Children & Divorce, Neuroscience & Teen Brains, Montessori Mastery, Risk-Taking | Parenting Reviews

Bring on the summer reading! Libraries across the country are moving from traditional summer reading programs to “Reading Plus” models designed to attract young people who don’t self-identify as readers by providing incentives for STEM program attendance, community involvement, and more. Early literacy initiatives, lunch programs, and Maker/Tinker exercises keep our library staff and buildings humming with movement meant to feed curious minds. With federal funding cuts looming ominously, it is more important than ever that libraries continue to offer the services our communities desire and demand. The shift from “collections to connections” challenges librarians everywhere to reinvent our spaces and programs as well as service models and policies. These changes will reinforce the value of libraries to our neighbors and beyond, ensuring that the vitality of lifelong learning remains a ­possibility for us all.

Baker, James A. (Jim). Positive Parenting 101: A Handbook for Parents Undergoing Divorce. Bayou. Aug. 2017. 102p. index. ISBN 9781886298354. pap. $24.95; ebk. ISBN 9781886298675. CHILD REARING

Complete with a companion online course, consultant Baker’s guidebook gives parents and caregivers strategies for responding to the needs of children during and after divorce. The first portion of the book is dedicated to developing parenting skills in general, followed by information specific to children within the context of divorce. Baker not only addresses the most common issue of ­children feeling that they are to blame for the breakup, but he also validates the emotions parents experience as well, such as embarrassment, guilt, anxiety, and fear of damaging their children. He explores how best to handle arrangements such as custody, visitation, and how to inform children about the divorce and move through the grief process. Chapters are readable, nonjudgmental, and each concludes with a helpful quiz. VERDICT Although this is truly a workbook, libraries may want to acquire anyway since patrons can take the quizzes on separate paper. Recommended for public library collections.

Bradley, Michael J. Crazy-Stressed: Saving Today’s Overwhelmed Teens with Love, Laughter, and the Science of Resilience. AMACOM. Apr. 2017. 288p. notes. index. ISBN 9780814438046. $17.95; ebk. ISBN 9780814438053. CHILD REARING

According to adolescent psychologist Bradley (Yes, Your Teen Is Crazy), teens are more stressed today than they have been in 50 years. Combine mood swings, impulsiveness, and lack of sleep with present-day triggers of increased academic demands and social media consumption, and many youths may feel like they are spiraling down a path of depression and anxiety. Bradley begins this work with a look at the neuroscience of a teenage brain, examining how this work-in-progress sometimes lapses into poor judgment and produces angry outbursts. Part 2 offers critical strategies for parents to help their kids build resilience. The final section is a veritable toolbox of approaches and contains phrases for parents to use that not only enable empowerment in youth but also help to pave the way for stronger communication and even greater sanity for mom and dad. VERDICT Bradley’s work offers valuable case studies, quotes, and a bit of humor that guides readers through to the end. Recommended.

Ellis, Biz & Theresa Thorn. You’re Doing a Great Job: 100 Ways You’re Winning at Parenting. Countryman Pr. Apr. 2017. 160p. ISBN 9781682680056. $17.95; ebk. ISBN 9781682680063. CHILD REARING

Authors Ellis and Thorn found each other amid the chaos and too often disappointing early years of parenting. Tired of what they found to be society’s uppity and unreasonably high expectations for parents, they joined forces to produce the podcast One Bad Mother. This offering, similar in spirit, provides 100 affirmations for moms everywhere by tapping the lowest hanging fruit: “Your kid pooped in the tub and nobody died. Poop in the tub happens to all of us at some point…but, it wasn’t the end of the world. You just handled it. Good job!” Although the narrative is only mildly entertaining in spots, the presentation is excellent. Pink- and blue-colored pages, darling icon-like images, and compelling fonts and layouts make the book a pleasure to peruse. VERDICT Libraries can pass, but this may serve as a terrific baby shower gift.

