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Gavin de Becker’s Test of 12

Although Gavin de Becker’s book Protecting the Gift is a most uncomfortable read, I recommend it to parents whenever discussions of child safety come up.  One of the many practical pieces of advice is how to tell when your child is ready to be left alone–ready to play a major role in assuring their own safety.  Can you answer yes to all of the questions below?

The Test of Twelve

  1. Does your child know how to honor his feelings? If someone makes him uncomfortable, that’s an important signal.
  2. Are you as the parent strong enough to hear about any experience your child has had, no matter how unpleasant?
  3. Does your child know it’s okay to rebuff and defy adults?
  4. Does your child know it’s okay to be assertive?
  5. Does your child know how to ask for assistance or help?
  6. Does your child know how to choose who to ask? For example, he should look for a woman to help him.
  7. Does your child know how to describe his peril?
  8. Does your child know it’s okay to strike, even to injure, someone if he believes he is in danger, and that you’ll support any action he takes as a result of feeling uncomfortable or afraid?
  9. Does your child know it’s okay to make noise, to scream, to yell, to run?
  10. Does your child know that if someone ever tries to force him to go somewhere, what he screams should include, ”This is not my father”? Onlookers seeing a child scream or even struggle are likely to assume the adult is a parent.
  11. Does your child know that if someone says, ”Don’t yell,” the thing to do is yell? The corollary is if someone says, ”Don’t tell,” the thing to do is tell.
  12. Does your child know to fully resist ever going anywhere out of public view with someone he doesn’t know, and particularly to resist going anywhere with someone who tries to persuade him?

 

Book Recommendations for a New Parent

The organizer of one of the local parenting groups I’ve worked with before recently asked me if I could recommend a sort of “Best of” book list for a new mom who was joining their group.  It ended up being a really fun reflection for me–which books I like the most, which would be helpful for someone who is just starting their parenting journey…  (with the disclaimer that, of course, no one who has an infant has time to actually read~)  The list ranges from advice about understanding kids’ emotional lives, to childhood sexual development, to basic behavior modification, to advice about feeding and toilet training.

Do you know someone who is about to become a parent? Want a starter book list for yourself or for a loved one?  See below–and let me hear from you if you have book recs for new parents that you think should be on this list.

 


  • The Whole Brain Child by Dan Seigel & Tina Payne Bryson.  This is always my top parenting book recommendation.  It is so helpful (and easy to read!) for understanding your child’s inner emotional life.
  • How to Talk so Kids will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk, AND Siblings without Rivalry both by Faber & Mazlich.  These two books are classics, for a good reason!
  • Your 1 Year Old, Your 2 Year Old, etc by Louise Ames & Frances Ilg.  This is a series, each book focusing on a particular year of life, and offering great basic child development information about what to expect from kids that age.  So much of the angst parents experience can be relieved by knowing that their child’s latest worrisome or obnoxious behavior is developmentally normal.  Highly recommend these books.  (they are really short, too!)
  • Toilet Training The Brazelton Way by T Berry Brazelton & Joshua Sparrow.  Children don’t generally react well to being pushed to toilet train when they aren’t yet ready.  This book gives parents a clear, simple, child-centered guide to an area of parenting that can be really difficult.
  • The first 43 pages of “Parenting the Defiant Child” by Alan Kazdin.  (not pictured.)  This book gives a great basic overview of some behavioral myths and facts.  I don’t love the rest of the book but the first 43 pages should be handed out at hospitals in order to dispel some of the unhelpful, inaccurate ideas out there about shaping behavior.
  • From Diapers to Dating by Deborah Haffney.  Great information about childhood sexual development for parents.  Might as well get yourself educated from the beginning!
  • What’s the Big Secret by Laura Krasney Brown  This book is for kids, and it does a great book explaining bodies & reproduction.  It’s written for the youngest kids–once your child isn’t ripping pages & eating paper when they ‘read,’ they are ready for this book.
  • When I Feel Angry (or When I Feel Sad, or When I am Missing You) by Cornelia Maude Spellman.  These are also titles for kids.  The author is a therapist, and each book does a great job of explaining emotions to kids, and giving them basic support for how to manage them.  Highly recommended!
  • Child of Mine: Feeding with Love and Good Sense by Ellen Satter.  Child of Mine is the go-to book for advice on feeding kids in a nutritionally & psychologically healthy way.
  • Protecting the Gift: Keeping Children and Teenagers Safe (and Parents Sane) by Gavin DeBecker.  (not pictured.)  It’s not a pleasant read, but for any parent who has concerns/fears about child safety (from human predators, specifically) this book is the evidence-based guide for how to recognize and listen to your intuition and teach your children to do the same.  It also has the helpful “Test of 12” for measuring whether your child is ready to be left alone.

