Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Simplify Your Childrearing

Trees Make the Best Mobiles: Simple Ways to Raise Your Child in a Complex World, by Jessica Teich and Brandel France De Bravo

I like the basic premise of this parenting book a lot: you don't need a lot of complicated stuff to raise happy kids (basically the same idea behind "Confessions of a Slacker Mom", which I gleefully maligned here). What kids really need, this book repeatedly informs us, is you; your attention, your consistency, and plenty of opportunities for free play, reading, etc. There are short 2-3 page essays on all kinds of different topics, like "Octopus Mom: Setting Priorities and Simplifying Your Llife", "Mind Over Manners: Etiquette", and "It's My Party and I'll Cry if I Want To: Temper Tantrums".

Most of the suggestions are rather liberal, and pretty much in line with basic Attachment Parenting ideas. The preface clearly states that "Our book advises you to do less, listen more, speak directly to your newborn, involve your infant in her own care, and treat this mewling creature with the same respect you treat your partner, and yourself."

For a new parent, this might be a good common-sense introduction, and the lessons are all easily absorbed from the short, well-written essays. There is no index, though, and the chapter titles are sometimes ambiguous, so a frantic mother can't look up "tantrums" and then turn to see if her daughter's behavior is normal and if she is responding in a kind, gentle, yet appropriate disciplinary manner.

Some of the authors' pronouncements did strike me as a bit over the top and decidedly humorless. For instance:

Think of every activity as a chance to slow down down, to fill the moment with your concentration and care. Even changing a diaper can become - dare we say it? - pleasureable. It's a moment to connect with your child...Don't use toys or a mobile to distract your newborn. Your eye contact is more compelling than any rattle. Think of diapering as an activity you engage in together, and tell him so..."

Pfft. Tell that to the mom changing her five hundredth diaper of the month, the blowout that shot up her son's back and soaked through all his clothes. Personally, I found distraction with toys a wonderful technique for making diaper changes enjoyable, at least when my son didn't stick the toy straight into his poop.

But perhaps my kids just aren't the quiet, understanding type, happier lying on their back looking at the beauty of the natural world than being stuck in an evil mechanical swing or bouncy seat. I do know that my kids would react very badly to some of the authors' suggestions for dealing with tantrums. I'd say if you don't have a "spirited child", then the techniques described here have a much better chance of working well for you.

Furthermore, I'm not sure that I'm a true believer in Teich and De Bravo's assertion that "The natural grace and decency of children will often carry the day, if we trust them to behave appropriately", especially after observing the 1st-4th grade kids on the playground at my son's school. I'm guessing Teich & De Bravo are not big "Lord of the Flies" fans. Me, I do have a glass half empty mentality, but those that tend to consistently (and somewhat uncritically) see the sunny side of things might find this book just what they need to simply parent.

1 comment:

Heels said...

The Official Interview!

1. What childhood book influenced you the most and why?

2. You may change one historically significant event in one way only. What will you change, and why?

3. Who was your favorite teacher and have you adopted any of the traits you admired in that person as your own?

4. Who's on your top 10 list?

5. Dead People Dinner Party: you may invite 5 other people. Who and why?

Want to play?The Official Interview Game Rules:
1. If you want to participate, leave a comment below asking to be interviewed.
2. I will respond by asking you five questions - each person's will be different.
3. You will update your journal/blog with the answers to the questions.
4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview others in the same post.
5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.