Baby Care Basics, Outdoor Adventure, Straight Talk for Teens | Parenting Reviews, November 1, 2015

FALL’S OFFERING ENCOURAGE outdoor exploration, discuss sexuality, text a warning to mom and dad, and provide some tongue-in-cheek looks at raising children. Kevin Leman’s Planet Middle School likens young teens to astronauts in space and will give their parents particular pause as they resume the intergalactic dance through the mysterious galaxy of middle school, replete with asteroid collisions—and also shooting stars. There may be water on Mars, I am told. Until then, I am sucking oxygen through the hose like every other parent of a teenager.

back to the basics

Dunckley, Victoria L. Reset Your Child’s Brain: A Four–Week Plan To End Meltdowns, Raise Grades, and Boost Social Skills by Reversing the Effects of Electronic Screen-Time. New World Library. 2015. 372p. notes. index. ISBN 9781608682843. pap. $18.95; ebk. ISBN 9781608682850. CHILD REARING

Look out, mom and dad. That smartphone might just be the root of all your kid’s problems (along with the Nintendo, Xbox, TV, and iPad). Many parents won’t want to hear this, but child psychiatrist Dunckley makes a compelling case for an “unrecognized disorder” she terms Electronic Screen Syndrome (ESS). From kids who melt down without cause, refuse to look people in the eye, are “wired but tired,” or otherwise just hole up in their rooms all day, Dunckley’s research identifies the common thread of dysregulation owing to screen use and orders an immediate electronic “fast.” Showing how ESS affects brain chemistry, arousal, sleep, and behavior, to name but a few outcomes, the author moves into a four-week step-by-step plan to “reset” a child’s brain, resulting in better focus and organization, improved compliance, and more mature social interactions. VERDICT Decreasing childhood use of electronics often results in better behavior, but whether that’s because parent and child find new ways of communicating and spending time together or because the electronics are creating long-term damage is still up for debate.

redstarFein, Deborah & others. The Activity Kit for Babies and Toddlers at Risk. Guilford. Nov. 2015. 240p. ISBN 9781462520916. pap. $16.95. CHILD REARING

This activity book, compiled by experts in the fields of psychology, neuroscience, behavior analysis, and pediatrics, helps parents help their children and provides a wonderful contextual structure for establishing everyday routines and activities that will strengthen communication and social skills in children from birth to age three. Beginning with a cohesive definition of “at risk,” the authors identify two sets of children who may present concerns for developmental delay: the child who is already showing delays, such as lack of eye contact or language development; and the child with at-risk factors, such as prematurity, genetic predisposition, or identified medical conditions. Supporting parents as the most important teachers in their babies’ lives, the authors illustrate 100-plus activities (getting dressed, mealtime, etc.) that enhance nonverbal communication, motor coordination, and language skills. VERDICT Parents will find encouragement for implementing activities that cost nothing yet emulate clinical practice. The methods behind the tasks give new meaning to the “same ol’ routine” and make learning opportunities out of the otherwise mundane.

babycarebasics11315Friedman, Jeremy & others. Baby Care Basics. Robert Rose. 2015. 224p. photos. ISBN 9780778805199. pap. $19.95. CHILD REARING

From Friedman and Natasha and ­Norman ­Saunders, all pediatricians at the Hospital for Sick Children (Toronto), comes this beautifully produced, photo-oriented childcare book with minimalist and comforting advice for new parents. In chapters organized by age, beginning with planning for baby, the authors walk parents through an infant’s first year, covering such topics as sleeping, feeding, childproofing, and caring for a sick infant. Full-color sidebars, photographs, key points, and relevant charts make it easy to find information, whether troubleshooting or measuring benchmarks and milestones. VERDICT This exquisite book represents the most up-to-date information in a pleasing format. Delightful to peruse and enlightening to read, this is recommended for all parenting collections.

grown-up advice

redstarLangford, Jo. Spare Me ‘The Talk’! A Guy’s Guide to Sex, Relationships, and Growing Up. ParentMap. 2015. 155p. ISBN 9780990430605. pap. $14.95. CHILD REARING

