Becoming the Parent You Want to Be: A Sourcebook of Strategies for the First Five Yearsby Laura Davis
Informative, inspiring, and enlightening, Becoming the Parent You Want to Be provides parents with the building blocks they need to discover their own parenting philosophy and develop effective parenting strategies. Through in-depth information, practical suggestions, and many lively first-person stories, the authors address the many dilemmas and joys that the parent of young children encounter and demonstrate a range of solutions to the major issues that arise in the raising of babies, toddlers and preschoolers. Full of warmth, clarity, humor, and respect, Becoming the Parent You Want to Be gives parents permission to be human: to question, to learn, to make mistakes, to struggle and to grow, and, most of all, to have fun with their children.
"Laura Davis and Janis Keyser provide straightforward approaches to the everyday questions and struggles faced by parents, and even answer questions you might have been afraid to ask. They speak respectfully to all types of families, offering insights and tools that really work. A great practical and readable resource. I highly recommend it."
--Mary Sheedy Kurcinka, author of Raising Your Spirited Child
"This unusually thorough book provides today's parents with rich and abundant insights...an enormously helpful resource."
--Polly Berrien Berends, author of Whole Child, Whole Parent; Gently Lead; and Coming to Life
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Read an Excerpt
Helping Children Sleep
"People who say they sleep like a baby usually don't have one."
Laura attended a postpartum yoga class with Eli the first months after he was born. One morning, Carolyn, a new mother, was sharing her frustration about her lack of sleep. "Brooke's up around the clock. We never get any sleep." Three-month-old Brooke was lying innocently in her lap, asleep. "Really," Carolyn insisted. "This is the only time she does this."
Bing, the instructor, asked a few questions about when Brooke slept. With great compassion she asked, "Does she nap ?"
Silence. No answer. All of us held our breath, thinking it was a pretty easy question. We looked from Bing to Carolyn, wondering if Carolyn had heard the question or if she was just too tired to form a reply. She said nothing. The silence grew. Everything was in slow motion. Carolyn looked as if she was pondering one of the great questions of the world. "I don't know," she finally managed, her face quizzical. "Is ten minutes a nap?"
Sleep is a core issue in parenting. It is one of the first areas where we grapple with the reality that there are things about our children that we cannot control. As parents, we can set the stage for relaxation, but we cannot force children to sleep. For many of us, this fact comes as a surprising realization.
There's a range of roles that parents play in getting their children to sleep--on one hand, rocking children, singing to children, cuddling or nursing them until they fall asleep, and on the other, establishing a good-night ritual and then leaving children to find sleep themselves. In most families, there's a gradual shift between parents easing children into sleep and children learning to do it on their own sometime during a child's first five years of life. When that transition occurs and where parents are on the continuum of participation has a lot to do with parents' needs and expectations, their availability, the pressures they're under, their particular child, their perspective on children's independence, and the eventual goals they're working toward.
Sorting out these things is not an easy task, especially in the middle of the night when your thinking may be dulled by a lack of sleep. Even in the light of day, figuring out solutions to sleep problems is not always a clear cut proposition. Parents don't always agree and families' needs vary. Finding comfortable sleep routines and determining the right level of adult participation in children's sleep is an ever-changing process.
What is important for your family's success is that you do what is comfortable for you and what works for your children, not that you use a particular system or another. In some families getting children to sleep through the night in their own bed holds a very high priority. Other parents enjoy an extended nighttime ritual with their child as well as check-ins in the middle of the night. This works as long as both parents and children feel comfortable with the system and are getting the rest they need.
However, even if your family comes up with a sleep solution that works for you, one system probably won't last through your child's whole childhood. What parents are willing to do when their child is three months old, they may feel less willing to do when the child is one or two years old. As the balance of needs shifts in the family, new solutions need to be found.
Families find themselves looking again and again at where children sleep, when they sleep, how they get to sleep, and what to do when children wake up. When your child is sick or has nightmares, when you travel, or when a new sibling is born, sleep patterns change, and you will be faced with these questions anew.
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I was lucky to get this book when I was a new mom and feel even more grateful now that my first is 19 and off. Having kids in an unconventional setting, with no extended family to bounce ideas off, it really did help me think about my ideals, and now I feel like I substantially reached them. The book helped me feel reassurance every time I reached for it, and provided lots of insights. In particular, I have always been grateful for its encouragement to "observe your child," not judgmentally, or with aspirations, but simply to really know this person. I think cultivating this habit, which I might not have stumbled upon otherwise, has been a great factor in the happiness of my two kids, my partner and myself. Nothing else compares with it as a perspective-giver, in my opinion.
I haven't read the book cover to cover, instead I like to look up issues as needed. I like the ideas the book has on how to be a good parent. Everything the authors say is backed up by stories. It is very nicely written. I really like reading this book and everything it talks about is in a kind voice not a "NEVER do this, ALWAYS do that" voice. They offer suggestions to build on what already works for you.
The authors have done an excellent job describing and explaining early childhood! Each time I have come to this book looking for help & information, I have been impressed with the respectful solutions to problems and the positive approach to raising children. Intelligent and warm--a must-have book for parents of young children.
Some of the research is out of date. For example, it is not helpful to hit pillows and objects when one is angry, because it promotes and escalates anger rather than dissipating it. Over and over, the book claims this to be a help for caregivers and for children. Not so, research has shown! Also, I feel that there are too many personal examples from the author about her own child, and I expect to hear from a variety of families. I feel like I know too much about the author and her family. I feel like this book is designed to help people feel normal, but a lot of the examples are disturbing. A parent is still dressing his four-year-old child and doesn't understand why the child reacts and insists on dressing himself. Another ignores her kids and was unavailable during a period of grief, and I don't feel comforted by these ideas or examples. You can't just 'check out' as a parent because you're hurting or keep the child from independence as long as possible. The book seems to say that any background or challenge is okay, and I just don't think all behaviors can or should be normalized.