Book Review, Favorite Books, recommended reads

Recommended Reads May 2017

Welcome to Recommended Reads! We’ll be doing a blog post once a month of our favorite picks for picture books, chapter books, and young adult books. If you follow us on Goodreads, you’ve probably already seen these pop up.

Picture Books

This month’s picture book author and illustrator is Mark Teague. He has written a variety of books, and here are the ones we’ve loved so far:

The Three Little Pigs and the Somewhat Bad Wolf- I loved this retelling of the classic fairytale, because I don’t like that the wolf is always forced to be bad.  Once the wolf’s hunger issues are solved, it turns out he’s not so bad after all.

Funny Farm and Firehouse- Edward (a dog) learns more about how farms and firehouses function as he visits each one. The best parts of these two books are the illustrations. It is incredible how lifelike these dogs seem.

The Sky is Falling- a retelling of Chicken Little, where she is set up by a wolf but outsmarts him in an unexpected way.

Pigsty- Have a kid with a messy room? In Miss Piggle-Wiggle fashion, this book explores what would happen if pigs actually moved into a room because it was so messy.

Chapter Book

lawn boy

One of my favorite books is Lawn Boy by Gary Paulson. Written for children in grade school, Lawn Boy focuses on a 12 year old who decides to start his own lawn mowing business. Along the way, he learns about profits and expenditures, investments, and capitalism. I loved how this book wove these topics around a story that was relatable and fun.

 

Young Adult Books

bartimaeus

The Bartimaeus Series by Johnathan Stroud is set in a fictional world that reimagines what London would be like if magicians ruled Parliament through the help of djinnis (genies). The main djinn is Bartimaeus, who despite being a slave is clever and resourceful. This series focuses on redemption as secondary character, Nathaniel, who pursues fame and fortune at the expense of djinnis and many others. The best part of the books is exploring the new worlds (reimagined London and the world of djinnis) and learning how they interact.

Why I Needed a Mom Vacation

Book Review, Compromise, Favorite Books, resolutions

No-Drama Discipline: Book Review

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If you think I read a lot of parenting books, you’re probably right. It’s because I don’t know what I’m doing. And I need help. This last month the issue has been time-outs. Specifically how time-outs haven’t been that effective. But what other options are there? No-Drama Discipline has a few suggestions I’m going to try out.

But first off, it’s important to distinguish what makes No-Drama Discipline different from other discipline techniques. The goal of No-Drama Discipline is to teach children how make better choices and understand their emotions. It focuses on strengthening the relationship between the parent and child through the following principles: 1) when children are upset and throwing a fit, that’s when they need us most. 2) sometimes we need to wait until children are ready to learn, 3) the way we help them be ready to learn is by connecting with them.

What I liked about this book was that it focused on the needs of the individual child and offered flexible techniques to help discipline your child. I appreciated that the authors were realistic in their expectations that parents won’t be able to put these techniques into practice all of the time. I especially appreciated a section in the back titled, “When a Parenting Expert Loses It.” In that sense, I think the book should have been named, “Less Dramatic Discipline.”

Another thing I liked about the book was all of the visuals they included. A lot of them were cartoon scenarios of a parent disciplining a child in different ways. This really helped me understand what the authors were trying to get across.

My favorite quote from the book was: “Our kids don’t usually lash out at us because they’re simply, rude, or because we’re failures as parents. They usually lash out because they don’t yet have the capacity to regulate their emotional states and control their impulses…When children are securely attached to their parents, they feel safe enough to test that relationship. In other words, your child’s misbehavior is often a sign of his trust and safety with you.” A lot of times, I view my child’s tantrums as a sign of my failure as a parent, but this quote helped me realize that it is more a sign of the trust he has in our relationship.

What I wish the book had emphasized more is tools for parents when they feel they are going to lose it. Too often the book emphasized a parent immediately being able to empathetically rush to their children’s side. But honestly a lot of situations that call for this are ones in which I too am feeling out of control and angry. So if you are looking for ways to address that issue, I would recommend this article: What Helped Me Be A Calm Mom.

Right before I wrote this article, my son had a huge meltdown. He refused to do the things he needed to in order to go to bed. Here are how some of the techniques I tried from the book: First, I recognized that he was extremely tired. Second, I did my best to hold him (loving physical tough is highly encouraged in the book). Third, I would mirror what he said. (Ex: “You want me to play cars with you.”) Even though I didn’t commit to doing whatever he said, he at least felt heard. You know what happened? He continued to scream and cry and be unreasonable. For over 30 minutes.

The thing about No-Drama Discipline is that it isn’t a magic wand. They even say this in their conclusion! The good news is that I was at least able to feel calmer while I was trying to discipline my son. And eventually, he did calm down. Through another technique called, “getting creative.”

I remembered a book we had read months ago entitled, “Little Monkey Calms Down,” by Michael Dahl. Using my son’s stuffed monkey, I walked through some of the steps in the book, which include laying down, holding something soft, and taking deep breaths. And it finally worked! My son was able to concentrate as I used the monkey to walk him through the steps. We practiced deep breathing for a while after that. Then we were finally able to talk about how he had been feeling angry, and how next time he can take deep breaths to calm down.

little monkey

We’ve still had our fair share of tantrums, but I’m hoping that the techniques from this book will be more effective than just a time-out.

Why I Needed a Mom Vacation

Book Review

Parenting Without Borders: Book Review

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I’ve got yet another great parenting book recommendation! It’s “Parenting Without Borders: Surprising Lessons Parents Around the World Can Teach Us,” by Christine Gross-Loh. I LOVED this book. It took me a few months to read, partially due to lack of free time, and also because this book is really thought provoking. I would often have to stop to absorb and think about what I had read. This book challenged a lot of preconceived notions I had about parenting norms and goals across the globe. Here’s a glimpse of what I learned from a few chapters.

