Posts Tagged ‘ nonfiction ’

Review: “What to Expect: The Toddler Years”

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

What to Expect the Toddler YearsWhat to Expect the Toddler Years by Heidi Murkoff
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I received the 1994 edition of this book second-hand, and I’m happy I didn’t pay for it. While “What to Expect While You’re Expecting” is recognized as a valuable book for expectant mothers, I find this sequel to be more alarmist than helpful for parents of toddlers.

While I expect to both agree and disagree with any parenting book, when I’m reading this one, I more often disagree. It’s possible that newer editions have changed the advice given, but in this edition, the authors recommend the Ferber method of teaching children to sleep by themselves. That method has also been called the “cry it out” method, because it depends on allowing the child to cry for longer and longer periods each night in order to teach them to go to sleep. For many reasons, this method has been highly criticized, and without getting into a lengthy discussion, it just feels wrong to me.

In the same way, the book makes assumptions about weaning babies at a year (which is fine when the baby is ready for it but unfair to babies who are slower adapting to solid food). Those who believe in baby-led weaning will find themselves feeling like outsiders while reading this book.

The book is divided by month (12th month, 13th month, et cetera), and each chapter includes FAQs related to concerns from that month. This ends up giving the book an advice column feel and tends to emphasize the negatives. Rather than including a couple paragraphs on “diapering difficulties,” for example, why not call the section “diapering” and deal with both issues related to diapering as well as positive advice for choices that parents might consider (such as cloth diapers versus disposables, for example)?

The result of this endless string of answers for “problems” not only feels haphazard but also conveys the opinion that parenting is troublesome and that this book is a first-aid kit or life raft. Rather than seeing this book as a lifesaver, I found myself frequently frustrated by the advice given, as if I’d been handed a child’s water-wing instead.

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Reviews: “The Baby Book”

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

The Baby Book: Everything You Need to Know About Your Baby from Birth to Age TwoThe Baby Book: Everything You Need to Know About Your Baby from Birth to Age Two by William Sears
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’m finding that my favorite baby books were ones recommended to me by family and friends, and “The Baby Book” by William Sears, M.D. and Martha Sears, R.N., was recommended to me by one of my oldest friends. As with any parenting book, I would recommend taking from it the parts that you find most useful, acknowledging that there might be sections where you disagree.

Dr. Sears and his wife, Martha, are proponents of attachment parenting, a term which is often misunderstood. But even if you’re not the sort of person who walks around 24/7 with a baby carrier strapped to you, there is plenty of good, practical advice within these pages.

What I liked most about this book is the relaxed tone. As both a parent of multiple children and a practicing pediatrician, Dr. Sears knows that it’s easy to get worked up about possible problems or issues. The book’s reassuring tone presents the latest medical information, combined with practical advice, and I can’t count the number of times we raced to this book during a perceived emergency and received comfort from the information we learned.

Above all, the book is valuable because of its multiple charts and tables about such topics as sicknesses, immunizations, feeding solid foods, development, and more. The book is packed with useful information, as well as playful activities to encourage development and other useful tips.

I would highly recommend it to any first-time parent or guardian of a baby from birth to age 2.

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Review: “Living With Children”

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

Living with ChildrenLiving with Children by Gerald R. Patterson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A friend gave me the 1974 edition of “Living with Children: New Methods of Parents and Teachers” by Gerald R. Patterson and M. Elizabeth Gullion. She told me that she found it useful while raising her own daughter.

The simple concept behind this book is to use operant conditioning to change troublesome behaviors. The book offers multiple examples of types of behaviors that can, the authors say, be altered by using rewards and punishments.

Some of the advice in this book is clearly outdated, but the basic tenets behind the book are sound. The book recommends finding a way to count or quantify the troublesome behavior and to use a systematic reward system to develop positive behaviors, instead. I’ve seen similar techniques used on the ever-popular “Super Nanny” shows, where parents are instructed to put up star charts and to give children stickers for positive behaviors such as putting toys away.

It’s certainly a technique that is worth considering, although operant conditioning may not always be the perfect solution for every problem.

