Category Archives: Parenting

Discipline Without Shouting or Spanking–book review

Discipline without Shouting or Spanking: Practical Solutions to the Most Common Preschool Behavior Problems by Jerry L. Wyckoff Ph.D.and Barbara C. Undell

Click here to purchase Discipline without Shouting or Spanking: Practical Solutions to the Most Common Preschool Behavior Problems

This is a really helpful and insightful book for stressed-out parents of pre-schoolers! It begins with introductions about parenting, why shouting and spanking don’t work, and how to change yourself to be a better parent, among other ideas. I like that they offer scientific studies and research to explain the consequences of spanking, but also research that emphasizes the benefits of more empathetic parenting. They don’t get too far into detail, but they give the basics that a normal person needs to know, and they name where they got the information.

Beyond the introductions, they have a series of chapters on problem issues such as dawdling, talking back, getting out of bed at night, etc…. Each chapter is short and easy to follow, so you can reference it for specific problems. For each issue, they explain ways to prevent the problem and solve the problem, as well as telling what you shouldn’t do. Many of the chapters also end with examples of how other parents solved the same problems. You could read this book all the way through, or if you just want to review certain areas, it doesn’t take long to read a chapter. Personally, I would recommend at least reading all of the introductions that explain the authors’ reasoning, then using the single “problem” chapters as needed, although it wouldn’t hurt to read all the way through just to get more ideas.

The solutions in this book focus on showing and modeling responsible behavior for kids, and explaining why and how they should behave in life. The tips are reasonable, and the authors describe them in ways that make sense and are very convincing. The authors want to develop emotionally intelligent kids and they state that “children who believe they are the masters of their fate, who feel they belong, and who feel competent are more likely to become strong, resilient children and adults.” I like that idea! They aren’t about forcing a child into submission; they are teaching us how to mold a child into a productive, healthy adult. I think they have an excellent point with this quote as well: “In the hierarchy of moral development, as defined by Lawrence Kohlberg, the lowest level is “following rules only to avoid punishment.” The highest level is “following rules because they are right and good.” When parents spank their children for misbehavior, they stop their children at the lowest level of moral development. The children are interested in avoiding the punishment, not in doing what is good or right. ”

Here is the partial list of chapters:

  • Parenthood Is Naturally Problematic
  • The ABCs of Disciplined Parenting
  • Shouting and Spanking Are Counterproductive
  • The Role of Self-Talk
  • The Differences between Boys and Girls
  • The Transition to Elementary School for You and Your Child
  • Milestones of Development
  • Discipline Dictionary
  • Using This Book

After this is an alphabetical list of all the parenting topics–including: messiness, “hyper” activity, name-calling, not wanting to eat and temper tantrums.

The authors emphasize ideas such as: praising your child’s good behavior so it encourages them to repeat it, making clear rules and enforcing the rules consistently. For example, if you don’t set consequences for breaking rules, your kids will learn that they can break the rules, so it is important to follow through. The authors also offer some creative ideas for dealing with power struggles. There is a lot of good, emotionally healthy information in this book! It has me excited and motivated to try some of the ideas with my toddlers 🙂

The Pocket Parent book review

The Pocket Parent by Gail Reichlin and Caroline Winkler

Click here to purchase The Pocket Parent

My 3.5 year old has always been a very easy and well-behaved child. (Yay!) But lately, he seems to have started acting more like a toddler. This changes things! So, I’ve been reading up and reviewing parenting books for some ideas. Our biggest challenge these days is trying to get him to do what I say. I don’t want to get stuck yelling and threatening to take toys away all the time, so I needed some new ideas. I actually found this book in the tiny book section at the grocery store! I’d never heard of it, but I flipped through it and it looked pretty helpful, so I bought it.

I really think this is a good reference book! I didn’t read it all the way through. Instead, I just read the chapters that applied to our situation and I’ve gone back to it to read more or review depending on what comes up. It’s very easy to follow, and each chapter is pretty short and simple. If you aren’t a big reader or you don’t want to read a bunch of technical details, this is the book for you. Most of the chapters are under five pages and they are designed to be user-friendly. The main points are highlighted with larger print, examples are in green print and special anecdotes are in their own little boxes.

