The huge amount of parenting information sitting on store shelves and floating around the Internet can be quite overwhelming. In order to sift through the parenting noise, I’m happy to share the resources I recommend to my clients and readers, which come from sources I have grown to trust.
It is hard to have completely evidence-based parenting information, but these writers are as science-backed (and emotionally supportive) as can be. All the book recommendations below are new releases within this year or about to be released soon and I have received an advanced reading copy.
The Happy Sleeper by Heather Turgeon, MFT and Julie Wright, MFT (foreward by Dr Daniel Siegel). This book is hot off the press! If you have ANY sleep questions or struggles, I strongly recommend this gem. In addition to the more common sleep challenges, I'm pleased to find a book that explains how the divide between "attachment parenting" and "cry-it-out" is unhelpful. The authors explain how loving, secure attachment and independent sleep do not need to be pitted against each other.
No-Drama Discipline by Daniel Siegel, M.D., Tina Payne Bryson, PhD. If you have sighed, asking "How can I get my kids to listen" or feel frustrated that everyone is blowing up, this book will be helpfu for you. I particularly like this discipline book, as it describes the neurobiology behind melt-downs (for parents, too!) along with practical tools for parents in an easy-to-use way.
Positive Discipline -- The First Three Years by Jane Nelsen, PhD, Cheryl Erwin, M.A., and Rosyln Ann Duffy. In addition to the discipline book above, I recommend this one if you have children between one and three. Seriously, read this one if you are struggling through the toddler years. It is possible to thrive while raising a toddler with the tools Dr. Nelsen outlines in this book.
The Genius In Every Child by Rick Ackerly. This book helps parents bring out the best in their children, whether that is at home or at school. The author, a longtime educator, walks parents through how to support their children to find their own genius, which each child has.
Beyond Intelligence -- Secrets for Raising Happily Productive Kids by Dona Matthews, PhD and Joanne Foster, EdD. The authors provide parents with a guide to fostering creativity, increasing effort and persistence, and finding what a child is naturally skilled at. If you have ever wondered what is the right school for your child, how to effectively work with teachers, and what the different ways of learning are, you will find this book helpful.
The Opposite of Spoiled by Ron Lieber. I have not had the opportunity to read a copy of this book yet, but I am recommending it based on having read Ron Lieber's "Your Money" column in The New York Times. Gretchin Rubin, the author of The Happiness Project, had this to say of Lieber's book: “We all want to raise children with good values, yet we often neglect to talk to our children about money. This engaging and important book breaks new ground by suggesting that the next generation deserves to be better at money than we are. A must-read for parents.” The focus of Lieber's book is teaching children to be financially wise. This book is being released in early February, however if you pre-order, you will be given a $27 gift card for DonorsChoose.org, the online charity that helps public school teachers raise money to fund classroom projects.
I find it easier to keep track of online parenting posts through Facebook than any other social media format. Here are the pages I read through when looking for quality articles to share on my page:
Gordon Neufeld, PhD's page: Neufeld Institute
John Gottman, PhD's page: The Gottman Institute (Relationships)
Heather Turgeon, MFT's page: The Science of Kids
Alice Callahan PhD's page: The Science of Mom
Rebecca Eanes's page: Positive Parenting: Toddlers and Beyond
Sarah Remmer, RD's page: Sarah Remmer, RD -- Family Nutrition Educator (All things related to feeding kids)
Jessica Lahey's page: Jessica Lahey (Education, author of the forthcoming book The Gift of Failure)
Andy Smithson, MSW's page: Tru Parenting
Katie Hurley, MSW's page: Practical Parenting by Katie
Ariadne Brill's page: Positive Parenting Connections
Marilyn Price-Mitchell, PhD's page: Roots of Action (Eduction)
Amy McCready's page: Positive Parenting Solutions
Rachel Macy Stafford's page: The Hands Free Revolution (Inspiration)
Alyson Schafer, MA's page: Alyson Schafer (Parenting)
Mona Delahooke PhD's page: Mona Delahooke, PhD (For parents of special needs kids)
Kelly Flannigan-Bos, MSW's page: Kelly Flannigan-Bos - Psychotherapist (Parenting & Relationships)
Alanna McGinn's page: Good Night Sleep Site (Sleep)
Jessica Michaelson PhD's page: Dr. Jessica Michaelson (Parenting)
My page: Andrea Nair - parenting educator
I realize there are many more wonderful books and pages available. Please do let me know which ones are your favourites in the comments below or over on my page.