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Review: “Love and Logic Magic for Early Childhood”

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

Love and Logic Magic for Early ChildhoodLove and Logic Magic for Early Childhood by Jim Fay
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My sister recommended “Love and Logic Magic for Early Childhood” to me after using it in family counseling situations, and I found the book had a lot of positive concrete suggestions for parenting young children. While I never agree 100 percent with any parenting book, I found myself agreeing with the basic concepts: effective parenting comes from empowering children to make positive choices, underscored by a relationship of trust and loving reinforcement.

While the tone of the authors is sometimes condescending, I appreciated the many examples. Not every example is something I would emulate: I don’t feel comfortable walking away from a child having a tantrum in a grocery store, even if they do emphasize that you should still watch them from “around the corner.” It takes only a moment for a predator to snatch a child!

However, I have put some of the techniques into practice and found them useful. For example, my husband and I give our son choices of what shirts to wear, what snacks to eat, et cetera. This helps him to feel like he has some control in his life. Surprisingly, I’ve also discovered that if he’s having a tantrum, it is far more effective to just calmly tell him, “Get it out of your system. Make it good” and stand quietly watching. Since he’s not getting the reaction that he’s seeking, he comes around much more quickly than when I used to raise my voice at him in response.

More importantly, the book has encouraged me to see every misbehavior as a learning opportunity. My husband and I have both sought to understand what underlies his behavior and to build a relationship of love and trust.

For giving us a way to deal with the frustrations of the “terrible twos,” I am extremely grateful for this book.

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Review: “Forever, Erma”

Sunday, January 8th, 2012

Forever, Erma: Best-Loved Writing from America's Favorite HumoristForever, Erma: Best-Loved Writing from America’s Favorite Humorist by Erma Bombeck
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

One of my favorite humorists of all time, Erma Bombeck ruled the newspaper pages, inspiring and amusing readers with her entertaining observations about the nature of motherhood. “Forever, Erma” was a labor of love: a posthumous collection featuring the most loved Bombeck columns, as well as a smattering of lesser known pieces and a chapter of tributes from colleagues, friends and family. For those unfamiliar with Bombeck’s work, it’s a good introduction. For those, like myself, who have loved her work for years, the book is both a delight and a revelation.

Bombeck’s columns elevate the trivial moments of motherhood: mining them for both humor and for meaning. While, on the surface, she may simply be sharing a story about a difficult child, she is also making a then-revolutionary statement: “I’m not a perfect mother or wife, and that’s OK.” She wrote such columns years before comedian Roseanne Barr introduced the idea of a sublimely flawed family; and her columns predated by decades the first by humorist Dave Barry, who explores similar territory from a father’s point of view. Indeed, Bombeck was one of the first to discount such unrealistic role models as TV’s Donna Reed and to air her dirty laundry (both figurative and literal) in print.

Such insights won her legions of fans — mothers and children, wives and husbands — and this book does a good job of illustrating why.

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Review: “Motherhood: The Second Oldest Profession”

Sunday, January 8th, 2012

Motherhood: The Second Oldest ProfessionMotherhood: The Second Oldest Profession by Erma Bombeck
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Erma Bombeck, the beloved newspaper columnist who wrote about the foibles of motherhood, expanded upon her familiar territory in “Motherhood: The Second Oldest Profession.” The result is a work that, though familiar-sounding, delves deeper and sometimes darker than her newspaper columns did.

For example, Bombeck reruns one of her most popular columns, a paean to the mothers of disabled children, answering it with a new companion piece where the mother of a disabled child criticizes the original column, calling it naive and speaking about the realities of her life. In another piece, Bombeck expands upon a newspaper column where she had joked about leaving behind letters for each of her children to tell them she’d loved them best. In “Motherhood,” the expanded piece takes place at the mother’s funeral, as each of the children reads his or her letter privately. The resulting work takes on a more serious, almost ponderous import.

In the pages of “Motherhood,” Bombeck shows that she is capable of contemplating more than just the whereabouts of wayward socks disappeared from the dryer. While these pieces still evince her trademark wit, they go beyond classic Bombeck, exploring the deeper side of motherhood.

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