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Parenting Advice ’ Category
Thursday, May 23rd, 2013
Love reading? (You must if you’re checking out my blog!) Love your baby? Combine these two joys quickly and easily tonight. In today’s Part One of two stories, I asked the authors of Reading with Babies, Toddlers and Twos three questions about how to get started with your little one.
KK: At what age is it important to start reading?
It’s never too soon to start and never too late to begin. You can show a tiny baby illustrations and contrasting images and read a cheerful rhyme, or prop books by the changing table, or tie them to the stroller. Share a book every chance you get.
KK: By they time they’re toddlers, how many minutes should we be reading to them?
Don’t stress about “how many minutes” you’re reading daily. If the books are around, and you’re seizing opportunities, you’re sharing good book time. There’s no magic number. What’s important is making reading something you both enjoy.
KK: How does starting a healthy reading habit when they’re young help them as they hit elementary and middle schools?
A child who starts reading early is a child who has never known life without books. This child develops a trust in the stories and information and adventures within a book. Expecting pleasure from reading makes so much of school easier. A fluent vocabulary—the kind that comes from sharing a wide variety of books—comes naturally to a reader. Continue reading with your child once she can read to herself. Bring out chapter books and old favorites and keep going as long as she’s listening. You’ll both be glad you did.
About the authors:
KJ Dell’Antonia is the lead writer and editor of the New York Times Motherlode parenting blog. Also as a children’s book reviewer and a mother of four children, she knows which books work best and why. She lives in New Hampshire with her husband and two young children.
Susan Straub founded the READ TO ME program more than 20 years ago, a national workshop encouraging young families to read to their babies that is still thriving. Ms. Straub’s work with READ TO ME has been celebrated on NY1 television and in Oprah’s O magazine. She lives in New York City.
Rachel Payne is the coordinator of early childhood services at the Brooklyn Public Library. She knows why some books are carried around, colored on, taken to meals, and slept with, while others are pushed away after a single
Categories: Children's Books, Mom Must Read, Mommy Bloggers, Must Read, Parenting Advice, Picture Books, Popular Books, Q&A With Authors | Tags: KJ Dell’Antonia, Reading, Reading with Babies, Susan Straub, Toddlers and Twos
Tuesday, May 21st, 2013
Bury the Hot is the true story of a boy who hid from Hitler, but could never escape the memories. His friend, writer Deb Levy, completed his book for him. Below, she describes what it was like writing about a child in such a desperate situation while trying to raise three young sons of her own.
“One evening last summer, I strolled with my children toward an outdoor concert in our local park. The path was forested, and I found myself doing what I’d been doing for years already: imagining myself in a different set of woods, clutching my sons’ hands, running, fearful of letting go and losing them in the pitch black. I summoned the cold, the hunger, and Nazis.
While writing a book about the Holocaust, I spent hours on the phone with Sal (pronounced Sol; formerly Szulim), a close family friend who’d hired me to write his memoir. For months, I probed his memory, shook dust off painful recollections, and wakened the dead. In doing so, I found myself constantly comparing and contrasting the sheer normalcy of my life—buying chicken, running a bath—with the details of a time that was anything but.
My children became the perfect frame of reference as I delved into the world of another little boy. I’d stare at my youngest, age 3 at the time, and think, “That’s how old Szulim was when German warplanes first darkened the sky above his house.” I tried to picture my then 6-year-old stumbling over cobblestones—like Szulim at 6, fleeing a Gestapo roundup. I trembled at the thought of kissing my own 10-year-old goodbye before sending him on an orphan train across Europe.
I wrote my sons’ sensory quirks and self-soothing habits into Szulim’s story. When I sought to capture the dismantling of Szulim’s world through the eyes of a child, I stared into the faces of my own. On the playground, at the dentist, everywhere I turned, a little Yiddish boy became the doppelganger to my three. Even worse, I found myself getting angry—quickly, and all too often—at the boys seated around my own kitchen table. Their incessant requests, their refusal to eat a home-cooked meal, their inability to sit still for two minutes—it was driving me mad. Dzietzy i ribi glosi nie mayem! “Children and fish do not have a voice,” I wanted to yell, an old Polish trope about childrearing. But wait a minute. We’re not living in a mid-century shtetl. Besides, what kind of mother doesn’t want to hear her son’s voice?
