Monday, December 31st, 2012
Whenever I got down about parenting this year–i.e. when my 5-year-old only wanted Daddy to put him to bed and my 7-year-olds started painting their own nails (and the dog’s)–I turned to advice books for advice and wisdom.
Luckily, there were so many authors with witty, strong and fun opinions. The following parenting titles made me sure of a few things. First, I’m not a bad parent–and neither are you, Jenny Lawson. Second, it’s super easy to do better without stressing out–thank you Heather Shumaker. Plus, who doesn’t want to have a whole lot more fun? Below, see my picks for the best parenting books of 2012.
Let’s Pretend This Never Happened
by Jenny Lawson
Whatever problems your family has, author Jenny Lawson can probably top them. Her hilarious memoir takes you from her raucous, offbeat and bloody childhood to her attached-by-a-marriage-document relationship with her long-suffering husband named Victor. She overcomes a life-threatening pregnancy, a fight over a metal chicken and the zombie apocalypse with messed up insight that totally and completely enlightened me.
Favorite line: “When Hailey was born my first thought was that I needed a drink and that hospitals should have bars in them.”
It’s Okay Not to Share
by Heather Shumaker
This book makes it okay–even preferable–to invite my friends with kids over for dinner and totally ignore the munchkins. So what if they argue over a toy? As long as no one is getting hurt, they’ll work it out more efficiently on their own. And what if my daughter doesn’t like the girl who keeps asking her for a playdate? That’s okay. Adults don’t like everyone we meet, so why should little kids? All we really have to do is be polite, nice and compassionate. I love the no-nonsense advice for parenting in today’s overprotective, helicopter world. Shumaker untangles tightwad adult rules and makes perfect sense.
Favorite idea: Kids don’t have to say, ‘Sorry.’ Overuse of the word is a cop-out and has no meaning. Instead, children should take action to set things right.
by Joshua Glenn and Elizabeth Foy Larsen
This book makes a great case for saving yourself some serious money and not buying your kid a Wii. Even if you, like me, already caved on that one, you’ll still love Unbored. It’s filled with activities that you’ll really want to do with your kids. For my little kids, I liked making the no-sew stuffed animal and becoming a yarn bomber. But this book is great for tweens, too. It even has a section on how to “Train Your Grownup to Let You Go Solo.”
Favorite chapter: “Train Your Grownup to Curse without Cursing”
What were your favorite parenting books this year?
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Wednesday, October 31st, 2012
Scared to read a spooky story to your kids? Don’t be! Heather Shumaker, author of the brilliant book It’s Okay Not To Share explains why monsters and not-so-happy endings are good for kids. Thanks, Heather, for this great guest post:
Last week we checked the Legend of Sleepy Hollow out of the library. I realized my kids didn’t know the story, and the spooky Headless Horseman is so captivating that I was eager to share this American classic.
On the drive home, my four-year-old looked at the pictures while I retold the story aloud. Midway through, I stopped. How did this version end? When the sinister Horseman hurls the pumpkin, does Ichabod Crane still die? The original story has a dire end: all that’s left is poor Ichabod’s hat. Did this picture book version change things to protect kids and “pretty up” the ending?
Kids need monsters, bad guys and sad endings in their books. Not every story should end with the hero dying, of course, but those that do are especially powerful. When the fox snaps up the Gingerbread Boy, it’s fascinating to kids. And realistic. The natural behavior of the fox is to eat its prey. The story doesn’t shield kids from the consequence of foolishness.
Trolls and ogres persist because they have a rightful place. First, storybook monsters make the story exciting–hugely important for kids to gain a love of reading. They also present a powerful obstacle. The troll under the bridge in the Three Billy Goats Gruff is a worthy adversary. Kids learn that tough, scary trolls may bar the way, but even trolls can be overcome with perseverance and cleverness.
Kids have all sorts of monsters to face in real life – from monsters under the bed to challenges and fears as they grow. For some fears come in the form of big dogs, school or thunderstorms. At this time of year, Halloween masks and costumes may scare young kids (even if the outfit is a cheerful clown suit). These fears are legitimate and intensely real. Exposing kids to scary pictures or movies can make fears worse—visual images are so intense—but telling stories can help. Stories with monsters frequently depict a brave hero who soldiers on through all difficulties–modeling traits of persistence and the courage to confront fears.
Stories are a safe way for children to grapple with fears, understand the world and explore morals and emotions. Hearing sad stories (Charlotte’s Web, Old Yeller, The Red Balloon) touches our hearts, builds empathy, and makes us all more deeply human. Bad endings help us understand the world. They teach resilience. It’s good for kids to learn that misfortune is part of life, that problems are normal and happen to everyone, and that sometimes things don’t work out the way you want them to.
So this Halloween, embrace those monsters. Read a story or two which doesn’t end happily ever after. And let imaginations take off when they hear about Ichabod Crane’s hat and the end of his wild ride.
What were your favorite non-happy ending stories? Would you change those endings for your kids now?
Heather Shumaker is the author of It’s OK Not to Share…And Other Renegade Rules for Raising Competent and Compassionate Kids . She blogs about writing and renegade parenting at Starlighting Mama.
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Wednesday, August 8th, 2012
Is it the 1980s again? I almost thought so after reading the new parenting book called It’s Okay Not to Share by journalist Heather Shumaker. I mean this in a good way.
While sometimes the advice reminded me of Roseanne Barr’s best lines, mostly I thought this new book was brilliant. Shumaker has guts. She’s not afraid to write what most of us are secretly thinking. For example, recently a mom lectured my son about sharing his pirate ship during a playdate. I had the itch to say, ‘Actually, I wouldn’t share my Coach purse with you, so why would my son want to give his toy to your 3-year-old?’ I’ve always wondered why we push this sharing thing on young kids when we adults don’t swap GAP shirts and car keys.
So here are my favorite “renegade rules for raising competent and compassionate kids” from the book. This was good stuff–some of it made me scratch my hair and go, ‘whoa!’
1. My youngest is headed to kindergarten in a month, and all summer long, I’ve been asking my husband, “Is he ready?” This child has a late summer birthday, often pees his pants and doesn’t know the letter J. Shumaker’s book tells me to get over myself. She writes, “Should we teach you [parents] to get ready for old age?” Of course not. So why are we worried about how “ready” our kids are all the time? “Don’t rush kids into academic learning until they’re six or seven. It’s a waste of their precious time.” Instead, she emphasizes that my son needs to play. I know he would agree. (more…)
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