Favorite Books of 2013: Non-Fiction – Parenting/Childbirth

Although not my most productive reading year ever, I did manage to read over 100 books in 2013!  I track my reading on Goodreads.  So if we’re not friends there, you should join me!

Here are my favorite parenting/childbirth non-fiction books of 2013.
(with apologies for the repetitiveness to my Goodreads friends as these are my edited reviews from what I posted there through the year)

The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age by Catherine Steiner-Adair: As I was reading this, I kept saying, “Nik – listen to this!! Can you believe it?!?!” This is just another book in a long line of books we’ve been reading which has convinced us that:

  • Our kids will not be having their own cell phones (smart or not) until they’re really old.
  • We definitely are not bringing a TV into our house.
  • We will be talking to our kids bluntly about media use, media messages, dangers of sexting, pornography, etc.
  • We want to home school to keep our kids away from all this crazy media use in public schools.

Also, since reading this book, we’re trying much harder to make sure that we don’t use the computer when the kids are around. I’ve started even leaving the computer off until after lunch (most days) so that I’m not tempted to try to get some computer work done while they’re around. This has transformed our mornings to be much more productive (for me) and much calmer and happier (for all of us).

And if this makes the author sound like a crazy, anti-technology author, she’s really not. I found her approach to be quite balanced/nuanced. From p. 26, ” I want us to be thoughtful about technology, more in charge of the way we integrate it into our lives. I want us to adapt technology to serve us well, rather than surrender ourselves unquestioningly to adapt to technology.”

The Opposite of Worry: The Playful Parenting Approach to Childhood Anxieties and Fears by Lawrence J. Cohen: This was one of the most helpful parenting books I’ve read in a long time. I don’t consider Ellie to be particularly anxious (she doesn’t seem prone to worrying, etc) but she is a really cautious child in many respects (slow to warm up in strange situations, etc) and so there was a lot in this that was helpful to me. We’re already using several of his techniques to help smooth out some consistently rough spots in our day.  Even if you don’t have an anxious child, you should read this book. I know you’ll find more than a few tools to add to your parenting/child-caring toolbox.

For example, whenever there is sunshine in Ellie’s eyes (in the car, when walking through a sunny room, etc), she FLIPS out, out of proportion to how sunny it actually is. No amount of coaxing (just close your eyes, honey!) or distracting seems to work. One of Cohen’s techniques is to have a Fear-O-Meter to help your child verbalize how scared he/she is. “On a scale of 1 to 10, how scared do you feel right now?” Not only does this help you communicate with your child, but numbers activate a different part of the brain than fear and so simply by stopping to consider your number, you’ve already started helping yourself calm down. We’ve started asking Ellie, “On a scale of 1 to 10, how bright is it?” And it totally works!! She immediately stops complaining, thinks about it, gives us a number, and laughs like it’s a super fun game! Sometimes she says, “20,” and so we express major shock that it’s so sunny and she finds that even funnier. This has transformed our car rides to church in the morning when the sun is always in her eyes.

The Secrets of Happy Families: Improve Your Mornings, Rethink Family Dinner, Fight Smarter, Go Out and Play, and Much More by Bruce Feiler:  I learned a ton from this book and have lots to talk about with Nik – ideas for what to implement in our own family! The first section was most relevant to our family stage right now (with only younger kids). Some things I learned from the book:  Family meals are really important but particularly because of the talking that goes on at the meals. Kids need to understand their family history – even extended family. I want to get framed pictures of family out and visible so that we can be talking and telling stories about all these people – not just at the dinner table.  A family mission statement is most effective when posted visibly and talked about. We need to finish ours and get it posted.  I want to look more into “agile” theory and routines – particularly related to making certain procedures routine – such as what we do when we wake up (brush teeth, get dressed, eat breakfast, etc).

The Business of Baby: What Doctors Don’t Tell You, What Corporations Try to Sell You, and How to Put Your Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Baby Before Their Bottom Line by Jennifer Margulis: This is a vitally important book to read for any woman who ever wants to have a baby, any person who plans to be a parent (male or female), and for any person who plans to support a woman when she is either pregnant, laboring, or caring for a baby.  I was often sick to my stomach reading this book. I had to take it in small doses and couldn’t read more than a chapter or two at a time. I knew most of the information already but to see the awfulness of how we care for pregnant women and babies all in one place was almost more than I could take.  I’m so grateful that our family has escaped much of it.

