Parenting books are as varied as parents and children. And with the luxurious number of books being published, parents should feel rich in the amount of support and help available to them. Here's a sampling from among the latest offerings:
THE PARENTING CHALLENGE, by Barbara Kay Polland; Tricycle Press; 215 pages; in paperback, $9.95.In an easy, question-and-answer style, Barbara Kay Polland sets a parent's mind to rest. She covers all the ages and reasons to worry: bossy 5-year-olds, brilliant but lonely 12-year-olds, untoilet-trained 2-year-olds.
She helps parents see their children as individuals, reassures parents when a child's actions seem weird and explains how to encourage children. This excerpt from the section on discipline shows Polland's logical-consequences approach and her belief that discipline is not about controlling children, but about teaching self-control:
Question: The other night my sons were in the kitchen eating dinner together. I heard giggling, but I didn't think much about it. When I went there, I couldn't believe my eyes. They had used forks and spoons to flip food onto the ceiling. . . . I was furious and sent them to bed without letting them watch their favorite television shows. It took me hours to clean up the mess.
Answer: If you thought about it, you could probably recall some of the really naughty things you did as a child. It seems to be part of growing up. You certainly had cause to be furious, but the punishment did not fit the crime. What did the lack of television and going to bed have to do with the mess in the kitchen. . . ? The boys should have been put to work with buckets and sponges. They probably wouldn't have cleaned the place to perfection but a major effort would have proved the point. The next time they felt like flipping food, they would have been deterred by their memories of the hard work of cleaning up.
The use of logical consequences does not require a lot of emotional energy on the part of the parents and it makes sense to children. Always try to link the punishment to a natural outcome. This will help you choose the most appropriate type of discipline for the situation.
HYPERACTIVITY: Why Won't My Child Pay Attention, by Drs. Sam and Michael Goldstein; John Wiley & Sons Inc.; 214 pages; in paperback, $12.95.
As a psychologist and neurologist (practicing in Salt Lake City), Sam and Michael Goldstein have worked with hundreds of hyperactive children and their parents. They've come to believe the most critical variable for success is how supportive, understanding and patient the child's parents can be. They take a problem-solving, skill-building approach to helping parents help the child.
The authors make hyperactivity seem less daunting. They truly believe that a child who is a risk-taker and feels every emotion intensely can be a rewarding child to raise and can grow into an energetic and successful adult.
WHAT PRETEENS WANT THEIR PARENTS TO KNOW, by Ryan Holladay and friends; McCracken Press; 151 pages; in paperback, $5.95.
"What Preteens Want Their Parents To Know" was written by an 11-year-old Washington, D.C., lad named Ryan Holladay. It's one of those little paperbacks that has one thought on each page. Holladay's advice seems solid: Help me to pick out good books. Nagging doesn't work. Instead of giving orders, offer choices. Sometimes discuss problems with me when you don't know the solutions. Teach me to pray. Teach me to respect adults.
The fact that several local teenagers thought this was the sappiest book they'd ever seen means most parents will like it.
NATURAL LEARNING RHYTHMS: How and When Children Learn, by Josette and Sambhava Luvmour; Celestial Arts News; 277 pages; in paperback, $12.95.
If a ropes course, meditation and family retreat in the wilderness sound like the kinds of parenting classes you'd like to take, you'll relate to Josette and Sambhava Luvmour's philosophy of child-rearing. If you were into labels, you might call their approach alternative, holistic or New Age.
The Luvmours would probably say none of those terms can adequately describe the scope of their philosophy. The Luvmours aren't into labeling. Ironically, they themselves have made up new labels to describe various stages of child development, terms that seem unnecessarily confusing.
This is not an easy, step-by-step guide.
However, the Luvmours are trained in child development and psychology and they have had vast experience with children. Their philosophy is, at its core, extremely kind and respectful of youngsters. Though ephemeral, it is not beyond the understanding of the average parent. You can gather their meaning if you will, to quote the Luvmours, "sit down, open your mind and get ready to dance with Reason-Being."
101 THINGS YOU CAN DO FOR OUR CHILDREN'S FUTURE, by Richard Louv; Doubleday; 355 pages; in paperback, $10.
"Build it and they will come," thought one lonely mother stuck in the wasteland of suburban San Diego. So Suzanne Thompson tore up her front lawn and made a courtyard and invited her neighbors to gather in the evenings and bring their children. And they came. And the neighborhood became a warmer, safer place in which to raise children.
This is just one of the amazing suggestions in Richard Louv's book, "101 Things You Can Do For Our Children's Future." Other suggestions are not so amazing, but are important things to remember, such as: Volunteer in your child's school. Establish a clearly marked bicycle lane system throughout your town. Connect with nature by taking your child camping, hiking or boating.