Veteran sex educator Langford gives young men (ages 12–24) and their parents an honest look at puberty, sex, and dating. Quite the opposite of a “wait until you’re older” approach to sex, this book delves into topics and situations unlikely to have been included in the homestead birds-and-the-bees talk, such as oral sex (“tongues hurt unless they are lubricated”), arousal techniques (“keep your nails short and clean”), sexting (“unless you’re over 18, it’s considered child pornography”), and sexually transmitted infections including HIV (“half of all HIV infections in the US occur among those younger than 25”). While some will balk at the details, the author’s sprightly manner is extremely effective. He uses humor in an appropriate and appreciable way to both relate and teach (“breaking up with someone via text is cowardly and lame. Choose not to be that guy”). VERDICT This fairly comprehensive approach to sex and sex ed will provide all the details young men will want within the healthy context of biology, trust, and respect.

redstarLeman, Kevin. Planet Middle School. Workman. 2015. 309p. ISBN 9780800723057. $17.99; ebk. ISBN 9781441228246. CHILD REARING

Psychologist and media-circuit regular ­Leman gives parents a peek into the mind and concerns of the average middle schooler, along with some sound advice for navigating these rocky waters. He describes these “expanding universe years” as a time when “your child will do almost anything to fit in.” Likening a preteen to an astronaut floating in deep space who needs a lifeline to the person he trusts most, the author advises parents to be predictable, help kids discover what they’re good at, focus on their relationship, and listen to their hearts. In Leman’s sure hands, no-brainers such as, “You can set up all the rules you want, but without a relationship, they will all come to naught,” will give parents appropriate pause before handing over a smartphone, which Leman says is similar to a loaded gun. VERDICT Middle schoolers are definitely their own flavor of crazy, but ­Leman provides both the hope and long-term viewpoint for helping parents settle into a nurturing internal space. For all parenting collections.

redstarSax, Leonard. The Collapse of Parenting: How We Hurt Our Kids When We Treat Them Like Grown-Ups. Basic. Dec. 2015. 304p. notes. index. ISBN 9780465048977. pap. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9780465073849. CHILD REARING

Physician and parenting writer Sax gives parents a solid “D” in this look at current child-rearing trends and the implications for children’s physical and emotional health. While much has been published about the individual problems of obesity, overmedication, falling grades, and the uppitiness of kids today, Sax wraps these issues up under the all-encompassing rubric of the transfer of authority from parents to kids, resulting in parents who have earned their child’s contempt, not their love. From the “medicalization of misbehavior” (which shifts the burden of responsibility from kid to parent) to the lack of scheduled chores, Sax’s treatise encourages parenting styles that make connecting with adults a higher priority than connecting with same-age peers and that parents command their children instead of asking. VERDICT Sax cites numerous international studies but identifies three problems as being uniquely American: a culture of disrespect, medication, and overscheduling. Parents who don’t go on the defensive early will discover guidance for implementing a more authoritarian parenting approach, and their kids will be healthier because of it.

Testa, Rylan Jay & others. The Gender Quest Workbook: A Guide for Teens & Young Adults Exploring Gender Identity. New Harbinger. (Instant Help Solutions). Dec. 2015. 168p. ISBN 9781626252974. $16.95. CHILD REARING

As the media continues to feed on Bruce Jenner’s transition to Caitlyn, transgenderism is entering household conversations like never before. In this timely arrival, coauthors Testa, Deborah ­Coolhart, and Jayme Peta offer a workbook that supports the exploration of gender identity issues. Whether the young person is questioning their gender, doesn’t feel confident navigating life as he or she is, or desires to make a change, the book supplies an empathetic space for investigating these concerns, beginning with a discussion on the difference between gender and sex, then moving on to such ideas as “gender swirl,” “transfeminine,” and “genderqueer.” Following these brief introductions are reflections on dress, behavior, and sexuality. VERDICT From inconspicuous activities such as people watching to more task-oriented ideas for encouraging young people to broach their concerns to family members, this volume serves as a valuable resource. While this isn’t the best acquisition for libraries (it is truly a workbook), librarians would do well to be informed of its availability.

