Monday, January 16, 2006

Book reports

I've been meaning to e-mail a book recommendation to a friend, so i figured i would just post a few book reviews here.

Super Baby Food by Ruth Yaron
I love this book even though the author is a big nutrition-fiend hippie who would make any normal mother feel a little inadequate about the crap we feed our babies. There are a lot of recipes for making things at home, like baby food, a nutritious porridge that your baby may or may not consent to eat, and also stuff like bubble solution and a delicious juice-sweetened carrot cake that was a hit at Nutmeg's first birthday party. It might contain some moralizing about the primacy of breastfeeding. I don't remember because back when I read it, I was not sensitive to such things.

Raising a Happy, Unspoiled Child by Burton L. White
I picked this book up at random at the library and ended up really liking it. Unlike most child-rearing books, it is written by a researcher who bases his recommendations on thousands of hours of observing parents and children in their homes. That gave it some authority that is sorely missing in most of this genre, even in my beloved Dr. Sears. The title doesn't really make this clear, but this is really a book for parents of babies (starting at about 6 months) and toddlers. It's not going to help you navigate competitive sneaker-buying in junior high school or anything like that. But it has some great, very specific techniques for disciplining toddlers -- and yes, even babies -- who are too young to sit in a time-out chair when told. We have been using the techniques on Nutmeg and so far we like the results.

The Happiest Toddler on the Block by Dr. Harvey Karp
Dr. Karp got famous for his incredibly effective infant-soothing techniques, and I highly recommend the video he made to accompany his first book, "The Happiest Baby on the Block." I get the feeling that the success of the first book landed him a 3-book contract, and he was compelled to write a toddler book even though he doesn't know much about toddlers. But I'm not actually done with this book yet, so I guess I'm still giving him a chance.
The book focuses mainly on dealing with tantrums, which I'm sure is welcome to most parents. However, it starts out with Dr. Karp's bizarre theory that, just as the human fetus passes through development stages of lower species in the womb (the single-cell stage, the gills and flippers stage, etc.), human children pass through stages in which they resemble lower primates. First they're chimps, then cavemen, then ancient villagers. He uses this not as a metaphor but presents it as scientific theory -- but without any research at all to back it up.
Because your toddler is a little caveman, he says when your toddler gets upset you have to talk to him in caveman talk: "Bobby want out! OUT! OUT! Bobby mad, mad!" With great reluctance, I tried this out this weekend when Nutmeg was having a little fit. Just as Dr. Karp predicted, Nutmeg did stop screaming and listened to me when I talked like that. However, I coudln't force myself to keep it up and when I shut up, she went right back to screaming. I will try this a little bit more later -- in private -- and report back with the results. The idea is that your baby is supposed to feel that her feelings are being understood and respected, and then calm down. We'll see about that.

The Discipline Book by Dr. William Sears and Martha Sears
I was kind of disappointed in this one. I'm afraid my expectations from the good Dr. and Mrs. are too lofty. I found this to be full of generalizations and containing not much on specific advice on how to get kids to behave. Almost every chapter and question answer began with the predictable, "Practice attachment parenting." Yes, yes, we're attached, but my kid just bit another kid. Now what do I do?

Now I'm reading "Endangered Minds: Why Children Don't Think and What We Can Do About It" by Jane Healey. I think it's going to be very good, although it may be full of a bunch of pseudoscience. I'll let you know.


Notta Wallflower said...

You know, I go back and forth between being perplexed that I was young and naive when I had K and being happy that I knew very little. Yes, there are some things I'd do differently, especially once K got into elementary school. Let's just say his study habits are not what I'd hoped. However, parents have been raising kids for many years (even before the "experts" wrote books about what to do). I think common sense can get you pretty far when a person is a parent, if they use it. Your comment about "my kid just bit another kid, now what do I do" is the exact reason why I shy away from books about parenting. I think it's very difficult to pigeon-hole kids and think that one approach will work. Furthermore, even for the same child, what works one day may not work the next. The "caveman" approach is pretty interesting - I'd try it just for entertainment value. :-P I know none of my spewing is new information for you, especially since you're "living it", but those are my thoughts, for what they're worth. :-)

Kori said...

Thanks so much for the book reviews! What a huge help. :)

I ordered the nutrition book the other day, and I'll let you know for sure if it has "primacy of breastfeeding mumbo-jumbo" that would discourage the bottle feeding mommy. I'm getting a thicker skin about that issue, but my sensitive "I'm crummy at breastfeeding my child" underbelly is still there, so I'll try to enjoy the book without getting upset. I mean, if you claim there is delicious cake in the book, you know I'm going to stick it out.

I'm so glad you have a sense of humor about the good Dr. Sears. Believe it or not, I read their advice and don't disagree with all of it, but man, I know some mommies who preach on the bible according to It's great to believe in a parenting technique, and it's even better if it works well for you (proving your belief), but every theory has it's weak points, and it always freaks me out when folks are such true believers they can't trust their gut when something isn't working.

I love the Baby Whisperer and Dr. Weissbluth's stuff, but some of their advice just isn't practical. Still love the theories, still like the ideas, but not everything works as well in real life (when your kid is biting) as it does in a book.