Parenting books

Leman, Kevin.  Have a new kid by Friday: how to change your child’s attitude, behavior & character in 5 days

Ricker, Audrey.  Whining: three steps to stopping it before the tears and tantrums start

Dobson, James C.   The strong-willed child: birth through adolescence

Frost, Jo. Supernanny: how to get the best from your children

Runkel, Hal Edward.  Screamfree parenting: raising your kids by keeping your cool

Severe, Sal. How to behave so your children will, too!

Nelsen, Jane. Positive discipline

Bailey, Rebecca Anne. Easy to love, difficult to discipline: the seven basic skills for turning conflict into cooperation

Baker, Jed. No more meltdowns: positive strategies for managing and preventing out-of-control behavior

Swedo, Susan. Is it “just a phase”: how to tell common childhood phases from more serious problems

Greene, Ross W.  The explosive child: a new approach for understanding and parenting easily frustrated, chronically inflexible children

Smith, Karen A.  The sensory-sensitive child: practical solutions for out-of-bounds behavior

Kurcinka, Mary Sheedy.  Raising your spirited child : a guide for parents whose child is more intense, sensitive, perceptive, persistent, energetic

Getting kids to read.

I know too many people who let their children decide what they are going to read or if they are going to read. This is the same as letting them decide what they are going to eat. No child is going to make good choices. They are going to go for the comic books and the candy. That is why you are their parent. You are there to direct and guide them.

Just like a potter with a lump of clay, the potter shapes it and molds it until it is tall enough and strong enough that it will be useful. It has to be shaped in such a way that it can endure the heat of the kiln and the wear and tear of use.

Children have to be shaped so that they can be strong too. They need to be shaped so that that are good people and helpful and kind. They need to be shaped so that they can survive out in the world and not crack.

So in the same way that you wouldn’t let a child pick out all of his food when he is only going to go for cake and chips, you can’t let him pick out his books when he is only picking out what is essentially junk food for the mind.

Now we all need a little junk food reading every now and then. It is important to let kids have some control over what they select. They need to learn that reading is a pleasure and not a punishment. They need to feel that it is fun and not work. But a solid diet of junk food results in a sick body. A solid diet of junk food reading results in a sick mind.

If you let children have total control that is the same as the potter letting the clay have control. They will be an unformed lump at best. They will be spread all over the place at worst.

Don’t know what to recommend to your child? Go to your local library and ask a librarian. They are there to help. You don’t have to do this on your own, but you do have to do this. The mind you save will be your child’s. The world you will save will be your own.


All people want to be noticed and loved. All people want to have their needs met. This is especially true in children. They are helpless to help themselves in many situations. They have not been taught how to take care of themselves, so when they wear out they tend to lose that thin veneer of calm.

I was making a cart of books in the workroom the other day and I heard a loud wail. It sounded like some child was very upset. It kind of sounded like a child was being harmed in a permanent kind of way. I waited a little bit and wondered what was going on. Surely the parents would come soon. The voice sounded like it was coming from a small child – too small to be in the library by herself. The wail continued. There was no Doppler effect – the child was staying in one place. So she wasn’t running around trying to get either to or from parents. So she would be easy to locate. Why weren’t the parents doing anything? Why wasn’t a person-in-charge (the manager on duty) doing anything?

So I did something. I had no idea what was going on, but I had to do something. This child sounded like she was in killed by this point. I was pretty sure she wasn’t, but I wasn’t going to take any chances. Generally people don’t do such insane things in public spaces. If nothing else, she was definitely disturbing the other patrons. She was certainly disturbing me. So something had to be done – and since nobody in charge (parents or staff) was going, it was time for me to do it.

I went to the low wall that surrounds the children’s area. It is like a little fortress. I looked over and saw the child lying on her back, waving her feet and arms. The chair was upright – so she hadn’t fallen out of it and hit her head. I called out to her “What is wrong?” I said it in a sing-song voice. Sometimes that alone is enough to break the spell of the meltdown. I got nothing out of this. Then I looked nearby. What looked like her grandmother was sitting across from her, hands in her lap. She smiled at me, like this is normal, like she can’t do anything about it. I looked next to the grandmother and what looked like the child’s Mom was there. Same body language. They didn’t look like this was a total surprise. But they also didn’t seem to want to do anything about it.

