wisecracking, tongue-in-cheek style (“raid the hospital for everything that isn’t nailed down”), interspersed with some memorable and worthy insights (“Just because breast-feeding is natural doesn’t mean it will come naturally.”). Great for public li­brary collections.

redstar DeGarmo, John. The Foster Parenting Manual: A Practical Guide to Creating a Loving, Safe and Stable Home. Jessica Kingsley. 2013. 160p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781849059565. $17.95; ebk. ISBN 9780857007957. CHILD REARING

DeGarmo, an experienced foster parent of more than 30 children, fills the gap in current, quality literature on foster parenting with this concise yet comprehensive guide for potential foster parents or those affected. Beginning with a short history of the practice, he helps readers understand who foster children are, how best to understand their challenges and struggles, and how to establish rules and expectations in a home, as well as considerations for working with caseworkers and birth families. Each chapter begins with a foster family’s story, and outcomes range from brief stays to permanent adoptions. DeGarmo includes both big-picture ideas about child development and nuts-and-bolts considerations for fostering, such as how often a caseworker must visit a home, what foster families are reimbursed for, and what training is required. VERDICT For anyone considering becoming a foster parent, this title is essential reading, full of rich advice. Unequivocally recommended.

redstar Gallagher, Shaun. Experimenting with Babies: 50 Amazing Science Projects You Can Perform on Your Kid. Perigee. 2013. 224p. illus. ISBN 9780399162466. pap. $16; ebk. ISBN 9781101599693. CHILD REARING

Former magazine and newspaper editor and father of two Gallagher offers a fun text about “experimenting” on your baby. Some will naturally balk at the title, but this book actually provides a concise and relevant look at child development based on the literature from cognitive, motor, and behavioral research. Gallagher shows parents how to re-create accepted study findings by conducting brief experiments involving such innocuous activities as making faces, flashing pictures, and grasping items. These say nothing about intelligence but rather show healthy child growth, which should ease any worries rather than create anxiety. Age ranges, experimental complexity, and the areas of science relevant to the experiments are all outlined in full, with each test being two to three pages in length, often with illustrations. Finally, the research and its importance are described succinctly in one brief paragraph, followed by a “take-away” section that describes how to develop further the skills addressed. VERDICT This is a unique work that presents an enjoyable and intelligent look at child development. It is a graceful bridge between parenting and research and is ideal for anyone with a wee one.

Hollister, Tim. Not So Fast: Parenting Your Teen Through the Dangers of Driving. Chicago Review. 2013. 144p. index. ISBN 9781613748725. pap. $12.95. CHILD REARING

After the tragic loss of his 17-year-old son to a car crash in 2006, Hollister became a national, award-winning advocate for safer teen driving laws. In this brief and concisely written text, he examines the real dangers behind teen driving and explores how parents can best work within that reality. Hollister does not include information about driving itself but instead focuses on helping parents make informed decisions for when their teens are on the road. In short, fact-filled chapters, he looks at baseline hazards and higher risk factors, what Driver’s Ed isn’t, graduated licensing, teen driving agreements, and the danger of passengers, to name a few topics. ­VERDICT The average teen driver has a one in 4,300 chance of dying behind the wheel. Given that the judgment part of the brain does not fully mature until ages 22 to 25, parents would do well to set standards and expectations early on, as risks will remain in place for years to come despite experience. This is an interesting addition to an underrepresented topic; recommended for all libraries.

