Tag Archives: Parenting books

Child, why won’t you go to sleep?

Last week my husband asked me if I had heard an NPR segment about a soon-to-be released book called “Go the F**k to Sleep”. My jaw dropped. What did you say??? There’s a children’s book called that? It turns out it’s not as much a children’s book (phew!) as one for adults of young children who need humor and support when they’re just about to lose their minds.

Go the f**k to sleep by Adam Mansbach

Go the f**k to sleep by Adam Mansbach

My own kids seem to alternate the phases of who will be the one fighting bedtime with tooth and nails. Apparently they don’t want me to completely lose my sanity, so they trade roles every few weeks. You know the bedtime-dragging routine: I want one more book, one more drink, one more rub, one more hug, one more kiss, one more pee. One more kiss, again… It’s flattering to think they want to spend that much time with us every day, but that’s really not their intention.

All parenting books will tell you the same: kids like to test their boundaries and make sure they’re still where you set them the first time. Night after night some kids will test you just to see if you’ve shifted your stand. Ugh, honey, still not. Most nights, this conversation may take place at my house when one of my kids gets out of bed:

“I want one more hug.”
“It’s bedtime, go to sleep, please.”
5 minutes later:
“I don’t want to go to sleep.”
“Go to bed.”
5 more minutes later:
“Are we going to school tomorrow? I don’t want to go to school”.
“Go. To. Bed. Now.”
5 more minutes…
“I lost my <insert favorite cuddly toy>”.
“Argh, enough already!!!”

After three interruptions, I usually threaten my kids to sit in time out in the dark. I’m not sure why they don’t like it, because it’s not any different from laying down in their bed in the dark, but it usually does the trick. Still, the nightly testing is emotionally draining. I don’t want to be mean and rude, but what’s the point of running around the playground and burning calories the whole day if you’re not even tired at night?

Somehow young kids think their parents save all exciting activities for after bedtime. Do they imagine us partying with music and cake, playing with their toys and watching hours of movies? Funny, because most evenings at our house involve putting the dishes away, folding laundry, preparing the next day’s breakfasts and lunches, and keeping up with Facebook and blog updates. I’d trade most of those for sleep myself…

I know this is just a phase and it too will pass. I’m just glad another parent got the nerve to write about this frustrating side of parenthood. Pirate copies of Adam Mansbach’s “Go the F**k to Sleep” have apparently leaked over the internet (YouTube is a good place to look, if you’re curious) and parents are having a hoot reading it. Mansbach warns parents not to read the book to their kids even if they’re frustrated. No kidding. A much better idea would be to save kids a copy for when they’ll become parents themselves. They’ll need all the laughing relief they can get, while we grandparents enjoy a peaceful night at our own home!

If you’ve found a miracle to solving bedtime struggles, please share it here! I could use it.

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Sibling rivalry: what our kids really fight about

My boys, walking side by side. No sibling rivalry here!

My boys, walking side by side. No sibling rivalry here!

Anyone with siblings knows that living with brothers and sisters has its ups and downs. Who else can give you a kiss or a hug, then just a few minutes later pull your hair, kick you, or even worse? As parents, we don’t always get to witness our kids’ quiet, tender moments but we hear the quarrels loud and clear! What the heck are siblings fighting about anyway?

Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman’s must-read book “Nurture Shock” has a whole chapter dedicated to sibling rivalry. As a mother of two young boys, reading these 15 pages has given me a lot of insight and reassurance. Studies show siblings between the ages of 3 and 7 clash an average of 3.5 times per hour. That equals to 10 minutes of arguing every hour – how unproductive! It’s striking to learn that the way siblings interact when they’re little will remain the same in their adulthood (hopefully with less physical fights!). So anything parents can do to encourage positive sibling interactions will have lifetime consequences.

Bronson and Merryman suggest to forget about Freud and his idea that children fight over their parents’ love and attention. Poor Freud, just when I mentioned his Oedipus concept was overblown in my previous post… Well, the famous psychiatrist can roll over in his grave but the data is clear. Less than 10% of sibling fights happen to be over parental affection. As much as we’d like to think our kids worship us, we’re not the center of their arguments. So what do siblings fight about? 75-80% of arguments are about, drumroll please… TOYS!!!

