Friday, November 1, 2013

Favorite Parenting Books- Part One

Books have changed my life. Many have changed the way I parent, sometimes just a little. Sometimes radically. Sometimes a little change will bring about radical results. All from a book. Below are some of the parenting books that have transformed me.

The Highly Sensitive Child: Helping Our Children Thrive When the World Overwhelms Them I remember fighting EVERY morning with my daughter over brushing her hair. At the end of our morning ritual, she was in tears and I was in a rage. I was venting to another mom about this and other struggles and she said, "you should read The Highly Sensitive Child by Elaine Aron." I did. It was a window into the soul of my daughter. I am not "highly sensitive." Highly bossy, overbearing, critical and ornery- yes. Highly sensitive- no. I gained a new understanding of my daughter, her strengths and how she interacts with the world. Based on advice in the book (it said these kids are often perfectionists and like to meet expectations, but they need to know what to expect) I tried a new approach. The next morning I said to my daughter, "I'm going to brush your hair. I am going to be as gentle as I can. It still might hurt when I am combing out tangles, but I will do my best to be gentle. I need you to hold still and let me." Two minutes later I was dumbfounded. Angelic choirs started singing, "hallelujah" in my bathroom. She was sooo cooperative. Our morning ritual of crying child and mom turned lunatic was over. Thanks to this book, I have had a new lens through which I have viewed my daughter ever since. I have been a better mom to her because of it. I love you Elaine Aron.

So, I have a "sensitive" child. I have another child that is, well. . . not. She doesn't dissolve into tears. She and I, we like the emotion anger. I call anger my "go-to" emotion. Something might make you feel sad, discouraged, disappointed- not me (or my second daughter). We get angry. There was a time when we were both angry with each other a lot. Too much. It was deteriorating the whole relationship. I was feeling a little scared- and angry. I was desperate to turn things around. I did what I always do. I talked (and talked and talked). Another wise friend recommended The Explosive Child by Ross Greene. I probably needed a book called The Explosive Mommy but that book doesn't exist. Now, I confess, I never finished this book. I got as far as his three step plan for handling conflict. That was all I needed. I started applying Ross Greene's simple technique for handling conflict and the turn around in my daughter (and me) was dramatic. The first step (as I remember it, it has been years) is to empathize. Before reading this book, I would have thought "empathize?! With a terrible kid who just did a mean spirited thing?!" After this book, I was wiser. Empathizing gave me a chance to problem solve and instruct my daughter in a way that I simply had been incapable of before. Who knew that saying, "you must have been feeling really upset to have hit your sister" was a better approach then screaming, "I can't believe you hit your sister!! You cannot hit! Go to room now before I hit you"? We still get mad my daughter and I,  but our anger has reasonable proportions and the warmth that characterizes our relationship today can sustain a little head butting.That warmth was created in large part to the guidance this book provided me. Thank you Ross Greene.

This is one of my favorite parenting books!! It hasn't changed my life as dramatically as other parenting books (though it easily could have if I had read it when my kids were younger). I love this book because it is FUN to read. It is full of wisdom and ideas, but everything is presented in such a palatable, non preachy way. You find yourself wondering at your own culture in comparison to French culture and musing along with the author. I love anything that can help me step outside my own culture for a minute and gain some perspective. You will laugh. It will resonate. This is the book I like to give to new mommies.

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