A question from a friend:
Would you have a good recommendation for an early parenting book?
My husband and I differ a little but on our approach with our two-year-old and I think
we could use more consistency in our approach! Know what I mean?
After raising two through early parenting, I do not have a parenting book to recommend per se, but I have learned some things. Considering I don’t know if you’re talking about spanking, getting out of bed after bed time, pushing or hitting other kids, potty training, or the other myriad parenting questions out there, I’ll just have a go.
The first six years are the rudder for life. Be careful. Literally.
This is the time when you become who you are going to be. You will pattern after the models you have. Your brain sets up its grooves and becomes “hardwired” during this time. The most important thing in my opinion is feeling secure and knowing you are loved. To paraphrase Dr. Suzuki, – if we give our children the foundation of a pure heart and a noble mind, they will find happiness as adults, and this is more important than anything and should be our only real goal as parents.
Remain as relaxed as possible at all times. You can never physically love your children too much. Shower them with affection. Deeply knowing you are loved is the secret ingredient to a very happy and fulfilling life.
Children have their own special way of seeing things. We need to be patient and loving with them. Positive reinforcement is the only way to produce results. A good book about that is Don’t Shoot the Dog by Karen Pryor.
There are books that I so appreciate having read while my children were young. They are not really “parenting” books, however. They are: Nurtured by Love by Shinichi Suzuki and You are Your Child’s First Teacher by Rahima Baldwin. They taught me that these first six years are such rich, fertile ground for setting the stage for life. Without any type of force, you can expose children to art, music, movement, and a gentle environment. Next to being loved, having a rich, gently stimulating environment is key to positive human development.
No one knows better than you how to raise your child.
People are just people. Seeking out advice is wise, but ultimately, no one knows better than you. There are folks out there who write books on the matter, but I never agree with them 100%. There is a blog that has shifted my parenting to even more relaxed, but I do not agree with it completely.
Punishment and reward
There is an idea floating around right now about parenting with no rewards or punishments, which I find absurd to say the least. Life is a series of rewards and punishments. Humans learn this way. Reward and punishment comes directly from nature. Just read Aesop’s The Ant and the Grasshopper if you disagree. Potty training is a great example of how far a chocolate chip will take a human being. I do not, however, believe in harsh punishments. Rewards are great. Minor punishments such as “the toy goes on top of the fridge for now” are great cards to play as well. I remember warning my three-year-old once that if he pushed another child, his halloween candy was going in the trash. Minutes later, we marched into the kitchen and dumped the candy. I for one, was happy to see it go (I think sugar and high fructose corn syrup are the devil. Well, GMO too) and the point was well made. We don’t push. I don’t recall him ever pushing again.
Time warnings go a long way
I’ll never forget the time when I proclaimed to my 3 year old, “Time to go.” Sadness ensued, and the little girl he was playing with promptly informed me that I should have given him a warning. I knelt down, looked her in the eye, and said, “You are absolutely right. Thank you.” I have been the time warning queen ever since. No one wants to be suddenly ripped away from a good time. At the same time, when it’s time to go, it’s time to go. I know a couple of mothers whose children rule the roost. When it’s “time to go,” the children simply don’t. Who is in charge here?
Huge topic here. Theoretically, the idea of being violent with children turns my stomach. In practice, a little seems to go a very long way. A pop on the rear of a defiant child and child abuse are two different things with results a world apart. Also, again in my opinion, even the slightest spank to a child under two makes no sense at all. Humiliation, pain, or spanking as part of your parenting plan simply can not result in well-adjusted people who respect one another.
Risking the relationship
When a parent becomes violent, holier that thou, or unbendable, something pops up called risking the relationship. True. Your tough stance could lose the child forever. They could rebel against you and turn into the exact person you did not want them to be. That “friend” you wanted when they turn 25 might never call.
Being human, getting down on your knees and working with your child on life – this little person who is going to grow into a big one, is necessary. Apologizing, admitting when you are wrong, and not being perfect are all important things to model. You are not perfect, but you can be imperfect as gracefully as possible. Remember, they are the next generation, new and improved.