This theory is 100% true at our house! No matter how many toys they have, my boys always want to play with the same one at any given time. This what I get to hear 3.5 times per hour:
“Give me that”
“I want it”
“It’s mine”
“I got it first”
“I was playing with that”
And my favorite,
“Give it back or I’m going to rip your arm off”
This one is my clue to intervene…

Even though individual personalities can shape sibling interactions, the best we can do is to help our kids develop tools for conflict prevention, not just resolution. Bronson and Merryman suggest to help them think of ways to play well together and how to work out conflicts on their own. This is a tough angle for me because my attitude towards any toy conflict is to take the toy away – problem solved! So it’s a learning process for me too – back off and let them figure it out…

Another book I really like on this subject is “Siblings Without Rivalry” by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. These two brilliant ladies, also authors of “How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk”, provide many tools and tips for parents and kids to handle hundreds of situations. Helping kids improve their communications skills will lead to a more peaceful household. Hmm, maybe we should implement such lessons in the workplace…

My boys still have a lot of skills to learn but it’s good for them to start early, one day at a time! When I hear them giggling and laughing, and making up some imaginary play together in peace, I know something’s working.

Have you found tools that work great to solve or avoid sibling conflicts? If so, would you mind sharing?

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Great discipline book for children of all ages

As an avid reader (I go through about one book a week), I like to keep up with my field of expertise (marketing & communications) as well as educate myself on parenting, since I still have plenty to learn on the subject! Since I became a mother almost four years ago, I’ve read dozens of books on child raising, from breastfeeding, to baby development, to nutrition, to medical issues, to parenting, and more and more now, on discipline. By the way, the most complete and easy-to-read reference book for babies from birth to five is Caring for your baby and young child from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

With a two-year old who feels compelled to automatically answer “no” to all questions (except when there’s food involved) and argue about everything, and a four year-old who is still far, far away from the age of reason, I often find myself in intricate situations where I wished I could wave a magic wand and erase all negativity from the air. I’m still looking for that magic wand, but there’s a pretty good book I can recommend to parents with children of all ages (from about 2 to 18).

How to talk so kids will listen and listen so kids will talk

There’s a reason why “How to talk so kids will listen & listen so kids will talk” by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish features 4 & 1/2 stars on Amazon after being reviewed by 240+ people. It is THAT good. Now, don’t get your hopes high yet because understanding and implementing new discipline techniques is a long process, but it’s worthwhile for your children’s well-being and your own sanity. Here’s what I think is the recipe for success in applying the lessons from this book:

1) Read the book more than once:
The content is very dense, and by that, I mean there’s a lot of information to process but it’s a very easy read. After finishing the book, I’m sure I missed a few points or already forgot about some useful strategies. I now need to go back with a highlighter to mark the parts that I’ll put to good use.

2) Complete all of the exercises in this book:
By taking a close look at your issues and becoming conscious of how you currently handle a situation and what you could do instead, you’ll start applying the strategies to your own family more easily.

3) Take notes and focus on the issues you want to address right now:
Don’t decide to tackle every single issue going on at your house. Take the most pressing, most disturbing conflict you have, and arm yourself with a strong partner in this book.

4) Have your partner read it, discuss it together, and roleplay:
If only one parent decides to implement the strategies discussed in this book, it makes it very difficult to be consistent and effective. Even if you share some of the tactics, your partner may not apply them correctly, and if you try to correct him/her, you may face some resistance and criticism, instead of support. So enroll him/her by roleplaying. You actually may have some fun at it! How many times can you repeat, “it’s mine!” with a straight face?

5) Go back to reading the cartoons often:
At first sight, they look corny, but gosh, they’re very useful in remembering the numerous tips!

There are many, many good strategies and tactics discussed in this book, including how to break the cycle from your own parents’ discipline style (if you think their style was inappropriate), how to make your child open up and trust you to discuss many issues, and how to use praise appropriately to empower your children.

I’ll cover the topic of praise in another post when I discuss the book Nurture Shock (another great read!), but Faber and Mazlish explain very well that it’s more important to “describe the child’s good behavior” than to “praise it”. Take the example of a child who consistently forgets to eat with his fork and show a preference for his fingers. You’ve told him time and time again to use silverware but he doesn’t hear you anymore. The next time you encourage him to use his fork and he does it, instead of saying, “I’m so proud of you for using your fork”, actually state, “I see a boy who uses his fork to eat like a little man”. It sounds silly, but leaving it at the observation level makes your kid draw all of the conclusions himself (i.e. mom noticed I used my fork, she must be proud of me), rather than focusing on your own feelings. The point is to help your child make HIMSELF feel good and wanting to continue the good behavior.

I speak from experience when I say that stuff really works, even on little kids (2 or 3 years old). I use this positive reinforcement description tool all of the time. For example, I’ll say “I see two big boys walking nicely on the sidewalk” when they behave as expected, rather than not notice the good behavior and have to correct the infraction if they start running away or acting out. I can see that my noticing their good behavior makes them feel very proud (they grin and start to giggle). It’s a wonderful feeling for me too, and it saves me some stress!

So I hope you have a chance to borrow this book from your local library or a friend, or buy it from your favorite bookstore. When you’re done reading, stop by and let me know what you think. I’d love to have you share some success stories with other parents.

Happy reading!

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