 

 

Note: the book links are affiliate links, which means that if you click & buy, I get a tiny little percentage of the purchase price, at no additional cost to you.  So, if you do, thanks!

Books Recommended in Beyond Birds and Bees

In my workshops, I love to recommend books. I also frequently get emails asking for book recommendations–for both kids and parents. The most common request is for books about sex. If I had to pare down the options to just three, this is what I would choose. One is for little kids, one for older ones, and one book is for parents. For now, I’m going to just post the book photos/links up, but in later posts I will review each book individually.

What’s the Big Secret is my recommendation for any age. I DO recommend that you make up your own words with the younger kids, but the pictures are appropriate for any age. Toddlers in the potty-training years especially find the page with the boy & girl peeing quite interesting.
It's So AmazingIt’s So Amazing is my recommendation for an older child, one who already knows some information and is now ready for more depth.

From Diapers to Dating, by Debra HaffnerAnd for parents, I recommend From Diapers to Dating. It’s a reference source and guide for all sorts of information about children and sexuality and development. The author is a minister, interestingly, and does address how to share your family values about sexuality with your kids as well.

There are many other good books, but these are my favorites. Happy Reading!

Free Parenting Resources, part One–BOOKS!

I often receive phone calls and emails from parents who want my services, but for a variety of reasons, can’t come in.  A mom wrote recently asking if I knew of a way she could receive parent coaching for free.  Unfortunately, my favorite parenting resource in Austin (Family Connections) has recently shut down, so I didn’t really have a referral for her.  Instead, I offered to create a list of books and other resources that offer information and guidance that I think is reliably good.  So, this is the first of a couple of posts that are intended to be a resource for anyone who would like to learn & focus on their parenting–and today’s can all be free, if you visit your local library.  Future posts will include information on where/how to start if you are looking for help for/about your child’s behaviors–in any town.  Stay tuned!

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If you want to learn for free, your local public library is the best place to start.  Parenting books are GREAT sources of information, you need only invest your time.  These links below will take you to the books on Amazon, but you can also search for them on your public libary’s online catalog.  Click here for the Austin Public Library Online Catalog.

So, in no particular order, here are some of my favorite books on parenting:

(Updated to include my now favorite parenting book:)  Dan Siegel & Tina Payne Bryson’s “The Whole Brain Child“.  This books is GREAT!  My first recommendation to any parent who wants to understand and better respond to unwanted behavior.

For improving relationships between siblings: Faber/Mazlish’s “Siblings without Rivalry.”

For improving your communication with your children: Faber/Mazlish’s “How to Talk so Kids will Listen, and Listen so Kids Will Talk

Alan Kazdin’s “Parenting the Defiant Child.”  My favorite part of this book is the first 65 pages–he dispels major myths about parenting, discipline, and behavior.  Plus, it’s easy to read and evidenced-based!  The second part of the book is about creating a behavior modification plan (ie, sticker chart.)  Sticker charts aren’t for everyone, but if you’re thinking about using one, this is the very best place to educate yourself on how to do one the right way!  I’ve written about this book before, click here to read.

