Tag Archives: parenting

1-2-3 Magic by Thomas Phelan

9781492629887by Thomas Phelan
Overall: 4 out of 5 stars

This parenting book shows a discipline strategy of counting a child’s misbehaviors (Stop Behaviors, or things you want them to stop doing, such as hitting their sibling or throwing a tantrum) until you get to three and then giving the child a break (or timeout, if you prefer). You count without emotion, and without extra talking or explanations of why you’re counting or what the kid did wrong. The break time is supposed to get them to calm down, not be a punishment, per se, which is how they tend to get misused, he explains. The flip side to this is Start Behaviors, or times when you want the kid to start doing something (putting on their shoes, doing their homework), and he offers some tactics for that, but specifically you are NOT supposed to do the counting for Start behaviors.

I read this for a (short-lived) childcare job at the suggestion of the parents who were already using it, so some of the information on how to introduce it to your child didn’t apply, but it was still well laid out and well explained. I also appreciated that they didn’t just go through the best case scenario but also potential unexpected responses from the child. He also shows three different ways to handle the same situation (one bad, one better, and one best), which was helpful for clarifying. One situation he didn’t go much into, but which would have been helpful in my situation, was actually how to handle more than one child at once, especially more than one behavioral situation at once.

A few caveats: I came into a pandemic confinement situation, which exacerbated all of the behavior issues, plus this family of 3 kids was on the verge of adding #4, among other challenges, so there was a lottttt going on. I also think I overdid it on the discipline side and did not have enough positive experiences with the kids to balance it out (Phelan does talk about the importance of creating bonding times with your kids, which I didn’t really get to do).

I will say that once or twice, when I was able to count without emotion and just walk away (which is SO HARD!), it worked exactly like the book said (“Whyyyyy?…. Aw, man” and stopped). I have a feeling that with enough repetition and in a different situation, this might have worked really well. It requires a LOT of work and self-control on the adults’ part, depending on how short a fuse you have (mine is pretty short, apparently!).

Mamaleh Knows Best by Marjorie Ingall

9780804141413by Marjorie Ingall
Overall: 5 out of 5 stars

Generally my coworker, who is herself already a Jewish mother, tries to dissuade me from reading parenting books, especially since I do not yet have children. And generally I disregard her because, not only do I need to know what’s out there to advise patrons, but I also enjoy storing up tidbits for someday. This book I enjoyed so much that I am actually recommending it to her!

Ingall’s writing is funny and confident, though her premise seems to be based more on her own observations and ponderings than on any studies about what is “actually” recommended. She draws heavily on her experiences of attending Jewish Day School and raising her two daughters, who are now teenagers, and draws conclusions I had never thought of about how certain aspects of parenting are rooted in Judaism.

Such conclusions include: teaching independence (and therefore rejoicing when your child challenges authority), telling stories, asking questions, and modeling tikkun olam. I realized in reading this that these are some of my foundational memories of how my mother raised me, and what I feel strongly about instilling in my own children. They also happen to overlap with traits my partner does not possess in spades and make me a bit hesitant about how our future children will be raised. But Ingall claims that children with only one Jewish parent are more likely to identify as Jewish if that parent is a mother, so I feel good about our odds of success in raising Jewish kids. (And it reinforces that Judaism is a matrilineal religion – a practice that has been controversial due to its non-inclusivity to people whose fathers were Jewish and identify strongly as Jewish. But I digress.)

Most importantly, Ingall does not claim that only Jewish kids are capable of being raised this way, nor are they genetically predisposed to end up with these traits. The purpose of this book is that lessons from Judaism can be very easily picked up by non-Jews, and to explain why Jewish people, though very small percentages of nearly any population, excel and thrive.

The Explosive Child by Ross W. Greene


by Ross W. Greene
Overall: 4 out of 5 stars

Why would a children’s librarian with no children of her own read parenting books? I’m so glad you asked! Not only do I get asked for recommendations (happened just tonight, and I recommended this very book which I just finished), but also sometimes the situations addressed occur in our storytimes and programs. In fact, I’ve got a kiddo in one of my storytimes that I was thinking about the whole time I was reading this book. Some of the information can even be applied to adults I know, or be filed away for use with my own future kids. Of course, in the library, I can’t really implement Greene’s strategies without a caregiver’s consent; but even if I could, it wouldn’t be nearly as effective as it would with his compliance as the solution works best when it involves other adults in the child’s life.

Greene advocates what he calls Collaborative Problem Solving to address “explosions”. He explains that many parents rely on what he calls “Plan A,” or just sheer authority (“do what I say”) which usually results in a meltdown that seems to come out of nowhere, be willful and manipulative on the child’s part, and lasts for a long time (in some cases, hours). This, he argues, does not allow the child’s needs to be met or even, in most cases, be heard. In attempting to choose battles, some parents choose “Plan C” where they don’t address the issue at all, in which case their own needs are not being met. A happy medium, he says, is Plan B, or Collaborative Problem Solving.

Plan B can be implemented in the moment of a meltdown, but is most effective when brought up in a calm moment before the meltdown occurs. It requires the adult (parent, teacher, caregiver… librarian?) to identify the event that appears to set off the meltdown and use that as a jumping off point for a conversation with the child that allows the child to express whatever their frustration with that situation is. Sometimes this takes a little digging, and sometimes multiple sessions, before the child is able to both trust that the adult wants to hear and they’re able to articulate it. Greene argues that often the underlying issue is that there is a skill required for the task that the child doesn’t yet have, and in the frustration occurs the meltdown.

Greene gives many, many examples and is quite thorough. I recommend this book as one way to think about approaching temper tantrums with the child in your life – maybe not as the be-all end-all, but food for thought.