Hicks, Randall. Parenting: 50 One-Minute DOs & DON’Ts for Moms and Dads. Wordslinger. Jun. 2017. 97p. ISBN 9780979443053. pap. $9.95; ebk. ISBN 9780979443060. CHILD REARING

Hicks’s highly acclaimed Step Parenting: 50 One-Minute DOs and DON’Ts for Stepdads and Stepmoms earned an LJ starred review. This edition, aimed at birth parents, is just as pleasing, with 50 tips further explained in one- and two-page snippets. These “golden rules” for child rearing include advice such as, “Don’t Control Your Kids—Guide Them” and “Don’t Try To Be the Cool Parent.” Not all of the topics are philosophical in nature, and many include such practical suggestions as mandating the use of sunscreen and why using chores as punishment is probably not a good idea. The appeal of Hicks’s titles are their concise and direct approach. That said, the power of his words is not diluted, and the guidance is richly conveyed. VERDICT Highly recommended for public library collections.

Morin, Amy. 13 Things Mentally Strong Parents Don’t Do: Raising Self-Assured Children and Training Their Brains for a Life of Happiness, Meaning, and Success. Morrow. Sept. 2017. 352p. ISBN 9780062565730. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062565747. CHILD REARING

Social worker and psychotherapist Morin delivers an in-through-the-out-door approach to building mental muscle by presenting 13 parenting behaviors to avoid. She first outlines three components of psychological strength (thoughts, behaviors, and emotions) that will help youngsters deal with life’s challenges. The 13 no-nos for parents include confusing discipline and punishment, expecting perfection, letting children avoid responsibility, making their kids the center of the universe, allow fear to dictate their choices, among others. Chapters conclude with follow-up questions that address issues in both one’s personal and parenting life. “Stage moms” and “sports dads” are asked to look deep and consider that kids can handle more than you think and that “pain is not the enemy.” VERDICT Morin’s strategies support long-term goals. Her advice, while lengthy, is sound and can be applied to children of any age. ­Recommended.

Pearlman, Catherine. Ignore It! How Selectively Looking the Other Way Can Decrease Behavioral Problems and Increase Parenting Satisfaction. TarcherPerigee. Aug. 2017. 272p. notes. ISBN 9780143130338. pap. $18; ebk. ISBN 9781524704001. CHILD REARING

From tantrums and food strikes to sibling bickering and random refusals, children often seem to create drama and incite arguments intentionally. Family counselor Pearlman (social work, Brandman Univ.) advises mom and dad to turn a blind eye and step away in order to effectively decrease power struggles and avoid blistering disagreements. Demonstrating how debate and engagement with a child only encourages whining and negotiating, Pearlman presents a four-step process designed to increase both a child’s self-esteem and parenting satisfaction. The author stands firm in the belief that parents will always lose something in a negotiation, even if they “win,” reminding us that “any attention—even negative—still motivates a child.” Ignoring bad behavior is known to be a preferable and more effective tool than over-correcting. And as always, parents will need a lot of inner strength and consistency to get the desired results. VERDICT For public library collections.

redstarPrice, Adam. He’s Not Lazy: Empowering Your Son To Believe in Himself. Sterling. Aug. 2017. 288p. notes. ISBN 9781454916871. $19.95. CHILD REARING

Clinical psychologist Price offers one of the most significant books of the year in this new look at an old problem—the underperforming teenage boy. Many parents will relate to the dynamic of the “opt-out kid,” who Price argues is, contrary to appearances, not lazy but rather “overcome by demands that he fears he simply cannot meet.” These kids tend to fall into four categories: Mr. Oppositional, Mr. Do-It-For-Me, Mr. Popular, and Mr. Uncertain. Supporting three touchstones of masculinity (competence, control, and connection), the author then presents specific tips for striking a balance between giving your kid space and setting limits (e.g., stop taking the opt-out attitude personally, stop telling him how smart he is, etc.). With today’s kids being pushed harder than ever to perform and succeed at an early age, Price’s book brings an important voice to a much-needed conversation. VERDICT Highly recommended.

Roginski, Dawn R. The Littlest Learners: Preparing Your Child for Kindergarten. Rowman & Littlefield. Aug. 2017. 160p. ISBN 9781475832761. $30; ebk. ISBN 9781475832785. CHILD REARING

Early childhood librarian and educator Roginski takes an academic and expanded approach to the many “Read, Play, Grow” curricula offered by libraries, outlining the research behind the program and including extensive literature selections, notes, and charts. Citing that many state prisons base their strategic plans, including programs for inmates, on a fourth grade–level reading scores, the author provides expansive information on literacy statistics and their long-term implications before delving into a practicum of sorts. Included are ideas for singing activities, conversation techniques that encourage critical thinking, and lots of quality e-resources for tech-oriented parents. VERDICT Despite the title, parents will probably find this volume overly academic and statistic-heavy. Still, thoroughly researched and presented, it is a worthy addition to scholarly collections.