Chapter 3: Global Food Rules- How Parents Around the World Teach Their Kids to Eat. In America, it’s very common for us to have a fast food lifestyle, whether that’s actually eating fast food, or just making food and consuming it quickly at home. In many other countries, mealtime is much longer and more deliberate. I was struck with how this correlated with obesity in different countries- the more the culture focused on sitting down and eating a formal meal, the lower their issues with obesity. This section of the book made me rethink how my family does mealtime. With my own son, he often finishes his meals before me, and then whines for me to play with him while I’m trying to eat my own food. I wonder if I made an effort to eat concurrently with him instead of consecutively (like they do in other countries) if that would help with the problem.

Chapter 6: Quality Time- The Value of Unstructured Play. This chapter focused on how in America, children’s time has become more and more scheduled. We take our children to soccer, piano, art, or gymnastic lessons. We try to provide lots of stimulation for them to grow. But in other countries, children learn and grow through hours of unstructured play. I was surprised to learn how in Japan, preschool children from the ages of 3-6 basically play for an entire school day. They are given lots of freedom to bee outdoors and do whatever they’d like. Similarly in Denmark, children ages 3-6 can to go “forest Kindergartens” which are literally in the forest and children are allowed to “play outdoors for hours, in all kinds of weather, every day if possible.”

Chapter 8: Every Child Counts: High Achieving, The Finnish Way. This was the most fascinating chapter for me. “Children don’t start academics until the year they turn seven. They have a lot of recess (ten to fifteen minutes every forty-five minutes, even through high school), shorter school hours…and the lightest homework load of any industrialized nation…Yet over the past decade, they have consistently performed at the top of the Program for International Student Assessment.” How interesting that children can learn and grow just as well with less school time. I was also impressed with the high standards they had for teachers- all Finnish teachers are expected to have a master’s degree and they are heavily mentored the first several years of teaching. This chapter really helped me re-evaluate my educational goals for my son. It made me reconsider the type of school I would like him to go to and how I think he will grow the best.

Chapter 10: Raising Responsibility- Avoiding the Helplessness Trap. In Japan, three-year olds are expected to carry and be responsible for all of their things. If they bring something to school, they are expected to carry it and keep track of it while they are there. As children get older, they are expected to pull their own weight at home by taking on chores like sibling child care. Children are expected to watch the time if they are with friends, and be home when they said they would be. They are expected to keep track of their own homework. Rarely do parents have to “nag” their children to get things done because they have grown up with that expectation. To me, this sounds like an amazing way to live. But it does come with a cost- parents have to work long and hard early-on to help their children understand the importance of responsibility. As the mother of a headstrong two-year old, sometimes the power struggle to get him to pick up his toys seems too much. This chapter helped me realize how being consistent can pay off in the end.

This was a wonderful read, and I highly recommend checking it out! The other chapters were just as fascinating.

Why I Needed a Mom Vacation

Book Review

Book Review: Parenting Beyond Pink and Blue

It may be a little strange that a blogger who’s website focuses on one gender would be interested in a
book about parenting beyond gender stereotypes. One of the reasons I created this blog was because I worry about gender inequality for boys and well as girls. I love the website “A Mighty Girl” and wanted to create a little something for boys as well. (Incidentally, A Mighty Girl is where I learned about this book.) I realize that many will say that boys don’t need any extra websites to help them with equality. But a quote in this book, Parenting Beyond Pink and Blue, perfectly summed up my reasoning.

“Boy World is a strict place: This research reflects a harsh reality for boys. Girls are more flexible than boys about what kinds of toys they can play with and how they can act. Girl-world is a much more open, accepting place than Boy-World. For example, girls play with boy toys much more often than boys play with girl toys…But boys can be brutally teased for doing anything girl-like. Girls are allowed to branch out, whereas peers in Boy-World strictly enforce gender rules.” (p.127)

I loved that this book focused on the stereotypes for both boys and girls. I realize that girls have more inequalities that they must face, but I want to point out that so do boys. For example, I’ve been saving a childhood doll of mine for when we (hopefully) have a girl. After reading this book, I pulled out my doll Suzy for Man-cub D to play with. I realized there were many lessons that he could learn by taking care of a doll. Lessons that I wanted him to learn, like how to be gentle with babies, how to be aware of their needs, having empathy. Although he doesn’t play with her as much now that the newness has worn off, it’s fun to see him occasionally pull her out so she can sit at dinner with us or a read a book with him.

While I expected the author, Christia Spears Brown, to be extreme in her beliefs, she was actually quite balanced. She knows that she cannot singlehandedly change our culture of gender obsession. So she chooses her battles. Her daughters have girl names. They know their genders. The author doesn’t ban pink from the house. What she does do is ban barbies. She also will confiscate any clothes gifted to her girls that have negative gender stereotype messages printed on them. She does her best to use gender neutral language with her daughters, basing her praise on their actions rather than mentioning their gender (ex: “What a big kid you are!” instead of, “What a big girl you are!”)

This book argues that essentially before puberty, boys and girls are extremely similar and don’t need to be treated differently because of their gender. To give you a taste of the practical advice you’ll get in the book, chapter titles include “accidentally shaping who children become,” “parenting a stereotype,” “how children help create the differences we see,” and “noticing gender.”

This was a really interesting read for me, and I’d definitely recommend it! It motivated me to be more contentious of gender stereotypes I may be projecting onto my son. That said, I won’t be changing the name of this blog (Man Cub Mamas) or my Etsy shop (Cute Girl Earrings).