For a general, positive, refreshing take on the overall parenting relationship: “Playful Parenting.”  We parents can’t use a playful response to every problem or challenge, but I often advise parents to start with playfulness.  It’s a great tool for keeping things positive, and for avoiding putting your own upset into the situation (which pretty much always makes a situation worse, you know?)

For detailed guidelines on determining whether your child’s behaviors are “normal” and age-appropriate, the Gesell Series–one for each age.  I really love these books–they are small and easy to read and very validating.  Sometimes things that look like problems to adults are just typical child development.  (“Oh, that’s just the way a 3 year old IS!.)

For classic, solid, reliable, nurturing and positive information about child development: anything by T. Berry Brazelton.  I especially like his “Touchpoints” series.

For guidance about childhood sexual development and how to talk to your kids about sex (make sure you visit my other blog on this topic, btw): I like Deborah Haffner’s book” “From Diapers to Dating.”

If you suspect that your child may have sensory integration issues: “The Out of Sync Child.”

For beginning conversations with your child about sexual development, I recommend these books.     (These recommendations are from my workshop called “Beyond Birds and Bees.” )

BTW, please share YOUR favorite parenting books with me in the comments!  It’s a great way for me to add to my list, too!

Stay tuned for the next posts, including online resources and information about finding/choosing & working with a therapist.

 

Note: the book links are affiliate links, which means that if you click & buy, I get a tiny little percentage of the purchase price, at no additional cost to you.  So, if you do, thanks!

Recommended Books about Death or Grief & Loss

Always & Forever, by Alan Durant, is reviewed in detail here. It is one of my favorite books about grief for kids. Highly recommended.

The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn isn’t about grief or loss, but it is a book about how hard it is to separate or say goodbye. That’s certainly a related theme when we are talking about grief with children. The main character is a raccoon who is about to start school. He’s sad and worried about leaving his mother–who teaches him a sweet, nurturing trick for self-soothing. I’ve known families that adopted the trick for themselves after reading the book. Very sweet.

The Bug Cemetery, by Frances Hill is about a group of entrepreneurial kids who stumble upon the ‘business’ of funerals.  The brother and sister pair offer “bug funerals,” complete with fake mourners, eulogies, and tombstones  for 10 cents.  But, when their friend’s pet cat is killed, they realize that “Funerals aren’t any fun when they’re for someone you love.”  The illustrator does a great job of conveying sadness, even anguish, in the children’s faces during the real funeral.

I like that this book illustrates that we can pretend to have a feeling, but that it isn’t the same as the real feeling at all.  Very young children often “pretend” to mourn a relative who died before they were born–and that’s normal–but I like having a tool to show the difference.  I also like the way the book shows kids ways that they can cope with death and loss–the children in the book honor their feelings and also honor the dead.

When Dinosaurs Die, by Laura Krasny Brown, is similar to their many other “When Dinosaurs…” books.  It is an informative, non-fiction book on a difficult topic, somewhat cartoonish in style, that explains facts & feelings to kids, and answers their typical questions.  The lack of a narrative makes it a little less interesting to children as a bedtime story, but perhaps makes it an even better choice for an older child who can read and would benefit from having a source of information under his control.

Of course there are many more, but consider this a beginning list.  Please make suggestions about other books to include in this list in the comments section.

Keeping Kids Safe

The Austin newspaper had a frightening story last weekend about a local child abduction.  It is the sort of story that makes parents worry a little more and hold our kids a little closer.  But, it also brings up good questions about what we parents can do to keep our children safe from harm.  We know how to keep them away from the knives and the bleach, but what about dangerous people?  

