3BoT Vol. 3: Three Books Every Parent Should Read
Thursday, December 1, 2011Tweet
The first Thursday of every month, I share three related book recommendations with you. You are invited to link up at the end of the post with three recommendations of your own! Click here for more information about Three Books on Thursday.
You may remember that I devoted September to researching and discussing parenting ideas with Mike. These books, however, aren't about specific parenting approaches, like whether you should breastfeed or homeschool or spank your children. These are three books that help parents understand their children in a more complex way than our cultural narratives about parenting usually encourage.
Even though I'm still several years away from becoming a parent, I found each of these books helpful in that they provided me with useful background knowledge before discussing those other, more specific decisions about raising our children. They've helped me remember and understand what it's like to be a child, so I can take that into consideration when deciding how to parent.
We're all familiar with certain milestones children reach, like rolling over, crawling, walking, first words. But there are many, many other developmental milestones, like the first time a child realizes that spreading objects apart doesn't mean there's more of them, or that other people have different thoughts and feelings than they have. The authors point out that we can get caught up in the pressure to show off that our kids are learning and end up focusing on things like memorization rather than on developing complex, creative thinking. (Think about it this way: Who is more likely to end up on a viral video or a talk show: The 3-year-old who has all the American presidents memorized or the 3-year-old who is playing imaginatively?) They argue that if you want to raise smart, inventive children, the best thing you can do is let them play, not cram facts into them.
If there's one thing I learned in my Women and Communication class in college, it's that gender is a social construct, that all the ideas we have about what it means to be male and female come from our culture. Insinuating that some differences might be biologically rooted would cause people to start throwing anecdotes at you of someone they knew who didn't fit that distinction. This author injects some sanity back into the nature vs. nurture debate by consulting the research about what is biologically different, in general, about males and females, and then exploring how that might affect parenting and education. For example, he explains how differences in the makeup of the female eye vs. the male eye make girls more likely to create "acceptable" drawings that are of people and flowers and use many colors, whereas boys are more likely to be discouraged by teachers and parents for only drawing action shots using a single dark color. I don't agree with all of his recommendations (like spanking younger boys or pushing nerdy boys to be more athletic) but I think the research he shares is good information to have.
Although this book was written almost 20 years ago, the core messages are still relevant: 1) Being a teenage girl can be really, really rough, and 2) you probably don't understand the pressures your teenager faces if you're assuming they're the same ones you faced as a teenager. Even though the book is about raising girls, I think it's important for all parents to read; boys face many of the same pressures to have sex and use drugs and alcohol, and it's just as important, if not more, to teach our boys not to sexually harass girls as it is to prepare girls to deal with sexual harassment (not to mention that boys can be sexually harassed as well). The book highlights problems more than it does solutions, but a picture starts to emerge of how to balance acknowledging what's important to your teenager (feeling attractive and accepted) with providing enough structure that they don't flounder in confusion.
What other books would you recommend that parents read? Share your suggestions in comments!
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