This book has 379 pages including the index, but it is an easy read if you do want to read it through. If you don’t, you can pick the chapters that work for you, (like I did.) There are a wide variety of topics including: bad words, biting, chores, new baby, lying, mealtime, potty training and more. All of the big things you need to know about are covered! The parenting approach is assertive and respectful. They promote discipline and communication over punishment. The authors don’t go into great detail about child-development, but they do give you some information about why your child thinks and does what they do so you can understand your child’s point of view better.

Overall, I’m finding this book very helpful. I wouldn’t rely on it as my only parenting book, (and my favorite is still The Happiest Toddler on the Block,) but I have this book next to my bed and have been browsing through it every night. It’s a good resource for quick tips.

The Mister Rogers Parenting Book: Helping to Understand Your Child

The Mister Rogers Parenting Book: Helping to Understand Your Child by Fred Rogers

Click here to purchase Mister Rogers’ Parenting Book: Helping To Understand Your Young Child

I’ve always had a good impression of Mister Rogers, and I know he was well-regarded for his ability to understand and work with children, so when I saw this book at a book sale, I purchased it. I’m glad I did! This is a helpful and easy-to-use book. Each chapter focuses on a single topic and is only about four to six pages long. So, you can read the book all the way through, or you can read just the chapters you need. The most important parts are highlighted with larger print, and short examples are set aside in light blue boxes, so the information is broken up and easily accessible. And it’s good information too! The approaches Mister Rogers offers are gentle, but assertive. They are about guiding your child rather than dominating him or her.

Some of the chapters include:

Mealtime, Everyday Rules and Limits, Brothers and Sisters, Using the Toilet, The New Baby and Stepfamilies.

There is a good overview of the topics that parents need the most. The only thing I’d like to see more of is more information about consequences when the child doesn’t obey. The chapters focus on helping children adjust to these various situations, but there isn’t a whole lot about what to do if they misbehave. I suppose the point is, if you follow the ideas, hopefully children will be comfortable and well-adjusted, so bad behavior will be minimal 🙂

Some of the ideas I find the most helpful include: “Choose a few rules that matter most.” The idea is that it’s easier for a child to obey when they aren’t overwhelmed with rules. “When possible, offer choices.” This hint works because toddlers in particular want to feel like they have some independence in their lives so they don’t struggle against their parents’ choices. “Make sure your children have some time away from each other.” This helps children avoid resenting each other. There are many other practical ideas as well, but they all help you guide and discipline your child in a caring manner that helps your child learn to be thoughtful, caring and disciplined as well.

The power of hope and determination in overcoming poverty

It’s pretty well-known that children who grow up in poverty are more likely to have problems in school and they are more likely to grow up to remain in poverty. The statistics are not promising, but statistics and tendencies are not absolute. I found this article today about overcoming poverty and how to avoid becoming a statistic. I’ll just quote the beginning because it’s a good thought and it’s good news for those who struggle:

“Yet not all poor children are doomed to bad outcomes. Some survive and flourish despite hardships. Why? As a researcher who worked at the Yale Child Study Center from 1992 to 2005, Valerie Maholmes, PhD, suggests that poor children who succeed have a factor in common: hope.

‘I’m not talking about miracles,’ explains Maholmes, chief of the Pediatric Trauma and Critical Illness Branch at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). ‘I’m talking about planning and motivation and determination.'”

She’s written a book about her findings and ways that poor families can overcome statistics to help their children succeed. I looked for it on Amazon and it’s pretty pricey, but I added it to my wish list. As a single mother who struggles with financial worries, I do want to make sure I can do everything I can to help my kids live a better life, and I like the sound of her book. I especially like the idea that we do have control over our futures and can be empowered through hope and determination!
Click here to purchase Fostering Resilience and Well-Being in Children and Families in Poverty: Why Hope Still Matters

This article about her research indicates that there are good results when at-risk students are educated about emotional regulation and problem solving so they can be more optimistic and achieve more success. There is also a bit of information about stimulating different parts of the brain for better development, as well as some information on the importance of mentoring relationships for kids. But really, the biggest point is the power of hope and optimism to help kids dream big and believe in their goals. I think the findings are really inspiring!