Their child is their responsibility. Her well being is their job. If she is wailing like that, something is wrong. Their first concern should be to soothe her. The second concern should be the fact that she is being very loud and disturbing in a public place, and most especially a library. Being loud just isn’t what you do. If they fixed the first issue, the second issue would sort itself out. But they were doing nothing.

So I did. I went around the low wall and went up to her. I crouched down next to her and just started talking to her. She looked like she was about 2. I could tell from looking in her eyes she was very tired. It was around 4 that all of this was happening. I’m willing to bet these clueless guardians hadn’t thought to let her have a nap. Children can only handle so much. They aren’t short adults. They need more rest. They don’t know how to take care of themselves. That is why they have guardians – who are supposed to help them. These two were less than useless.

Even if you don’t know what is going on, at least pick your child up and hold her. Even if you don’t know what is going on, start with the basics. Give her some water or food (NOT sugar). Talk with her and ask her what is going on.

Sometimes children are so worn out that they can’t tell you what is wrong. They know something is, but they can’t figure it out. They are too young to know what the problem is. They just know they don’t feel well and the situation is getting worse. They yell and scream as a way to ask for help. In theory, the parent should be self-aware enough to prevent this from happening by ensuring the child has enough rest and exercise and water and healthy food.

A child who is “acting out” isn’t a bad child. It is a sign of a parent who doesn’t know how to take care of a child. Sometimes it is because that parent was in turn raised by bad parents. How can you learn how to take care of another person when you were raised by selfish people?

While I was talking to her, her mom and grandmother just stared. They didn’t intervene. I wear a name tag, but I’m not an expert. But something had to be done. I talked to this little girl. I suggested some things – “Are you tired?” “Are you thirsty?” “Are you hungry?” hoping that either she would respond to one of those or that it would wake the guardians up – maybe there was something really simple going on. Maybe they would listen to what I was suggesting and learn to ask the same questions in the future. From their lack of interest in the situation I think that this wasn’t a fluke situation. They didn’t seem surprised by her outburst. So, in a way, I was trying to help their daughter but also to teach them to help her in the future.

She calmed down, got up from the floor, and went to the bookshelf. She pulled out a random book and brought it to me. She wanted me to read it to her. I didn’t have the time for that – and she had two guardians there. I pointed to them. “Have your Mom read it to you” I said – and Mom smiled and waved the child to her.

She was quiet the rest of the time there, which was about an hour. She just wanted some attention. This isn’t being needy. This is being normal. I can’t tell you how often I see parents sitting in the same area with their children but they aren’t interacting with them. They care more about their cell phone than they care about their child.

They are there in body only. They expect the child to do all the work. The child cannot learn to read just by picking up a book.

Don’t have children if you aren’t ready to raise children. If you aren’t ready, then put them up for adoption. There are hundreds of people who want children and can’t have them. Or find a parenting class. There is no reason for a child to be emotionally abused because of the immaturity of the parents.

I’m not a parent but I have the basics figured out. Feed them. Give them water. Let them have a nap. Let them go run and play. Do this every day, several times a day. And spend time with them. They need love and attention. Children are just like plants. If you don’t nurture them, they grow up a little stunted and warped.

Parenting license.

I wear baggy clothes for the same reason some people gain weight. I do it to hide. Somehow in wearing something too large, shapeless and styleless, I’m hiding who I really am. I know, deep down, that even if I were naked, I’d still not be showing my true self. The soul is deeper than skin.

Perhaps my need to wear dull colors is also a self defense technique. It says don’t notice me. It is the same as camouflage for birds. The male cardinal is red. But the female is brown. She is the one who protects the young. Perhaps the child I am protecting is myself.

I know that lots of things were taken from me as a child. I know that I was not loved or cherished. I know that my room was gone into without my permission. I know that my money was stolen by my dad and my brother. My brother stole it from my room. My dad just took it out of my savings account. He saw it as a spare account for him. Much of my money as a child came from my grandmother. She was his mother. I know that he expected my Mom to give him the Christmas money that she got from his Mom. He saw any money from her as money for him. Money is a symbol. Perhaps he felt that she never gave him enough of anything. Perhaps he was jealous if she gave anything to anyone else.