Are you looking to buy a gift or do something special for a woman who has young children? Consider these ideas suggested by mothers themselves.
For those close to moms of young ones, please know that many of these mamas are often short on energy, sleep, free time, fun, validation, feeling sexy, and stimulating adult conversation. Anytime one of these “bucket-emptiers” can be filled, moms are likely to feel better.
Here are gift suggestions that range from costly to free, suited to significant others, friends or family members:
If you have the health benefits or the budget, consider providing a series of massage treatments by a reputable, certified practitioner. One massage is super; four to six of them spread over weeks to months can significantly reduce body aches and pains, which is amazing. This would be a great gift from a group of friends/ family.
Find an esthetician that takes care to attend to his/ her clients during the facial. There are ones who provide arm, foot and scalp massages, or the various face-products, which are refreshing and percolating. When you call the service provider, make sure you ask if they do this—mine does and each time I am in there I think, this is money very well spent. Thank you, Audrey!
Grab some rose petals from a local florist on your way home, sneak into the bathroom to pour a nice hot bath, toss the petals in, then give your special mama a note something like this, “You are doing such a great job with the kids. I’ve got them the rest of the night—go see what’s waiting for you in the bathroom.” If she likes wine, certainly pour out a glass for her and set it on the vanity. Lower the lights if that’s possible.
Similar to above, write a note telling her how much you appreciate her efforts with the kids (this is very important!), asking her to retire to the bed for the night. Leave a treat (read: chocolate) and a tea—non-caffeinated to prevent insomnia—or glass of wine along with a new book on the bed. If you (as her significant other) are looking for something that validates how hard parenting little ones can be sometimes and, um, might help her get in the mood, I suggest the novel Between by Angie Abdou. If you think she needs a good laugh, perhaps get Parenting—Illustrated with Crappy Pictures by Amber Dusick. I laughed so hard my husband ran upstairs to make sure I was okay.
Consider your special mama’s style—you might be wise to consult her girlfriends for this—and take the time to find a fun/sexy/lovely/warm blouse or dress for her.
You do not need to spend a lot of money on this piece: Winners has GREAT stuff at reasonable prices. Again, perhaps take a style-helper along with you to pick out something she’ll love. And don’t worry if it isn’t quite right, I image your mama will be so grateful you tried that she'll be happy to go back to the store to exchange it (as long as you are watching the kids).
Along with the article of clothing, include some kind of invitation. Depending on your budget, this could be a simple dinner out with you (you will arrange a babysitter) or tickets to a concert, show or movie.
Arrange childcare so your special mama can spend a night away from home. Book a hotel or bed & breakfast in a nearby city, preferably with a comfortable bathtub, hot tub or sauna, and surprise her with a note explaining what you have arranged. Please take care of everything: transportation or tickets if needed. If you are able to book a spa treatment, please do that!
You can book a one-time service or get a series of them.
Your mama’s friends are likely a good source for finding someone to do the cleaning—check with them to see if someone has a recommendation.
Instead of asking a yes/ no question about hanging out with her kids for a bit (some moms might say “no” not wanting to inconvenience others), offer three potential days and times when you are available to come over to watch the kids, asking her to pick one.
When it comes time to watch the kids, throw in a load of laundry while you are there.
Can you see the theme? Often, the best gift for mothers of young children is time to rest and to feel appreciated and special. Anytime you can validate her efforts, use “I see yous” like “I see you working so hard” or “I see you being really patient with our kids (who are freaking out over and over again).”
