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Motherlode:  Adventures in Parenting

June, 2009

A Summer Reading List for Parents

By Lisa Belkin

My essay about the end of overparenting in the magazine this weekend gave me a chance to look back in time over the parade of advice given to new parents. It also got me thinking about my own sources of advice, places I have turned over the years with questions.

Top of the list are my own parents (I heard you, Mom, even if I didn’t always listen) and my pediatrician.

For middle of the night health panics (the first sounds of croup still pop up in my nightmares once in a while) I was lucky enough to be married to a doctor, but also often found myself on for guidance.

And while I read dozens of advice books over the years, a few rose to the level of indispensable:

The Blessing of a Skinned Knee: Using Jewish Teachings to Raise Self-Reliant Children, By Wendy Mogel. You don’t have to be religious, you don’t even have to be Jewish to appreciate Mogel’s philosophy that allowing children to fall down and pick themselves up (with kisses as needed) is the way to raise resilient, self-confident kids.

Becoming the Parent You Want To Be: A Sourcebook of Strategies for the First Five Years, By Laura Davis and Janis Keyser. Not a how-to book, so much as a how-to-think-things-through-and-arrive-at-the-right-solution-for you book.

How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk and Siblings Without Rivalry, both by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. Both books walk you through true-to-life scenarios, with small suggestions that “magically” make huge differences when you find yourself having the same kinds of conversations in real life. For a few months a while back, my husband and I each had a dog-eared copy of “Siblings” next to our bed, and I often quickly skimmed a few pages before I raced off to break up yet another squabble.

Get Out of My Life, but First Could You Drive Me and Cheryl to the Mall: A Parent’s Guide to the New Teenager, By Anthony E. Wolf. The title alone shows Wolf understands life with teenagers. And like Faber, he gives practical tips for situations that really happen.

Quirky Kids: Understanding and Helping Your Child Who Doesn’t Fit In - When to Worry and When Not to Worry by Perri Klass and Eileen Costello. Nearly every child is “quirky” in some way at some time. Klass and Costello, both pediatricians, are good at sorting out what will pass and what needs a closer look.

Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year, By Anne Lamott I often give this book as a shower gift along with another book of Lamott’s, which is technically about writing but has the best advice I have ever read about raising children. That second one, Bird By Bird: Some Instructions On Writing and Life takes its title from a moment in Lamott’s own her childhood when her brother was sitting at the kitchen table surrounded by piles of books trying to write a science report about birds. He was overwhelmed and panicking – there was just too much to take in at once. Father sat down next to him and said, “son, just take it bird by bird.”

Bird by bird – one foot in front of the other, one step at a time. Somewhere along the way you look back at where you began and realize you’ve become a parent, with a philosophy all your own.

Where do you turn for parenting advice? What sources would you pass along to parents who are trying to find their way?

June 1, 2009