Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Best Parenting Books of 2012: Not What You Expect

Wanna be a better parent? Forget the usual parenting fare. Grab one of these books instead. True, none will tell you how to get your child to eat broccoli, sleep or get into Harvard but I'm sure you can find that advice somewhere else. I can't promise these books will expand your mommy brain. They could make the challenges of parenting seem less daunting. Who knows, you might even learn something.

Teach Your Children Well: Parenting for Authentic Success 
Madeline Levine

Because sometimes you need to ignore the tween eye-roll.

Levine, a clinical psychologist working in Marin County, is your friend with older children who's seen it all and who just gets it. Gets it. Sees the big picture. Read her if you want your kid to be a well-adjusted, curious and thoughtful adult. How? Let go of your unreasonable academic demands, crazed extracurricular calendar, hyper-parenting tendencies and your failed aspirations that are definitely not your kid's to relive. Levine wants you to pay attention without hovering, to show love for your kid's unique talents and traits (not just yours or the ones that get you into college) and - this may be useful at dinner tonight - to know when to let a preschooler's picky eating or tween eye-roll go without comment.  

Bottled Up: How the Way We Feed Babies Has Come to Define Motherhood, and Why It Shouldn't
Suzanne Barston

Because sometimes breastfeeding is not the best choice.

Yes Suzanne is a friend and she cites me in there somewhere but this is a one-of-a-kind tour through not only Suzanne's own breastfeeding experiences but the science or lack thereof that shines a light on why breastfeeding is sometimes second-best (e.g., postpartum depression, history of eating disorders, infant physiological problems). She might even make you laugh. Read it then pass it on to your friend who is struggling with the boob.

How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character
Paul Tough

Because SAT scores don't matter when you grow up.

Really I just wanted to write Mr. Tough again. Not my bestest book but still I'm a fan of the undervalued "power of character" and trust this book will be refreshing to many parents and teachers if not many psychologists who have been studying curiosity, resilience, persistence, will power and assorted other "non-cognitive" skills for decades but somehow never pen best-sellers. Mr. Tough tells us to lay off the test prep and piles of homework to focus on these other more valuable skills that predict more genuine success (i.e. not necessarily big bucks). Get your grit on and hopefully the kids will one day leave the house by choice.

Far From the Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity
Andrew Solomon

Because there are challenges and then there are challenges.

Because parents love their children whoever they may be (there, a warm fuzzy moment for my mom).

I have not finished this beast yet because it's nearly 1,000 pages, yes the Thinking, Fast and Slow of 2012. Here's a fascinating, voluminous account of a dizzying array of families with children who don't even come close to being the Average Kid. Their exceptional histories include transgender identities, schizophrenia, jail,dwarfism, deafness, abuse and rape. We'll be hearing about this one for years. Personally I cannot resist a book with 200 pages of notes.

The Power of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking
Susan Cain

Because I'm tired of teachers asking my children to be extroverts.

Thankfully I'm not the only one who thinks it's not such a handicap to be quiet or at least not blurt out personal revelations and half-baked theories. Here's a salvo to those of us who got killed on the class participation grade. No, we're not gonna raise our hands but someday we may start a blog.

The Information: A History, A Theory, A Flood
James Gleick

Because the Internet will not kill society as we know it.

It's long, it's dry but here's the good news. Your kids area going to survive Facebook, Instagram and whatever the next college drop-out visionary thinks up. The New Media, the iPad, the smartphone, they make us crazy sometimes but it's not like we're the first generation to parent through a new and totally awesome communication system. Can you imagine seeing the alphabet for the first time? Talk about stress. Written language would have completely freaked the parents of Sub-Saharan Africa drumming their birth announcements to the next tribe across the savanna. True, we have much more news, much more data, much more information. However as Gleick and T.S. Elliot have noted information is not the same as knowledge and that hasn't changed in a millennium.  

The Epigenetics Revolution: How Modern Biology Is Rewriting Our Understanding of Genetics, Disease, and Inheritance
Nessa Carey

Because when hasn't DNA come up at the neighborhood block party?

This is the book for the super geeks out there but it's quite easy to read as Carey dumbs it all down. Read it because you and I are both screwing up our future grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Along with passing along our bad genes our bad behavior might also be switching off the good ones and activating the bad ones for generations. Our poor choices get passed down via the epigene, that's the chemical code sitting atop the gene - the switch that turns the gene on or off for future progeny. That's right, put down those Cheetos because those preservatives and yellow dye might be turning off the skinny gene and flipping on cancer gene lurking in your slowly decaying bod. So feel free to feel guilty not just about your bad genes but your bad behavior that will mess up your progeny for at least the next century.

So there's my two-cents. What good books did you read in the past year? Can you name it in public?



4 comments:

Anonymous said...

You can read a book about epigenetics and not understand the importance of human milk for our babies?

Meghan said...

I read and loved Power of Quiet. I never raised my hand until high school. I think it is hard for introverts who have to learn how to be extroverts.

Mommy Two said...

Really liked Whole-Brain Children. It has plenty of research in there too.

Polly Palumbo, Ph.D. said...

Oh wanted to read Whole-Brain Child. Skimmed it in the library, will give it another spin.