He was greedy. He was selfish. He was a glutton. He did not care about other people’s feelings. If I told him that I had a headache, he would tell me about how he had a bigger headache once. Maybe he thought that by pointing out how it could be worse, I should get over it. Maybe he was just self centered and didn’t know how anything could be about anyone who wasn’t him.

If I told him about something emotional, something that made me sad or angry, he offered a pill. They were all prescription. But prescribed doesn’t mean healthy. Medicating your feelings is escaping them. I’m grateful I never took him up on it. I’m sad that I wasn’t taught how to deal with my feelings.

It is just like with alcohol. Just because it is legal doesn’t mean it is healthy. If you drink to deal with your feelings, you are abusing yourself and your children. You aren’t teaching them how to be human. You are teaching them how to escape. You are stunting their emotional growth.

You are supposed to trust your parents. They are supposed to look out for you. They aren’t supposed to get zonked out on substances, legal or otherwise. They aren’t supposed to just take up space on your childhood. They aren’t supposed to chain smoke themselves to death. They aren’t supposed to leave you high and dry.

My parents abandoned me before they died. They just weren’t there. Perhaps they did me a favor by dying. It meant that I got to learn that their normal wasn’t normal at all. I had to start looking out for myself and learning from others.

I find I get really angry when I see a family where the parents reek of cigarette smoke. They are poisoning their children every day. Even if they smoke outside of the house, they are shortening their lives day by day, and they are reducing their energy level bit by bit. Even before they die they have stopped being alive. Smoking is theft. It steals your health and your life from your children.

I find I get really angry when I see parents treating their children how I was treated. I want to yell at the Mom for treating her son like he is an embarrassment or an interruption. I get really angry when I see this same mom who growls at her child for doing things that are normal for children decides to have even more children.

I get really sad when I see these children look so sad. If eyes are the windows of the soul, his soul is screaming “Rescue me, someone, anyone. I am in hell.”

I asked three people what I could do. A minister. A teacher. A therapist. They said I can’t do anything. I just have to watch this happen.

Is it possible that there were people who saw me as a child and wondered the same thing?

Some people are simply not capable of being selfless enough to have children.

It isn’t fair. It isn’t right.

You have to pass a driver’s test to get a driver’s license. The theory is so you prove that you are safe. But amateurs get to have children. Sadly, the driver doesn’t get caught in the flaming wreckage. The passenger does.

Kindergarten 10-23-13

Today I was supposed to work with the same three that I’ve had the past few weeks, but I only had two. I didn’t have enough time to work with three, and I decided to skip one of them.

The list had V, the girl with the recovering mom, J, the boy who is severely delayed, most likely from dyslexia and/or a hearing problem, and S, the ever-smiling Hispanic boy. The list was in that order. I normally go in order but today I just felt differently.

Sometimes when we work with kids the goal is to build up their confidence. They need to work with easy things to get the confidence to do harder things. Perhaps that is what I was doing with myself. I just could not face the disappointment of seeing how far one of them had slipped over the fall break. He had just not been doing well before, and I didn’t know how to handle it if he had gotten worse.

These kids had just over two weeks off. I had a horrible feeling that they did not practice their letters or numbers over this time. I was honestly afraid. Sadly these feelings were borne out with V. She can recite her numbers to 20, but still can correctly identify maybe 5 letters. This will not work.

I’m sorry for her situation. I really want things to be better for her. I have no control over her home life, but I will do my best to teach her the letters and how to read. Reading is the way out of that hole. If you come from a terrible beginning, reading is the key out. Reading is the difference between poverty and success.

Then I worked with S. He did much better than V.

I skipped J. He did so badly the last time that I just didn’t have the heart to work with him. Perhaps this isn’t fair. By definition he needs me more. But I can’t do all the work. He has to do some of it. His parents have to do some of it.

Children require an immense amount of work. They can’t be ignored until they go to school, and expect the teachers to do all the work. Perhaps parents do this because they were treated the same way.

I don’t care. Don’t have children if you aren’t willing to raise them. Raising them means a lot more than feeding and clothing them. Raising them means teaching them values and morals. Raising them means teaching them how to be independent.