Family time

Dove, Adam. Woodland Adventure Handbook. Frances Lincoln: Quarto. 2015. 128p. ISBN 9780711237131. $14.99. CHILD REARING

woodlandadventure11315Written in the style of “recipes,” educator Dove’s woodland adventures teach the best of forestry skills and how to create lifetime memories of outdoor thrills for children. The adventures, which range from visits to fairy villages to hunting for pirate treasures, are each structured around a story told to the participants (e.g., “At the end of the rainbow, there is a large crock which is guarded by a small leprechaun.”). This sets the scene and makes clear the objective of the activity. The prepared leader will have staged various hints along the trail to guide children in finding the treasure, and each outing ends with a “What Did We Learn Today?” section that considers such questions as: “What makes a good shelter?” “Why are animals camouflaged?” and “What noises did you hear in the woods?” VERDICT With a bit of planning, parents or childcare groups will create truly memorable moments that are adaptable and a ton of fun.

Meek, Tim & Kerry Meek. Learning Outdoors with the Meek Family. Quarto. 2015. 176p. photos. ISBN 9780711236950. $21.99; ebk. ISBN 9781781012024. CHILD REARING

The Meeks—teachers and parents who were bold enough to quit their jobs, sell their home, and travel the UK in a caravan for a year—offer family ed-ventures with an enrichment-oriented curriculum. From wind farms and orchards to game reserves and ferry rides, their journeys serve as a pep talk on what to discuss beforehand, tips for encouraging lines of inquiry, and suggestions for activities afterward. Divided into categories including Buildings, Places, Travel, Water, Country Life, and Culture, the book features a full-color palette throughout. Each ed-venture features family photographs and beautiful sidebars, making readers feel like they are browsing a scrapbook. VERDICT Offering a sensory-exquisite learning experience and full of cultural and outdoor adventure, this book is charming and engaging and sure to bring a lifetime of memories to those who play along. While the title is British, this in no way impedes U.S. readers from implementing their own stateside ed-scapades.

Just for fun

Bender, Mike & Doug Chernack. Born To Be Awkward: Celebrating Those Imperfect Moments of Babyhood. Three Rivers. 2015. 160p. photos. ISBN 9780804140737. pap. $15; ebk. ISBN 9780804140744. CHILD REARING

Screenwriters Bender and Chernack, who had a hit with Awkward Family Photos, strike again with this collection of baby photographs in which the subjects might be drooling, screaming, pooping, falling over, or otherwise just looking like alien creatures with little future potential. Replete with snarky captions and bubble remarks, this colorful and slick production is guaranteed to make anyone bust a gut.

Dworkin-McDaniel, Norine & Jessica Ziegler. Science of Parenthood: Thoroughly Unscientific Explanations for Utterly Baffling Parenting. She Writes. Nov. 2015. 248p. illus. ISBN 9781631529474. pap. $19.95; ebk. ISBN 9781631529481. CHILD REARING

Organized into four core areas of study (biology, chemistry, physics, and math), this book takes a scientific approach to “explaining” the inexplicable issues of parenting, such as sugar at bedtime, toilet training your friend’s kid, and how to determine when your kid will puke. With riotous drawings, pie charts, and probability tables, this full-color offering will appeal to moms and dads who are often mystified by their own children. Very clever.

Given, Sara. Parenting Is Easy: You’re Probably Just Doing It Wrong. Workman. 2015. 171p. photos. ISBN 9780761185659. pap. $10.95. CHILD REARING

Blogger Given (It’s Like They Know Us) looks at the “glamour” of pregnancy and motherhood with photos and captions that poke fun at an advertising world that delights in portraying skinny blondes with chubby toddlers reading board books on white carpets. Picture mom and baby haloed by the sun: “Nursing in perpetual springtime is a great way to bond with my girl. She never fishhooks me, slaps me in the face, or does a barrel roll with my nipple still clamped firmly in her mouth.” Way to keep it real, Given.

Julianne Smith received her BA in English and her MS in Information from the University of Michigan. She has been a librarian for over 20 years and an LJ reviewer for nearly ten. She currently serves as the Acquisitions Manager, Ypsilanti District Library, MI. Parenting consumes much of her time outside of work, and it’s a good thing she writes this column because her twins give her a run for her money on a daily basis

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