Tantrums and how to raise an adult that won’t continue to have them
When my three-year-old was having his first tantrum, I recognized instantly what it was. I went to the internet and searched tantrum. The advice was sound. Put the child in a space where he can’t hurt himself and let it play out. It will end. Then go in and calmly explain that he just had something called a tantrum and that’s not how this family communicates. If there is something he wants to talk about, we can talk about it now. If the tantrum happens outside the home, at a restaurant for instance, one parent has to excuse themselves from the dinner, take the child to the car, and sit with the child until the tantrum plays out. The parent explains that this is a tantrum. It’s not what we do. And now the child and the parent won’t get to participate in the lovely meal going on inside. The child doesn’t get what they wanted, just a sit in the car. My child never had a tantrum again. My second child had this experience twice in one week, and never again.
Letting a 2 or 3 year old get their tantrum out and letting a baby “cry it out” are totally different things.
Never let a baby “cry it out.”
I read a very popular parenting book that had this idea as its basis – always just let the baby cry itself to sleep. I was sick. I won’t even stoop low enough to mention the book’s name here. When you are 6 months old, you don’t know much and you don’t need much. You don’t know there’s a big world out there, you don’t know how to talk, you don’t know what instruments are, or transportation, or I could go on forever. This list is infinite. It’s infinite for adults too, by the way. All you know is that there are people in your life, that they come in and smile at you, and make you comfortable. This is your basis for everything. If someone shuts your door and the noise scares you, or the dark scares you, or that silly clown someone stuck in your bed scares you, or if you simply don’t want to be alone, you’re going to cry so that one of those smiley people out there will come get you or stay with you. If you cry and they never come, you are learning deep in your core that you can’t always count on the people you trust the most, and that you’re on your own.
Developing a strong sense that the world is a good place, that you can trust others, and that you have help in this world is an excellent foundation for happiness. There are many tricks to getting a child to sleep. But they have to be sleepy. I can’t imagine making a child lay in bed when he’s not tired. A great trick is telling them that they only have to lay down for 3 minutes. They have to be quiet and still. Start gently stroking their hair and counting in a whisper to 60 very slowly. I use this trick on my 3 year old at nap time every day. No matter how much he melts down before, he is always asleep by the first 60 seconds. One time I made it all the way to 3 minutes and he was wide awake. So he got to get up. He was definitely not going to fall asleep for a nap that day.
The balance between tough and tender
Ah, the yin and the yang. You must have both, grasshopper. I agree with the statement that children like to know their boundaries. I think we all do. If you ever give into a child’s tantrum, you are teaching the child that it’s okay to throw a tantrum and that it will actually get rewarded. After all, you are the parent now. You have to act like one. Raise your child to be kind and thoughtful. Practice staying calm. Set the example. But when toughness and strictness are called for, step up. Be consistent. Here is a lovely list of habits/virtues to instill in your children. Ha ha. Joke’s on us. I’ve been trying to instill these in myself. It is almost laughable.
Get out of the way
There are two situations when I try to remember to practice this gem. One is when the children are being creative. The other is when my feathers are ruffled. As long as no one is in danger, just step back and pretend you aren’t there. You are gone for the day, and this in front of you is what would be going on if you weren’t here. It’s usually pretty eye-opening. The world would definitely go on without you.
You are the parent
As immature as you may be, you are now beset with raising another human being to the best of your ability. After your child is 25, you can be “friends,” but right now, your child needs you to guide the way. Without civilized parenting, due to the human condition, if left to their own devices, the next generation would quickly regress to The Lord of the Flies. Pick your battles, breathe deeply, and do the best you can.
Parents must always be on the same team
If you and your partner are not in agreement, sit down and see which parenting style is fitting in with your big picture at the moment. Agree on the fundamentals of how you want to raise your child and then take the situation at hand and figure out whose idea best fits. You must come to an agreement though. You must always come to the table as a team. You must always support the other’s decisions, never undermining them. Without having a specific question, that is my advice. As far as books go – the one you write will be the best for you.