Raising smart and healthy kids

Bright From the Start: The Simple, Science-Backed Way to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind from Birth to Age 3 by Jill Stamm Ph.D.

Click here to purchase Bright from the Start: The Simple, Science-Backed Way to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind from Birth to Age 3

Let me start by saying this is an excellent book filled with essential information for parents of newborns or young children! Although the title indicates that it is about raising intelligent children, the ideas in this book also contribute to emotionally healthy children, (which, in my opinion, is more important.) I have read many of the theories in this book in other books, but all of the books offer their own benefits. The way this one is laid out makes it simple to read and easy to understand. There are also tips for specific age groups at the end of each section, so you can easily refer back to review without re-reading the entire book.

The author focuses on the importance of good parenting to help a baby’s brain develop properly. It’s now known that traumatic experiences in infancy have lifelong effects and can affect a person’s mental health as well as intellectual abilities. Plus, most of the brain is formed within the first three years–specifically within the first year. You can still positively affect a child’s personality after that, but it is much less beneficial. It is best if a child has a warm and nurturing start because those benefits tend to last through life even if things do not go well later on. Stamm emphasizes the importance of attention, bonding and communication with your baby to help him or her develop a healthy mind that allows for intellectual growth as well. It’s a bit scary to learn that your parenting during the first three years will affect your child for life, but it’s also inspiring. It’s not hard to do the right things for nurturing your child–but it is important. Science shows us that babies who receive more attentive and responsive care have different brain scans from babies who are neglected or ignored. Stamm explains why and how to help your child thrive.

Here are the chapter titles:

Part One–The Brain Truth
1. Five “Wow”s Every Parent Should Know

Part Two–Attention
2. “A” is for Attention: Why it Matters
3. Face Time: You Are Your Baby’s First Toy
4. Playtime: The Real Work of Play
5. Screen Time: When Baby Meets Modern Life
6. Downtime: Doing Nothing is Important Too
7. Attention-Builders Little Ones Love

Part Three–Bonding
8. “B” is for Bonding: Why it Matters
9. Responsive Care: Tuning In to One Another
10. Hands-on Care: Introducing Vitamin “T”
11. Child Care: How to Make a Brain-Based Choice
12. Bond-Builders Little Ones Love

Part Four–Communication
13. “C” is for Communication: Why It Matters
14. Everyday Talk: Thank Goodness It’s Cheap!
15. Everyday Reading: Dr. Seuss Had It Right
16. Everyday Music: Mozart Myths and Facts
17. Communication-Builders Little Ones Love

Amazon Mom Review

When I find a company that offers me great service and great prices, I become a loyal customer…and I like to tell people how great the service is. I am constantly telling people how great is and I really mean it! I’m a Prime member, I use Amazon Mom and I use Subscribe and Save. It’s absolutely worth it to me!

As you can probably tell, I read a lot of books. I love that I can pick out a book on Amazon, get a good price and have free two-day delivery without having to drive around to a book store to find something in stock. Plus, right now they have a promotion where, if you skip your free two-day shipping, you can get a $1 credit on your next order. I’ve been taking advantage of that for things I don’t need right away, (and they still show up quickly anyway.) My son loves Prime because we can stream Thomas the Tank Engine videos for free, so we get a lot of use out of that feature as well. With Amazon Mom, I save 20% off on diapers each month…and they come right to my door. I like that so much more than lugging big boxes through stores to my car then into my house! Plus, when I buy in bulk through Amazon Mom, I save money. And if I set up more than 5 subscriptions a month using Subscribe and Save, (the diapers count towards the minimum of 5 items,) I get an extra 5% off of the normal subscribe and save prices. That’s easy! I just pick things I’d buy anyway and I save money on them too.

I keep my credit card on file, (and it’s even better if you get the Amazon credit card because you earn reward points,) and it’s a breeze to have the things I need show up at my door for lower prices than I’d pay in stores. That definitely makes my life easier!

