Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Book Review: Stop Reacting and Start Responding

"Where is my mind?" ~ The Pixies

Isn't it great how when you decide to implement some new parenting tactics your children present the very challenges you need to test them out? That was sarcasm, by the way. I feel like I'm losing my mind lately, what with Q's antics seemingly getting worse by the moment and my exhaustion from being tied to a newborn 24/7. Forget that new love, Jody Watley. I'm lookin' for a new mind, baby, a new mind.


A new parenting book crossed my path and I thought it was worth a review. Stop Reacting and Start Responding: 108 Ways to Discipline Consciously and Become the Parent You Want to Be was written by parent educator and mother of two Sharon Silver, and hey, I'm all about becoming the parent I want to be! I found it refreshing that she admits her book includes some familiar parenting tips, but she gives a fresh perspective and re-frames them in a way that is easily accessible. And don't we busy parent folk all need some easy access when we've reached the very limits of our patience? I know that's where T and I have been lately. The book is divided into 15 thematic chapters around various issues that may arise, from "Frustration" to "Out in Public" to "Travel," with each of the 108 tips arranged accordingly within said chapters. Each tip also has a "Quick View" section at the end that summarizes the tip for -- you guessed it -- quick viewing. You can flip easily to a section and -- bam -- super simple referencing. Which is especially great for T who isn't a big reader (let's just say the last piece of literature he dove into was a Fantasy Football magazine).

Silver addresses her advice to parents of children who range in age from 1 to 10, and I found a great deal of helpful tips throughout for our almost 3 year old. There were definitely a few that I skimmed over since I didn't find them relevant to his maturity level or what we've been experiencing. Fortunately the author does specify younger vs. older children for certain tips. One of my favorites is #53. Mistakes ~ Tender Teaching which addresses how we can respond as parents to younger children who make mistakes and need to learn the right way to behave, which is oh so relevant to us right now. She helped me to realize that yelling about what Q shouldn't have done doesn't accomplish much -- it's much more effective to talk about what he should have done instead. And to use smaller words that he'll understand, which, hello, makes so much sense. He's only semi-verbal at this point, and when upset even less so.

I'm also looking forward to implementing tip #61."Freeze" ~ It's Not a Game Anymore that suggests using the word "freeze" in dangerous situations when you need your wild child to stop. Q has had a couple of close encounters with cars on the street and running after him with Z in her sling is no easy feat. So we played freeze dance for the first time the other day, as suggested by Silver, and now he understands what freeze means. Next time we play I'll tell him that "freeze" also works when mommy or daddy need him to make still like a popsicle to avoid danger.

But there were a couple of tips that I had a hard time making sense of. The suggestion to take a picture of your child when he's behaving well and one when he's behaving poorly to reference later, with the example of one when he's playing nicely with his sister and one when he's hitting his sister, seemed a bit crazy. Would I run to get my camera when Q is going all Rocky on Z? Um, no. And of course Q has been on a hitting streak lately. I searched through the book for something specific about hitting and didn't come up with much. I suppose some of her more general advice about focusing on what he should do instead could work to curb the slugfests, but I would have appreciated something more specific.

Overall, I found this book very helpful. I think I can continue to reference it for many years to come. I like that she speaks in simple terms, like she's a good friend sharing her wisdom with you over the phone. And like one should when receiving advice from a friend, you take what applies to you and your family and make it work. It also made me feel better to read that she doesn't think parents who feel they need some coaching are bad parents -- in fact they are great parents for wanting to be better.

I know I beat myself up a little too often regarding my parenting skills. But just like Q is learning how to behave in this crazy world, I'm learning how to be a mom every day. Z will be a toddler before we know it and I'm hoping to be a bit more prepared. This mom gig is my most important work and I want to study my craft. I want to be better. Hopefully Q and Z will want to be better, too.

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