As it turns out, a scared one. Every day, I sat at the computer and immersed myself in a world where bullies did more than exclude a child from a coveted seat in the cafeteria, where threats weren’t online, but on the street where Szulim, hungry, wearing his yellow star, rolled his hoop in the ghetto’s dirt. If my children can’t sit still during dinner, how will they survive when they have to cower in an attic without moving, while Nazi soldiers patrol the sidewalks below? For 18 days, Szulim and his little brother sat trembling in silence, waiting. There were no iPhones. No snacks. Nothing but fear that each moment might be their last. Could my sons survive this? I knew the answer and it terrified me.
Tuesday, May 7th, 2013
I haven’t met anyone who isn’t fascinated with names. Whether you’re currently pregnant, have a 7-year-old or are 93 and living in a nursing home, I dare you not to get sucked into the delightfully detailed book called The Baby Name Wizard by expert Laura Wattenberg. It’s the carry-it-everywhere companion to her wildly addictive website also called The Baby Name Wizard.
You can look up your picks, your hates, and find out which ones are cool in different parts of the country. (Why are there so many Ezras in Brooklyn? Why do my friends from Indiana pick names like Kyren?) You can fall in love with your favorite monikers and make fun of the others. The opportunities for fun and procrastination are endless in this new, revised edition of this must-have baby-name tome. I asked Laura how this book is different from her previous installments, and she said, “I’ve aimed for a thorough revision and expansion with new features like regional name-style maps and prominent examples and associations for each name. I’ve added style categories, too, including video game names. Yes, parents are naming kids after video game characters!”
I devoured the whole book but particularly enjoyed Laura’s spirited introduction. Who knew there were rules to naming babies? She explains that Americans overwhelmingly look for unique names, and then we all choose the same ones anyway. This explains the proliferation of Peytons and Aubrees. Laura emphatically reminds readers that “parents are the ones who worry about a name standing out; kids are happy to fit in.”
She says to drop the idea of having three or four middle names–that’s not cool for the kid. She also says to go ahead and ask others for their opinions on your top choices. “Don’t let them bully you, but don’t completely ignore them either. As a group, they represent the society that’s going to be hearing, and judging, your child’s name for a lifetime.” Whoa! Her last bit of brilliant wisdom involved siblings and friends who have the same favorite names. (This always seems to happen, she explains.) Whoever has the kid first, gets the name–end of story.
Then there are the maps! OMG. Where I live in New Jersey, steady guy names like Jack, Thomas, Matthew and Adam are popular along with saintly classes such as Nicholas, Lucas, Joseph and Anthony. Meanwhile, in my homestate of Indiana, they prefer smooth gents such as Owen, Miles, Blake and Cole along with preppy cowboys like Dalton, Trenton, Brantley and Easton. See where I’m going with this? Once you start with Laura’s brilliant, curated collection, you just can’t stop.
The Baby Name Wizard includes well-researched and entertaining details on every single page. Laura truly goes above and beyond the call of baby name duty to give her readers the scoop. This book is like eating a delicious sack of potato chips except it won’t make you fat. Thanks to Laura, I know exactly what to buy for two upcoming baby showers.
P.S. Laura is fantastically cool–just check out our interview with her on In Name Only: The Ultimate Baby Names Blog.
Thursday, May 2nd, 2013
What do parents do differently in Finland, Sweden, Germany, Japan and other countries? Christine Gross-Loh, a mom and Harvard-educated expert, has lived all over the world, and made it her goal to find the answers. I can’t wait to read her new book, Parenting Without Borders, that comes out today.
Here’s a preview: Guatemalan children don’t go through the terrible twos and Italian children love to eat healthy food. Finnish kids have the highest test scores and get the most recess. Intrigued, I asked Christine to tell me more. She even picks her favorite country and gives reasons why. (You’ll be surprised!)
KK: In three sentences, how would you describe your book?
CGL: Parenting Without Borders is about surprising lessons I learned from other parents in other cultures about raising kids with less stress, more joy, and more conviction. While some of the thinking I encountered was sometimes just about the opposite of ours (for instance, in some countries, such as Norway, people say that you keep your child safe by letting him take some risks so that he can learn how to hone his inner judgment about his capabilities, while in our country we tend to keep our children protected from risks until we deem them ready), I came to see how we American parents could benefit from taking a fresh look at our own assumptions. Seeing that there are so many ways to define good parenting and so many ways for children to thrive has made me a more relaxed parent.
KK: What are the three most helpful parenting tips you’ve learned from other cultures?
CGL: 1. To be careful not to get in my children’s way too much. Kids in other cultures experience more autonomy and independence, and are given the message that it’s okay to make mistakes, to stumble and fall–this is part of growing up. Research shows this approach has lots of benefits.