If you are interested in joining Amazon Mom or reading more:
Try Amazon Mom for Free

Or if you don’t have kids or need to buy diapers, you can still take advantage of an Amazon Prime trial and Subscribe and Save:
Join Amazon Prime – Listen to Over a Million Songs – Start Free Trial Now

Dealing with a difficult mother daughter relationship

When You and Your Mother Can’t Be Friends: Resolving the Most Complicated Relationship of Your Life by Victoria Secunda

Click here to purchase When You and Your Mother Can’t Be Friends: Resolving the Most Complicated Relationship of Your Life

I have always had a difficult mother whose cruel behavior and hateful comments confused and frustrated me. From the time I was a child, I wanted her to act like a mother, but she was not capable. I have since learned that you cannot make people do the things they should do or that you want them to do, and have given up. However, when I was in the midst of dealing with her hate letters and hateful messages from her sisters and other such behaviors that no normal person should have to deal with, I read this book. It was an eye-opening book for me! The author said many things I’d been feeling and recognized many horrible behaviors I was seeing from my mother. And…she let me know that it was okay for me to acknowledge the bad and and that it was okay for me to want it to stop.

As the author recognizes, ending your relationship with your mother or questioning even her cruelest behaviors is taboo in society. No one wants to accept that a mother cannot love her child, and adults who part ways from abusive mothers are often questioned, shunned or scolded. However, after reading this book, I realized for the first time that I did not have to continue putting up with my mother’s behavior that was making me miserable! No more guilt for choosing to cut contact and protect myself. The validation was wonderful! But, as the author acknowledges, a step like this isn’t taken lightly. Everyone wants a mother. I tried for a very long time before realizing my mother enjoyed hurting me more than she enjoyed being a mother and she had made herself my worst enemy and bully pitting herself against me in a competition that I didn’t wish to join.

Now that’s just MY situation. This book was a turning point for me because it was the first book I read that validated all my frustrations. But the author doesn’t necessarily recommend ending a bad relationship. She just points out that it is a valid decision that should be respected. The author categorizes the types of difficult mothers and the ways daughters might react. She devotes a section to healing difficult relationships. She gives many ideas before she addresses the reality that some relationships cannot be fixed. So don’t expect that his is an anti-mother book; it is just a realistic book. She addresses the reality that one’s relationship with their mother effects future romantic relationships, (for example, as the daughter of a narcissist mother, I have been a real doormat and have married two different abusive men before I had my light-bulb moment and realized I was following a pattern,) and she describes healthy vs. toxic relationships, manipulation, and more. I think this book is an excellent resource for women who have rocky relationships with their mothers–not just every day the occasional, normal arguments but real toxicity that repeats time and time again. The author gives validation, information and advice. I think if your relationship with your mother is bad enough that you are looking for a book like this, you will find a lot of relief in learning that you are not alone.

The chapter titles are:
Part One–Ghosts in the Nursery
1. Natural Allies, Natural Enemies
2. Good Mommy/Bad Mommy
3. The Bad Mommy Taboo

Part Two–Behind the Curtain
4. The Evolution of the Unpleasable Mother
5. The Doormat
6. The Critic
7. The Smotherer
8. The Avenger
9. The Deserter

Part Three–Rebellions
10. Balancing Acts
11. The Angel
12. The Superachiever
13. The Ciper
14. The Troublemaker
15. The Defector

Part Four–A Separate Peace
16. Breaking the Cycle
17. Redefining the Mother-Daughter Relationship
18. Friendship
19. Truce
20. Divorce

Part Five–Closing the Circle

Lasting Lessons:
It is okay to “divorce” a mother that consistently hurts you and is not willing to work on the problem
We develop unhealthy coping mechanisms when our mothers are not emotionally available or are abusive
Abuse is not just physical

