Friday, September 28, 2007

Birth & Parenting Books

[By request of several pregnant or hopeful friends, we interrupt this regularly scheduled knitting blog to bring you a public service entry]
Hello! This is (once again, I suppose) not a typical blog about knitting, but folks keep asking me so I thought I'd put this here so that people could find it. These are the books that Eric and I have found helpful so far in our parenting experience.

England, Pam: Birthing From Within
Gaskin, Ina May: Ina May's Guide to Childbirth
Taylor, Catherine: Giving Birth (though this was more fun-reading, rather than fact-finding)
Brott, Armin: The Expectant Father
NOT any of the What to Expect books. Didn't like them at all. Period. Anathema sit.

La Leche League International: Womanly Art of Breastfeeding

There are other good ones, but just as a starter, I found this helpful both in planning to nurse and when I was looking for help about various topics. Also, if you want to breastfeed, go to a LLL meeting or other breastfeeding support group before the baby is born, as well as after.

Parenting / Discipline
Sears, William & Martha: The Baby Book
Kabat-Zinn, Jon: Everyday Blessings
Sears, William & Martha: The Discipline Book
Faber & Mazlish: How to Talk so your Kids will Listen and Listen so your Kids will Talk
Cohen, Lawrence: Playful Parenting
Neufeld, Gordon: Hold on to Your Kids

The Baby Book was essential right from the beginning, even during pregnancy. Once Sweetie hit about 2yrs, and really, really needed good discipline, I found that Playful Parenting was good for concrete ideas and Hold on to Your Kids was good for parenting and discipline philosophy. Hold on to Your Kids was also really helpful when I was in MN with the teens in my life.

[Eric adding a few thoughts here] Anabel and I have been talking and it feels like there is something else about our parenting that is very central to our success thus far. This isn't something that we learned in books but it is very important. We disciple our children much more assertively than almost all of the other parents that we know. Now let me add to this by letting you all know that we are not usually anal, strict, or uptight people. Generally, we are referred to as soft, gentle, and laid back. For those of you that know anything about the MBTI we are INFPs. As a friend once said this means that we "go around feeeeeling" all the time. For those of you who know the Enneagram, we are both 9s who are referred to as peace makers who go with the flow of others around them. But when it comes to disciplining our children we are firm. We expect "please" and "thank you". We see any kind of violence from our child as a call to immediate and definitive response that the child cannot mistake. We insist on table manners, sitting at the table (in a lap if necessary) until others are done, and we insist that our child treat others respectfully.

When following through on this discipline track we try as much as possible to follow attachment parenting. So, we try not to punish, but we do stop the child. We try not to scold so much as to explain (both what happened that is not acceptable behavior and also why). We have both sat in the middle of a store with our daughter on our lap trying to get eye contact letting others steer their carts around us. We wait with her, talking with her until she is ready to do the behavior that is polite, respectful, decent, and effective. The result of this is that our daughter listens to us much more than many of the other children listen to their parents. You will not catch us doing one of these, "Sweetie don't do that. No, stop that. Don't do that. Sweetie, please don't do that it isn't nice. I don't like it when you do that. No, please stop." If we get to the second sentence we're already on the way toward her to stop the behavior ourselves. There is no third sentence. If she didn't hear us the first two times we stop her by getting down on her level, holding her body and her attention. Most times, now she is listening at that point, we can repeat ourselves and our expectations and she will follow through. Sometimes, this turns into a together-time-out where we sit until she is ready to hear. It is tiring, but is has great payoff.

Embedded in the way that we wait until she is ready to hear what we have to say, we are also trying to be respectful of her. We are listening, trying to find compromises where possible. Often we use play as a way of motivating her, or of keeping her in good behavior. The best example that I have of this is our current bedtime routine. Right now, I put Sophia to bed most nights. Bedtime routine starts with her picking a "ride" to the bathroom. These "rides" might be me dragging her across the floor slowly while she lets her arms flop behind her, a traditional piggy-back ride, or being chased by the kissing monster. Once we get to the bathroom she picks a game to play during the bedtime routine. Her two favorites right now are the "Runaway game" and the "Wrestling game". In the runaway game she runs away after each of the aspects of bedtime prep such as taking off her clothes, getting on a night gown, or going potty. She might over dramatize this running away by telling me, "I'm going to runaway" and I will say "No, come back!" Then she giggles and runs away as I chase her (or maybe get delayed putting toothpaste on her toothbrush). When I catch up to her, she is often behind a piece of furniture or in Anabel's arms. I pull her away using melodramatic grunts and groans. If she struggles too much, I might say, "Okay, its time to come along now" in a non-play tone. She almost always acquiesces instantly then because she has learned that not playing the runaway game by the rules means we have to stop the game. Once we get to the tooth brushing she picks a tooth brushing game. Right now, this is usually that the tooth brush is someone or something looking for something in a fantastic location (her mouth) and whatever it is is always found last as I brush her tongue. I narrate the imaginary search across her molars, get lost while brushing across her incisors, find clues in her cheeks, and get back on track as I bush over all of her teeth one last time before brushing the roof of her mouth and finally her tongue. Searching for these ways to play with her into the things that need to be done has decreased confrontation, opened conversation, activated her imagination, and generally created a lot of fun for all of us.

As a final note, this really works for us because we both do it. I asked Anabel which of us is more authoritative or permissive. Her response was, that depends on which of us has had the most sleep. We trade off if we're together and frustrated. Last night our daughter woke cranky and in pain and we traded off about 4 times during the ordeal to decrease the level tension. Though I'm gone now nearly 70 hours a week (that ends Dec 7th, yeah!), Anabel still gets 3 times away from the house a week to recharge her batteries. That is 2, 3-hour periods away and one additional 1 hour during the week (this last one will increase to several hours after Dec. 7th). I also have happy-fun time away.

[And now back to your regularly scheduled knitting]

Eric and Anabel, thank you for your parenting insight. It was an interesting read and very inspiring. Sophia is an extraodinary child and you should be very proud. I am looking forward to being blessed with my own child some day.
All I can say is what you're doing is obviously working. Sofia is well behaved but she's not a robot - and she's so much fun! She can sit next to me and tell me about her squirrel farm that's within walking distance any time.
Some day we'll have to talk Enneagram. I've studied extensively with Don Riso and Russ Hudson. I'm an ENFP/Type 3 with a strong 2 Wing. It's been a while since I've gotten to hang out with other Ennea-folk...
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