Jeremy Olson writes about children and families, and is an overscheduled father of two. His blog tackles the best and worst of parenting, families, health and love. He wants to hear from you - what's going on in your house?
The one thing I do not lack is advice. It comes in parenting books addressed to the children and families reporter and sent to the Star Tribune day after day. It's a mind-numbing sea of instruction that has a way of making me feel inadequate. How can I be doing the right thing if I'm just "winging it" as a dad and there is so much published help out there? I don't get that feeling much, though, because I barely have time to glance through all of the books. But on the rare occasion of my twice-yearly desk cleaning here at the Star Tribune, I figured I'd give each book a speed read. I give you the eight most interesting, random and even conflicting bits of advice and/or parenting wisdom I could find ...
From Artificial Maturity: Helping Kids Meet the Challenge of Becoming Authentic Adults, author Tim Elmore suggests five ways for parents to help kids develop real self-esteem:
From The Book of New Family Traditions: How to Create Great Rituals for Holidays and Every Day, author Meg Cox offers an amusing idea for maintaining peace among older siblings:
"Liz Hawkins, mother of four ... got the idea to tell her warring children that if they were going to insult one another, they could only do it using one of these Shakespearean taunts. 'They looked at me like I was nuts,' she says, but they soon rose to the occasion and discovered it was impossible to keep a straight face after calling their sibling, "Thou crusty batch of nature!'"
From No Regrets Parenting: Turning Long Days and Short Years into Cherished Moments with Your Kids, Dr. Harley Rotbart offers the simple advice of walking:
"The minutes we 'save' by driving our kids to soccer practice at the neighborhood park are actually priceless and irreplaceable moments with them that we lose in the name of convenience ... Walking with your kids is a great way to slow down the pace of your lives and have more unscripted moments with them ... Clearly, walking where you have to go is not always possible ... but whenever time and distance allow, walk. And while you're walking, talk -- about where you're going, what you're thinking, what they're thinking, what you see on the way, what's for dinner, who said what to whom in school today."
From How to Con Your Kid: Simply Scams for Mealtime, Bedtime, Bathtime -- Anytime!, authors David Borgenicht and James Grace offer strategies for preventing tantrums in toddlers:
From Smart Mama, Smart Money: Raising Happy, Healthy Kids Without Breaking the Bank, Rosalyn Hoffman harkens to an obscure Hollywood figure for cheap mother-daughter fun:
"Know who Edith Head was? Only the most famous American costume designer of all time -- beloved by Audrey Hepburn, Natalie Wood, Elizabeth Taylor. Teach your kids about her glamorous legacy and help them make their own costumes. Give them each a few bucks to scour Goodwill. Dig through the attic. Lend your own scarves, heels, costume gems. Dare them to make a splash onstage and photograph them in dramatic poses. (At the wedding, you'll have a slide show guaranteed to bring the house down.)"
From Dad to Dad: Parenting Like A Pro, Dr. David Hill reminds readers how to make more effective requests of young children:
"Sometimes you have no choice but to resort to short commands like, 'get away from that rattlesnake!' For less time-sensitive issues, however, try a 3-part request that includes your 'ask' along with a positive and a negative consequence ... The result would sound something like this: 'It's getting close to your bedtime, so please turn off the television and brush your teeth. If you do it now, we'll have time to read a story. If you don't, you'll have to go straight to bed.' Is it longer than 'Get upstairs and brush your teeth'? Yes, but the request carries a lot more information, too."
From Parenting Without Power Struggles: Raising Joyful, Resilient Kids While Staying Cool, Calm and Connected, author Susan Stiffelman basically gives us the exact opposite advice of Dr. Hill:
"When you ask your child to do something, speak as though you are in charge. Kids have a tendency to tune us out when we ramble on about why they should do something, especially when we toss in lots of details. If you're asking your child to do something, deliver it as a statement rather than as a question. Instead of, 'Sweetie, it's time to clean up and take your bath, okay?' just say, 'Sweetheart, time to clean up!' Make the request and put a big, fat period at the end of your sentence. Walk away with the assumption that she's going to do what you ask. Don't hover and watch for signs that she's complying; it diminishes your authority."
From Pride & Joy: A Guide to Understanding Your Child's Emotions and Solving Family Problems, author Kenneth Barish tells parents that criticisms about praising children too much are misguided:
"Many parent advisors are especially concerned, even appalled, by empty praise -- when parents (or teachers) tell children that they are wonderful (or worse, "special") when a child has not, in fact, done anything wonderful or special. In this view, when praise is cheap, children fail to learn the importance of hard work. The critics ask, how can children learn the need for effort and perseverance when they are not challenged to do better, when they are given A's for C work, awarded trophies just for showing up, and only hear good things?
My own experience ... teaches a different lesson ... I have met demoralized kids who were unable to sustain effort when they encountered even mild frustration or disappointment, and others who had developed attitudes of entitlement. And the culprit is not praise, but criticism. Most of these children were overcriticized; very few were overpraised. Children need praise. We all do. From early in life, children look to us for praise and approval, and to share moments of pride. Of course, I do not recommend praise (or, for that matter, expressions of sympathy or solace) that is unrealistic or insincere. I certainly do not believe in empty praise. But I believe that we should be generous, not stingy, with our praise."