A note to mamas:
Please do not worry about your house or children if you receive a gift to spend time away from them. My baseline for the care of my children when I need alone time is: alive and fed. If they pass out way beyond their bedtime, sleep in their jeans or yell a bit more than when they are with you, that’s okay. All your attunement and attachment bridging will help them breeze through this experience. It is important for your children to attach to other people, too, without you there. Give them the opportunity to do this. Everyone will be okay. Rest—you deserve it. You will all be better for it when you come back.
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One of the first protests children shout when they feel upset is, “That’s NOT FAIR!” Parents can tire themselves counting an even number of Cheerios into bowls or making sure each child gets a turn pressing the elevator button, but children might still feel life is unfair until they understand the underlying root feelings and what fair and equal mean.
To help children understand the concept of fair and equal and the intense emotions often driving those beliefs, parents can use these steps to grow fairness awareness.
Explain the difference between equal and fair.
Equal is when things are exactly alike, whereas fair is when decisions are made based on individual needs. It is equal to put all the kids to bed at the same time, and fair when parents decide on bedtime based on the age and activity level of the child.
Parents can teach children these concepts by using examples and asking questions like: “It’s time to get you both some wheels! You are taller than your brother—should we get you both the same small bike with training wheels?” If your child shouts, “Yes!” then ask questions to get him thinking more about this like, “Hmm… but your brother’s feet might not touch the ground. What do you think we should do?” Get into a conversation about measuring both of the children and finding the bike that fits the best.
Use the words “fair” and “equal” often.
Draw your child’s attention to these terms by using them in daily language. Doing so will help grow the positive core belief that you are attuned to your child and meeting his/ her needs.
Identify when you are being mindful that your children like to be treated fairly, but being equal isn’t the best choice (and vise versa). For example, you could mention when you need to buy something for one child, like a new pair of shoes to replace ones that are too small, that you realize this might seem unfair to others. Even though you want siblings to feel they are being treated fairly, it isn’t helpful for the whole family to spend money when that isn’t necessary.
Identify the feeling.
Even with our best efforts, a child might still cry, “That’s not fair!” When this happens, instead of saying That’s right—life’s not fair. Get use to it! steer your child to using a feeling word. For example, “I hear you are upset. Is it anger that I hear? Or sadness?” If you have a suspicion that it is a certain feeling, try using a personal anecdote to focus attention on the feeling: “I feel that things are unfair, too, sometimes. Last time I felt that way, I realized I was sad that no one was around to help me. Are you feeling sad?”
Here are some other scripts to try:
“What is a good word to trade with ‘unfair?’ Angry? Scared? Frustrated?” (I use this one with my kids.)
“When I think ‘unfair,’ I usually feel sad. Do you feel the same?” (Focusing on the difference between a negative core belief—unfair, and feeling—sad.)
“Yes, unfair. I hear you. Does that mean you are feeling _____?”
The unfair sense is actually being driven from negative core beliefs: it’s a thought, not a feeling. When we get stuck on how unfair things are, we can’t actually process our feelings or do a good job of problem solving.
This is why it is important to pay close attention to how we feel when the life’s not fair message shouts in our minds. Identifying that feeling will help it to move along and give us the ability to shift into the rational part of the brain that can start thinking about potential solutions for our situation.
The last step to helping a child feel life is less about being unfair and more about realizing a strong feeling is being felt is to consider the available options. After a child has had an opportunity to challenge the negative core belief and connect with the feeling, (s)he is in a good space to consider options.
To reduce power struggles, rather than telling your child what to do, help your child to think of what could be done to make the situation better.
For example, try this: “Okay, so you feel embarrassed when your teacher asks you to speak in front of the class because you are scared. Is it better to ask your teacher to skip you (hmm… how will the other students feel?) or is it better to learn how to public speak so you won’t feel scared?”
See if your child can come up with two or three options (that you know (s)he can do) to choose from. Children are more likely to follow through on that decision if they have made it themselves.
Growing fairness awareness is similar to growing frustration tolerance. Here is a poster I created to remember the four steps for both of those:
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