His parents are young and not together. It shows. He is very scattered and controlling. It isn’t his fault that his parents weren’t ready to be parents. He is the one who is paying for it.

As I was leaving, all the kids were lining up to go outside for recess. They were putting their coats on. I helped one with the zipper on his coat (always tricky at any age) and noticed V needed help with hers. I asked her if she would like me to help and she said no. She tried to work it but it was being difficult. I asked her again, and again no. She wanted to do it herself, and I respect that. But by the time everybody was filing out of the classroom, it still wasn’t together. It was too cold to not be zipped up. She said she would just hold it together.

There is something to be said for helping yourself, and there is something to be said for being OK with asking for help.

On adoption.

I’ve met some people with some pretty unhealthy ideas about adoption.

I know a lady who became a grandmother accidentally. Her son and his girlfriend learned that they were expecting. I had written that “he got her pregnant” but that makes her a passive agent. It takes two to get pregnant. They had sex before they were able to handle the possible repercussions. They might or might not have been using birth control – it doesn’t matter now. She got pregnant. It happens.

It happens a lot more than it should. It is stunning that America, a nation that has free education, that we are so ignorant about how to not get pregnant. It isn’t rocket science.

Having sex is like playing Russian roulette with your life. It can be fun, or you could die from a sexually transmitted disease. Or you could end up pregnant, which will end life as you know it. The risks are too high to play the game if you aren’t ready to deal with the consequences.

According to the CDC, the amount of unintended pregnancies in the United States is nearly 50%. Also according to the CDC, women who get unintentionally pregnant are more likely to be very young, unhealthy, and undereducated. They are already at a disadvantage and getting pregnant puts them even further into the hole.

Let’s go back to the couple from the beginning. They are both in their early 20s and they fight constantly. They don’t make enough money to support themselves, so they live with the boy’s parents. The girl’s parents do not provide any money or support at all. The son works in fast food and the girl works as a part-time bartender. They share a car. This has gone on for over a year. The tension in the house is to the point that the grandmother goes for counseling now.

It doesn’t have to be this way. I suggested adoption and the grandmother recoiled at it. No – this was her grandson. Strangers won’t be raising him.

This can’t be better. I’ve never seen this child smile. Just because he is with his birth parents doesn’t mean they are the best for him. It doesn’t mean they are qualified to be parents. They still need parents themselves. They are too young, too immature, and too selfish to be good parents.

I knew another lady who said that if she ever got unintentionally pregnant, she would have an abortion rather than put the child up for adoption. She admitted that she didn’t like the idea of a stranger raising her child. So she would rather kill it. This makes no sense at all.

I think for some people, putting their child up for adoption is like admitting they made a mistake. Their pride gets in the way of making a good decision for the well-being of their child.

Adoption provides a loving home for a child. Adoption means that the child is welcomed and wanted and provided for. Adoption means that the child has the best possible chance of a happy life.

Putting a child up for adoption isn’t a mark of failure. It is putting your child first. It is pride to keep a child in poverty and misery just because you are too stubborn to admit that you can’t do it all.

The weird part about the grandmother in the first example is that she adopted her son, the one who is a father now. She understands what adoption is like from the other side. She understands how long adoptive parents wait, and how relieved they are when they finally get that call that tells them they have a child. She understands all about the background checks and the tests that prospective adoptive parents go through.

Adoptive parents aren’t strangers. Sure, they are strangers to you, but they have proven their merit. It isn’t like the adoption agency pulls some random person off the street and hands them your child. There are a lot of tests involved.

The tests that prospective adoptive parents go through should be mandatory for anybody who thinks they want to have children. There are physical exams. Psychological exams. Financial exams. They are tested and probed in every way possible to determine if they would make fit parents. They are tested to see if they have what it takes in every way possible.

Love isn’t enough to raise a child. It takes a lot of money and a lot of maturity. Sometimes the best thing you can do is admit that you don’t have enough of either. Why compound a problem by making it worse?

Ideally, there would be no unintended pregnancies. Ideally, everyone would get pregnant only when they are ready to. Until that time comes, adoption is a loving response.