O’Neill, Derek & Jennifer Waldburger. Calm Mama Happy Baby: The Simple, Intuitive Way To Tame Tears, Improve Sleep, and Help Your Family Thrive. Health Communications. 2013. 221p. ISBN 9780757317668. pap. $15.95. CHILD REARING

Psychotherapist O’Neill (More Truth Will Set You Free) and Waldburger (The Sleepeasy Solution) argue that if terroir gives a wine its distinct personality, then a mother’s stress can also have the same effect on her baby and that by choosing calm, parents can counteract those effects, decreasing fussiness, sleep problems, and separation anxiety, to name a few common issues. Borrowing ideas from the mindfulness camp, the authors encourage parents to identify and acknowledge their negative feelings, invoking the parasympathetic nervous system’s counterbalance to the amygdala’s “alarm.” In other words, by deciding to tolerate sensations of physical and emotional discomfort rather than avoiding them or reacting, parents can rewire their brain’s neural circuitry and help create a new habit. Using the acronym CALM, O’Neill and Waldburger illustrate how to “Cancel” negative thoughts, “Allow” your feelings, “Link up and listen,” and “Mirror” empathetic feelings. Going beyond mere words, however, they move into neurolinguistic programming such as creating anchors and provide specific counsel for managing emotions and canceling self-doubt. VERDICT By combining research with sound advice and practical skills, the authors will help many new parents recognize the potential impact of stress on their newborns. Though cutting down on stress levels is undoubtedly easier said than done, this work is nonetheless a commendable offering on an important subject.

redstar Parker, Michael. Talk with Your Kids: Conversations About Ethics, Honesty, Friendship, Sensitivity, Fairness, Dedication, Individuality and 103 Other Things That Really Matter. Black Dog & Leventhal. 2013. 256p. illus. ISBN 9781579129484. pap. $14.95. CHILD REARING

In this surprisingly funny book, novelist and educator Parker (deputy headmaster, Cranbook Sch., Sydney; Doppelganger) provides parents with a neat tool for introducing conversations involving moral and ethical concepts. Aimed at children ages ten to 15, 109 brief numbered scenarios in three categories are presented and address topics such as lying, stealing, drugs, money, and more. Never pedantic or out of touch, the author has a singularly humorous way of making the topics not only relevant but also slightly dangerous and exciting. Some entries give a familiar concept a modern twist (Robin Hood stealing from the rich to give to the poor becomes redistributing a jerky millionaire’s wealth), and some are rooted in daily life (“Your sister’s rabbit dies when she is away. Should you replace it with an identical bunny?”). VERDICT If parents can heed the author’s advice (“If you…are speaking more than your children, you are speaking too much”), the practicality and relevance of the topics will have kids debating in no time. For younger children, go with Ian James Corlett’s E Is for Ethics, but for those with older kids, this title is a must-have.

Sterling, Evelina Weidman & Angie Best-Boss. Your Child’s Teeth: A Complete Guide for Parents. Johns Hopkins. Nov. 2013. 296p. ISBN 9781421410630. $18.95. CHILD REARING

Consumer health writers Sterling and Best-Boss team with the National Children’s Oral Health Foundation to give parents a complete look at teeth—what’s normal, what’s cause for worry, and everything related to common circumstances such as cavities, braces, hygiene, etc. Incorporating many sidebars, lots of Q&As, and considerations for children with special needs, the authors do an excellent job of making a boring topic approachable. They dedicate an entire chapter to affording dental care and include useful suggestions for receiving care on a budget. VERDICT While many of us shudder at the mere word dentist, this is a helpful book to have on hand. There is a lack of published titles on pediatric oral health aimed at the general reader, so libraries should consider this offering essential.

Sweeney, Julia. If It’s Not One Thing, It’s Your Mother. S. & S. 2013. 288p. ISBN 9781451674040. $26. CHILD REARING

Sweeney (Saturday Night Live, 1990–94) shares her experience with and musings on becoming an adoptive mother to a 17-month-old Chinese girl. Forgoing the traditional route of marriage and pregnancy, she decided to take matters into her own hands and adopt a child by herself after considering the question: “What did I have, biologically, to pass on that was so important? My Irish heritage with its tendency toward alcoholism and depression?” Throughout are snippets from Sweeney reminiscing about her own childhood (“Turns out, my childhood was probably not nearly as bad as I once thought it was. In fact, my newly revised attitude about my mother is that she did the best she could”), and her sharp humor shines through. ­VERDICT While there is no shortage of celebrity-parent tales, singles looking to adopt will find inspiration along with the giggles. Purchase for demand.

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