Seldin, Tim. How To Raise an Amazing Child the Montessori Way: A Parent’s Guide to Building Creativity, Confidence, and Independence. DK. 2d. ed. Jun. 2017. 208p. index. ISBN 9781465462305. pap. $19.95. CHILD REARING

Montessori-based learning programs are considered by many to be the crème de la crème of early literacy and development. Child psychiatrist Seldin, president of the Montessori Foundation, here adapts key Montessori principles for the home environment, maintaining the core tenets of “kindness, partnership, and respect.” In brief, the Montessori methodology concludes that children pass through distinct developmental stages, each characterized by specific inclinations and interests. The educator’s goal is to recognize these “sensitive” periods and allow the child self-mastery at their own pace. Mastery, in turn, permits children to feel respected and competent, thus gaining a heightened level of emotional well-being throughout life. Beginning with a child’s earliest days and continuing throughout the elementary years, Seldin’s volume concludes with a chapter on developing the brain’s executive functioning skills (i.e., the ability to focus attention, control impulses, and to hold and manipulate short-term information). In true DK tradition, this book abounds with full-color images, slick paper, and attractive sidebars that lend a great deal to the reading experience. VERDICT Libraries can confidently acquire this updated second edition, which reflects current information on family issues and digital tools.

Shatkin, Jess P. Born To Be Wild: Why Teens Take Risks, and How We Can Help Keep Them Safe. TarcherPerigee. Oct. 2017. 304p. bibliog. ISBN 9780143129790. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781101993422. CHILD REARING

Adolescent psychiatrist Shatkin (child psychiatry & pediatrics, New York Univ. Sch. of Medicine) argues that our ­understanding of teen risk-taking ­behavior is completely wrong, having resulted in programs that simply don’t work (think D.A.R.E.). Essentially, according to the author, we are fighting evolution, which has selected adolescents, whose brains and hormones all scream and encourage risk at every turn, to embrace a certain amount of danger in life. All is not lost, however, because teens do respond to positivity and immediate rewards. In other words, Shatkin suggests that instead of saying, “If you don’t study hard, you won’t get into a good college,” try, “Study hard in school so that you can apply to any college you like.” The author makes a strong case for not only understanding a teen’s “natural state” but also for intervening in situations in which mental illness or instability are at play, advocating for increased mental health services in schools. For example, one reason anxiety and depression skyrocket during adolescence is the “relative hyperactivity of the amygdala, which induces fear, and the relative passivity of the prefrontral cortex, which exerts emotional control.” Shatkin’s readable style, complete research, and useful case studies all combine cohesively to help parents sort out what’s normal, what’s a stage, and what’s cause for greater concern. VERDICT Recommended for both public and academic collections.

Additional Parenting

Wagner-Peck, Kari. Not Always Happy: An Unusual Parenting Journey. Central Recovery. May 2017. 288p. ISBN 9781942094371. pap. $16.95. CHILD REARING

Freelancer Wagner-Peck and her husband, Ward, decided to become parents when the author was in her 40s. The Maine couple realized that adopting from the foster care system might be their quickest route but never planned on falling in love with Thorin, a toddler with Down syndrome. They quickly learned that—despite strong educational and civil rights laws—discrimination and ignorance are still alive and well. Here they relate shocking encounters that might have been commonplace decades ago yet are unacceptable and happening now. Using her knowledge as an advocate, social worker, and parent who homeschools her son, the author has created the blog ­, the entries of which form the basis for this book. While this memoir is often humorous, it doesn’t set out to be. VERDICT Recommended reading for every parent.—Virginia Johnson, East Bridgewater P.L., MA

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 Assistant Director, 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

This article was published in Library Journal's June 15, 2017 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

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  1. Ivy Norton says:

    Thanks for mentioning the book He’s not Lazy, just purchased it. Been looking for ways to motivate my 16 year old son who seems like all he wants to do is play videos games.

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