2. At the same time, we could take a more concerted role in certain areas, such as teaching eating as a life skill, teaching children patience and respect for others (it’s not stifling them; it’s giving them some great tools), giving them responsibilities around the home, and not pulling back as much as we are told we should when they become adolescents. Young adolescents who know that their parents have expectations for them tend to do better in school.
3. Don’t feel you have to do it alone. It’s the norm in most cultures for parents to be supported by others (extended family or a community of friends). It’s good for our kids to bump up against all sorts of people and perspectives and it’s good for us too, not to feel like we are solely responsible for how our kids turn out.
KK: What is your favorite country you and your family have lived in and why?
CGL: I write about Japan a lot in my book because we lived there for so long that our kids think of it as a second home. There is lots to love about the country: Young kids have freedom to roam there, children are given more time to play (academics don’t start till grade 1 and kids have plenty of recess, art, gym, and music class), and it feels like a whole community is on the same page about expectations for kids, which helps take the burden off of you as an individual parent. You know other adults around you will help reinforce and back you up. But I have to say our favorite place to be is right here in the U.S. What I love about parenting here is our positive spirit; how much we want to do well by our kids, and how open-minded we are. We are very willing to consider all sorts of perspectives.
Tuesday, April 30th, 2013
Want to know what it’s like to be raised by a Tiger Mom? Want to know why parents–I’m guilty–need to keep our Type A, super-controlling tendencies in check? Kim Wong Keltner, author of Tiger Babies Strike Back gives us rock-solid reasons why should take time to really see our children, ease up on their schedules and love them unconditionally. Check out what Kim has to say:
“Tiger Babies Strike Back is about being raised by a Tiger Mom with high expectations whom I could never satisfy despite the highest grades, perfect test scores, and my best efforts to please her. Now I have a daughter of my own and I’m determined to raise her with more hugs, laughs, and encouragement than I ever received. This book is about being the grown-up daughter of tough immigrants, but raising an American child to be her own individual self without crushing her soul with my own wants, hopes, and egotism.
A parent can convince herself that she is pushing her kid for her own good, but I feel like my cousins and I were pitted against each other in competition so our parents could brag to each other. And we, the kids, who were just trying desperately to please them, didn’t feel loved for who we were, but we existed as trophies. You’ve heard of trophy wives? We were trophy children!
Tiger Parents are not just of Chinese descent. I’m talking about anyone whose parenting style is of the my-way-or-the-highway variety. Tiger Moms are control freaks gone wild, and they are passing off their methods as superior. And to that, I say, “Are you kidding?” What part of, “stop micro-managing me” do they not understand? I want to laugh, but really, a parent making you feel like you are not good enough no matter how hard you try is not very funny.
I am a very attentive mother to my daughter, Lucy. She is nine-and-a-half. My husband and I are attempting the slow, cumulative work of exemplifying compassion, kindness, and gratitude. It’s an incremental, drawn-out, marching-ever-forward process to teach our kid to be true to her word, and to figure out what it means to have personal integrity.
We need cleared space in our heads so that we can listen for the clues from a kid’s interior world. My daughter’s concerns are expressed like tiny yelps from Whoville, and I feel that if I’m not already listening for it, the small voice will be lost in the background noise of homework, dancing lessons, swim class, and everything else.
I believe we can help our children best by forcing ourselves to slow down. Sometimes it’s the most difficult thing to do. Really, how much more can I possibly talk about Garfield, listen to knock-knock jokes, and draw pictures of kittens? But someone has got to do it, and that someone is me. I am in the trenches with recycled bubble wrap and Elmer’s glue. It’s where I need to be. I’ve got to stay flexible, shift gears, and constantly rethink my own mental state if I’m going to preserve my kid’s bright-eyed love of life, her natural exuberance, and her ability to enjoy learning instead of just jumping through the hoops of rote memorization for school.
From the moment Lucy was born, I looked into her eyes and whispered, “I see you.” When I was a kid, that’s all I ever wanted to hear, to know in my heart. I wanted to know that someone saw who I was inside. But instead, my family focused only on practical matters. After I participated in all my activities, and obeyed all the rules, when would anyone ever see who I was, or ask what I’d like, or what I wanted? Would I ever have time just to stare into space and try to figure out exactly what that might be?
Let’s help our kids figure out who they want to be by not eclipsing their fragility with our own overwhelming desire for “success.” They will achieve their own personal bests if we can manage to just get out of their way.”