Lawyers are required to get 15 hours of professional training every year, teachers attend workshops on how to become better teachers, all kinds of professions require their practitioners to maintain and improve their skills. Our most important “profession” is parenting, but we must maintain our skills on our own. Most people preparing for their first child read and study about child care and development, but may become complacent after they feel they have the hang of it. Children grow and enter new stages with new challenges, and there are new books based on new ideas and research. It’s just as important to understand how to expertly parent your teenager as it was to know when to expect her to smile and roll over.
I’ve been a mother for 17 years, but I’ve recently read two books about babies and toddlers that had some new ideas I found very helpful. “The Happiest Baby on the Block” (Bantam, 2002) and “The Happiest Toddler on the Block” (Bantam, 2004) are both by Dr. Harvey Karp. His baby book explains the system of the 5 S’s (swaddling, side or stomach position, shhhh-ing, swinging, and sucking) that almost magically calm any crying baby. The toddler book has some great techniques for keeping getting what you want from your toddler from turning into an explosive battle of wills.
I also recommend “Yes, Your Teen is Crazy – loving your kid without losing your mind” by Dr. Michael J. Bradley, (Harbor Press, 2003) which helps parents understand how to respond lovingly to their adolescents’ seemingly inexplicable and maddening behavior. He reminds us that, though teenagers may appear to be young adults, they are far from it. Essential decision-making pathways in their brains are not yet formed, and they need a special kind of understanding and guidance to discover who they really are and learn to make their own good choices.
I didn’t agree with everything in any of these books, but they all helped me. Even reading a parenting book I don’t agree with helps me by focusing me on whether I’m doing the best possible job. I hope you’ll pick up a book and continue your parenting education!