Trends in parenting styles come and go, but the essentials remain the same–you want to raise your child in a loving, positive home and teach them to be independent, smart and, above all else, happy. The five books below have been making waves in the media, garnering attention from Salon.com, Parents and Time.com, among many others. Below are these essential reads in a nutshell – and a useful tip/tool/trick from each!
THE DANISH WAY OF PARENTING
For more than 40 years, Denmark has been voted as having the happiest people in the world by the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development). But what is the secret to this staggering success and how can parents of other cultures take a page from Denmark and raise their kids to be happy adults?
Written by an American columnist and mother who lives in Europe with her Danish husband and kids and a licensed psychotherapist from Copenhagen, The Danish Way of Parenting reveals how the Danes do it. Here’s one essential tip:
Reframing: Danes, on the whole, use less limiting language and don’t tell children how they are or what they think they should do or feel in different situations. You don’t hear a lot of adult opinions being placed on children. “Don’t cry.” “You should be happy!” Instead, they focus more on using supporting language, which leads children to understand the reasons for their emotions and actions. Help your children by using supporting language rather than limiting language. Ask questions to help them identify their emotions behind the actions (“You look like something is wrong–is there?” “Are you sad, angry, happy?” “Why do you feel that way?”). Help them identify their intentions and the intentions of others so they can understand how to lead themselves out of tough situations.
WHAT GREAT PARENTS DO
Defining what makes a “great” parent is a complicated feat, but psychologist and parenting expert Erica Reischer, PhD, can tell you what great parents do. In her book, she compiles 75 things that she’s seen the best parents do. These span the gambit from “great parents start with empathy” to “great parents know they aren’t perfect.” But perhaps one of the most important things a parent can do right now is:
Accept their child as they are: Accepting your kids as they are is not the same as loving them. Many parents who love their kids may also shame or reject them for liking, wanting, or thinking things that the parents find intolerable. The term, “acceptance,” includes love, but it is even more difficult than love. You might call it unconditional love. This is an especially crucial element to positive parenting–now, perhaps, more than ever.
THE ME, ME, ME EPIDEMIC
Do you remember the days when you’d play soccer, and only one team would win and receive trophies? With the current emphasis on making all children feel special regardless of the circumstances, it begs the question: are parents indulging their children and building a “Me, Me, Me” generation rather than empowering their kids? Parenting expert Amy McCready fears this is the case and offers tools and solutions in The Me, Me, Me Epidemic. One of her most helpful nuggets of advice:
Remember: Your children are not helpless. If you’re like most parents, you likely walk a tight rope every day. Is it okay to straighten your kids’ rooms every so often before company comes? Or walk your tenth grader through her economics assignment? When is it helpful to help, and when do you cross the line and become an enabler? The next time your child forget’s their lunch at home, before you rush to drop it off at school, stop and think: If you stop and deliver lunch, how will that help them to remember it and be responsible in the future? Your child is not helpless, and when you let them figure it out on their own, they will gain confidence and a sense of independence.
The word, “dharma,” comes from the Sansrkit verb dhri, which means to “uphold” or “support,” and according to Dr. Robert Keith Wallace and neuroscientist Dr. Frederick Travis, these principles can be even more important than tools and exercises when it comes to parenting.
As they write in their book Dharma Parenting, the most important aspects of parenting are often attention and appreciation. Reinforce your children’s positive emotions and behavior, especially when you’re doing things with them, because attention without appreciation is negative attention. Negative attention is critical and constraining: “Stop doing that! You’re just making a mess.” “Why are you trying that? Can’t you see it won’t work?” “Why can’t you get better grades? You’re just being lazy.” Comments like these hurt. They undercut self-esteem and inhibit creativity and curiosity. Instead, appreciate your child’s efforts by letting them know that you understand how hard school is for them. Give them attention by helping them figure out their homework and encouraging them.
FINDING CALM FOR THE EXPECTANT MOM
Some of the best parenting advice isn’t guidance for parents on how they can discipline or direct their children. Rather, it’s advice for mom on how she can manage her own stress and emotional journey. It’s natural for moms-to-be and new mothers to feel overwhelmed rather than magical, anxious rather than blessed by the new addition to their lives. In Finding Calm for the Expectant Mom, Dr. Alice Domar reminds women that their emotional health is just as important as their physical health and can also impact their baby. Therefore, moms need to remember: It’s okay to rely on others.
Many women receive an outpouring of offers to help when they have a baby. And a partner is your closest confidant–don’t forget that he/she wants to help! They may do everything differently from you, and that’s OK. Don’t be the know-it-all and correct their every effort. It’s natural to feel overly protective and spend all your energy on your new baby, but it’s important to share the responsibility. It can feel as if the whole world revolves around your baby (and for a time it does), but you need to be back in the world yourself and see friends and engage in the activities you enjoyed before baby. It’s important for your mental and emotional health as a mother – and will help you be even more present for your baby.