Clearly this author has an agenda (to show that the system is totally messed up) but her research is well documented and even if you don’t buy every word of her argument, it’s hard to escape the reality that birth is big business and that the USA has higher infant and maternal mortality rates that basically all of the developed world and much of the developing world. Clearly, something needs to change.  (And in the interests of full disclosure, I agree with her agenda 100%.)

Deconstructing Penguins: Parents, Kids, and the Bond of Reading by Lawrence Goldstone: I can’t wait until Ellie is in 2nd grade so we can start a book club like the one in the book.  I wish I had read this at the beginning of my teaching career. Now, even I understand some terms better than I did when I was actually teaching them (like protagonist/antagonist.  Also, I like the book lists in the back along with the major themes already stated for me.

Sleepless in America: Is Your Child Misbehaving…or Missing Sleep? by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka:  This is by far the best sleep book I’ve read. It’s not perfect** but what sleep book could be, really? I particularly like the author’s emphasis on understanding your child’s personality as it relates to ease or difficulty in sleeping. We’d put some of what she recommends into practice already (particularly related to setting the body clock) and it’s been helpful to us. We’re seeing far fewer tantrums from Ellie now that we’ve figured out a way to get her to take a short nap every afternoon.  **I didn’t totally agree with her approach to infants, in that I really don’t think it’s such a bad thing if you nurse or rock your baby to sleep rather than laying him/her down while still awake. For one thing, since we don’t have a crib, if I lay Mark down when he’s still awake, he just crawls off to come get me! I think that’s more of a personal decision and it’s OK to nurse your babies to sleep if that’s what works for you! But for older kids (maybe 2 years+), I found this super helpful.

Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Lives of Boys by Dan Kindlon and Michael G. Thompson:  There’s such a lot for me to ponder in this book, now that I’m raising a boy myself.  Mark is so empathetic right now (i.e. he picks up on our sadness, particularly in Ellie, right away, crying whenever she does, etc).  I’m now thinking about how we can help him stay that way, knowing that we’ll have to fight the greater cultural stereotypes about men and boys to do so.  I definitely recommend this for anyone parenting a boy.

I also enjoyed:

  • Siblings Without Rivalry: How to Help Your Children Live Together So You Can Live Too by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish
  • How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish
  • Made to Play!: Handmade Toys and Crafts for Growing Imaginations by Joel Henriques
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7 Responses to Favorite Books of 2013: Non-Fiction – Parenting/Childbirth

  1. Eliz.K says:

    Just wanted to let you know, I saw this title and got very excited; and (as I already had the library website open) I started ordering these books to be put on hold for me… I had to put a lot of reading on hold before Christmas (due to taking a class, participating in a craft fair, and many other things, in addition to a non-sleeping toddler), and I am looking forward to devouring these books! Thanks for posting your reviews!

  2. Pingback: Favorite Books of 2013: Non-Fiction – Eating and Sewing | Salmon and Souvlaki

  3. Wendy L. says:

    Thank you for all of these fantastic suggestions. I am always on the look out for great books on parenting; sometimes it’s just nice to know there are other people out there going through similar situations. I was very lucky to be given the book, “10 Things I Wish I Knew in High School” by Sarah Galimore. She has created an extremely insightful handbook for parents and their teens who are starting to think about college and careers. The author stresses that students should set their own standards and their own goals, even if they find a class pointless because it will ultimately benefit them to come up with their own challenges. This book really opened my eyes to helping my daughter get the most out of high school and is helping me formulate a plan for her future endeavors. She enjoyed reading it too (which is rare that we both enjoy a book together!) The website is extremely helpful too and provides a FREE database of tools and resources for high school students looking to further their education and find out what they want to do with their lives 🙂 Hope you will check them out!

    • Laura says:

      Thanks, Wendy! Sounds like an interesting book! (FYI, in case you’re wondering, I try not to leave any websites in comments that I haven’t verified myself, so that’s why I deleted the one that you listed.) I’m sure anyone can find it on their own though if they’re interested.)

  4. Donovan Jackman says:

    Additional suggestion- All Joy and No Fun

    • Laura says:

      Thanks for the suggestion! I’ve got it on hold at the library but all 25 copies are checked out with an additional 35 hold requests ahead of me. So I think it will be awhile before it’s my turn to read it!

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