Divorcing a Narcissist: One Mom’s Battle by Tina Swithin

Divorcing a Narcissist: One Mom’s Battle by Tina Swithin

Click here to purchase Divorcing a Narcissist – One Mom’s Battle

I wouldn’t say this is a true “self-help” book because the first part is mostly the story of the events leading up to a custody/visitation battle; however it is definitely a book to read if you are divorcing a narcissist or have fear for your children’s safety due to an abusive or neglectful narcissistic parent. This is a very popular book that accompanies a thriving blog and is considered a “must-read” by many people, (mostly women,) in support groups. I can’t promise you it is a completely positive book; however, I believe it ends on a hopeful note. As someone divorced from a narcissist, I found that my ex-husband was far more abusive to me than the author described her ex-husband was with her. So when I read the horrible incidents she had to deal with and the lies and games she experienced with her ex, I thought “oh great! If her less abusive spouse can get this crazy, what will my really abusive spouse do?!” Of course, for all I know, maybe toned it down for the sake of protecting her family or maybe just to get to the bigger picture. Personally, my experience was so bad, I was out in under two months. There was not one single good day after the wedding. It was all fear and confusion at the change in his personality. On the other hand, her ex-husband acted out far more obviously than mine. Although hers was just as talented at avoiding responsibilities while claiming to care, hers also committed obviously neglectful acts, whereas mine road rages and verbally attacks with some rough physical behavior. So, I found myself comparing the situations and wondering how my narcissistic ex will behave in the future.  If nothing else, this book gave me some clues, as well as some strong ideas for protecting my child and making the problem clear if needed.

The chapter titles are:
Tina’s Story
Seth’s Parents: Leonard and Cleo
The Narc De-Coder
Tina’s Tips
Acceptance and ForgivenessThe Family Court System Love Gratitude


Swithin describes being stalked, robbed and slandered as well as hearing first-hand accounts of abuse and neglect that her daughters related to her. She knew all these horrible things indicated that she was dealing with a dangerous person, yet the courts didn’t always comprehend the depth of the situation. That is what life is like with a narcissist. If you haven’t had to deal with one, then let me tell you it is absolutely NOTHING like a regular argument or divorce. Instead, it’s like having a hurricane rage through your life and tear it apart with no remorse. The author needed to communicate just how toxic this person was and how her daughters were not safe with unsupervised visitation. This took/takes a series of court dates–some with positive endings and some with negative outcomes. The story gives you faith that some things will go right and eventually the truth will come out, but it also keeps you alert to just how bad a battle with a narcissist can be. I would definitely recommend this book to someone dealing with this same situation, but it might also be of interest to anyone who wants to understand how personality disorders affect families or how they look in “real life.”

Lasting Lessons: Remember that there will be good days and bad days Stay organized, calm and focused Keep faith that the truth will prevail Don’t be afraid to use your resources–including people who know you and your character

Signing for babies for better communication

Baby Signs: How to Talk with Your Baby Before Your Baby Can Talk by Linda Acredolo, Ph.D. and Susan Goodwyn Ph.D.

Click here to purchase Baby Signs: How to Talk with Your Baby Before Your Baby Can Talk, Third Edition

Goodwyn and Acredolo have a series of books–Baby Hearts, Baby Minds and Baby Signs. I think all of them are wonderful! Not only do the authors tell us what is good for children, but they explain the science and evidence behind it. Baby Signs is no exception. There are a number of baby signing programs and books out there, but I like this book the best for that reason. It is simple and easy to understand.

The chapter titles are:
Part I–Introducing the Baby Signs Program
Is the Baby Signs Program Good for Babies?
Benefits for You and Your Baby
As Easy as Waving Bye-Bye
Part II–The Baby Signs Program: Right for Every Family
The Baby Signs All-ASL Program
The Baby Signs “Baby-Friendly” Program
More About Baby Creations
A Program For Everyone

Part III–Start Signing with Your Baby!
When to Start Signing
Is Your Baby Ready for Signs
How to Get Started: Ten Tips for Success
Your Baby’s Progress
Differences Among Babies
Enrich Your Baby’s Signing Experience
Keeping Your Eye on the Right Prize

Part IV–Signs, Signs, and More Signs
Getting Dressed
At the Park
Animals and Pets
Choosing Signs to Teach

Part V–Off and Running with Signs
Here, There, and Everywhere
Feelings Discovered
First Metaphors
Sign Sentences
Potty Training with the Baby Signs Program
Off and Running–in Different Directions

Part VI–From Signs to Speech
A Dress Rehearsal for Talking
Why Your Baby Wants to Talk
The Transition to Speech
Gone but Not Forgotten
A Legacy of Love That Lasts a Lifetime

The evidence in favor of signing is really impressive! Kids who sign tend to communicate earlier and easier which helps prevent tantrums and confusing toddler behavior. They learn to communicate more clearly and they understand more words. Even when they learn to talk, they have a communication advantage as well as an emotional advantage because they have more options to express themselves and bond with their caregivers. The authors explain all the benefits and give inspiring examples. They also give you different options. Your baby doesn’t have to sign everything; every little bit helps. You can start with just his or her favorite items and move up. You can use traditional American Sign Language or the authors’ modified version for kids. Either way, the book includes two sets of common signs–ASL and their versions. The pictures are easy to follow and include all the most popular words that kids might need to use. In addition, this is a quick book to read. It is simple to read all the way through, or you could pick the signs you’d like to focus on. I think the research behind signing is really exciting and it’s definitely something I wanted to pursue for my children!

We also have the Signing Time DVD collection, (which isn’t related to this book.) My kids and I love it! The creators have a real gift for relating to children and making memorable songs. (They get stuck in my head frequently and my son loves to sing along!) I can’t say enough good things about signing in general, but I do think these are some of the best resources for your kids 🙂

Find Signing Time videos!

Emotional health for children and babies

Baby Hearts: A Guide to Giving Your Child an Emotional Head Start by Linda Acredolo, PH.D. and Susan Goodwyn, PH.D.

Click here to purchase Baby Hearts: A Guide to Giving Your Child an Emotional Head Start

I grew up with absent parents who weren’t interested in me at all and I became a very shy and timid wallflower/doormat/underachiever. It took me a long time to really understand how the abusive childhood was still affecting me as an adult, so when I was expecting my first son, I knew I wanted to be the best parent I could be and give him a good start in life. I read dozens of books on the topic! This one was one of the best. I cannot emphasize enough that giving your child emotional support is just as important as giving him or her shelter and food, and the way you validate them and respect them as children sets the stage for how they will see themselves and others for life. I knew I wanted my child to grow up in a loving and supportive environment so he could become a healthy and successful adult. I was very impressed by this book and how much sense it made. I’ve been recommending it to other parents ever since I read it.

Here are the chapter titles:
1. Nature’s Contribution: The Biology of Emotions

Part I–The “Big Five” Goals for Healthy Emotional Development
2. Welcome to the World: Feeling Loved and Secure
3. I’m Feeling Sad: Expressing Emotions Effectively
4. Kid Kindness: Evoking Empathy and Caring About Others
5. I’ve Got a Friend: Developing Healthy Friendships
6. I Can Do Anything: Having Self-Esteem and Self-Confidence

Part II–The “Big Five” Challenges to Healthy Emotional Development
7. Monsters and Meanies: Addressing Fear and Anxiety
8. No Need to Hide: Dealing with Shyness and Withdrawal
9. Tempers and Tantrums: Handling Anger and Defiance
10. Sticks and Stones: Avoiding Hostility and Aggression
11. Everyone Makes Mistakes: Steering Clear of Shame
12. The Puzzle Pieces of the Heart: Putting It All Together

Early in the book, the authors tell us how important parents are for an infant’s body regulation. For example, feeling our breathing and our skin helps them regulate their breathing and temperature. In fact, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is far more rare in cultures where mothers co-sleep with their babies because the mother’s breaths help regulate the baby’s rhythm. The authors also give an important reality, “…if that parental support is itself erratic or disorganized, then the baby’s developing ability to regulate himself will be compromised accordingly.” No one will be perfect, but it is important that infants know they can can count on the stability of the world around them. From the start, parents need to create an environment to help them regulate their bodies and emotions.

The authors note that babies are born with their own individual temperaments. Some babies will be “easier” than others and some babies will be more “difficult.” They give tips on how to understand and relate to your child’s natural personality so that you can best nurture them. It’s important to form a strong attachment with your child as early as possible because children with a secure attachment are more empathetic, friendly, generous and successful. The authors describe the types of attachment, how to determine what kind your child is and how to nurture them. They go on to give many wonderful ideas and tips and easily explain the scientific studies behind their recommendations. They make it easy to understand how a baby’s mind develops and it is an easy, but important book to read.

Lasting Lessons:
You cannot spoil a baby! They are completely dependent on you to make them feel secure and safe and that is essential to their future emotional health.

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