Gavin de Becker’s book “Protecting the Gift” is a great guide for parents.  In it, he encourages us to really listen to our intuition–that little guiding voice we so often try to rationalize away.  Some guy creeps you out in the parking lot?  There is probably a reason why–our animal instincts still work!  We are able to evaluate lots of different signals like facial expressions, physical promixity, and of course the undefinable ‘creepy factor.’  And as parents, not only do we need to listen to that voice ourselves are parents–we need to teach our children to recognize and listen to that voice in their own heads, too.    

Have you told your child “Don’t talk to strangers”?  de Becker brilliantly illustrates why that is actually a counter-productive lesson.  First, if our children are ever in need of help, being reluctant to speak to a stranger is an obstacle to keeping themselves safe.  Children need to (a) know how to choose which stranger is likely the most safe, and (b) go to that person and ask for help–because a child sitting alone, looking lost & vulnerable, makes for a ‘perfect’ victim to a predator.  By the way, de Becker gives a suggestion about whom children should ask for
help.  Surprisingly, it wasn’t policemen–it was mothers.  Citing
plenty of statistics, he argues that a mother, or even a (non-parent) woman, is far more likely to be the safest choice for helping a lost
child.  

When your child shys away from a stranger–even a friend of yours–how do you handle it? I encourage you to keep in mind that while politeness is important, so to is learning how to keep themselves safe.  Parents can also help children learn to listen to their inner voice by asking questions: “How would you like to say goodbye to Ms. Smith?”  or “If you were in this restaurant alone, who would you ask for help–and why?”

Although the book is a little too full (for my tastes) of frightening stories, the wisdom inside is well worth it.  

(And if you live in Austin, I’m leading a 3-part series/book group to discuss “Protecting the Gift” and how to keep our kids safe.  More info here )

Book Review: 2 books about divorce for parents

I love to recommend books to parents, because there is SO much good information available.  Not to mention that books are such a bargain for what you get!  I encourage every divorcing parent I work with to purchase books on divorce for their kids, and to read one for themselves, too.  (BTW, if you’re looking for book recommendations on divorce for kids, go here.)

My clear favorite book for parents is “Mom’s House, Dad’s House: Making Two Homes for Your Child” by Isolina Ricci.

My only complaint is that this book nearly 400 pages–with small print! But some things are worth carving out time to read, and this book is one of those things. All questions are answered inside those covers–from Parenting Plans to the power of language, to managing emotions and healing wounds to the new “Businesslike relationship, and troubleshooting problems. Read it cover to cover and then refer back to it when things come up.


The other book that I sometimes recommend to parents is “Joint Custody with a Jerk: Raising a Child with an Uncooperative Ex”, by Julie A. Ross & Judy Corcoran.

“Joint Custody with a Jerk” wins the prize for best book title of all time. In fact, I originally purchased this book solely because of the title, and I bet I’m not the first. But there’s good stuff beyond the cover, too.  For example, I like that this book starts by encouraging the reader to examine their own feelings, and identifying a problem other than ‘my ex is a jerk.’ This is the absolute perfect place to start, and a method I use with families myself. They teach a concept they call the “problem pyramid,” and encourage parents to ask themselves 1: what exactly is the problem, 2, who has upset feelings about the issue, 3, who brought up the issue, and 4, who is responsible for the solution? By working through those questions, the authors say that parents will have a healthy, effective guide as to how they should respond–to the jerky ex, their kids, or in any other relationship where conflicts arise.

If you get through those 700+ pages of parenting advice in those 2 books, and still want more: email me.  I’ll see what else I can dig up.  ;^)

This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive compensation if you click the links and then buy.
(and if you do, thanks!)

Book Review: Books about divorce for kids

Do you have any recommended books about…

No matter what the topic, reading a relevant book can help parents navigate through tough times.  They are helpful partly because books give us guidance on important concepts to cover, and a script to follow, but also because the pictures give our kids a concrete visual image to go along with our words.  Today’s post is a collection of brief reviews of some of my favorite books on divorce for younger kids.  (A list of recommended books for parents is available here.)

I’ll start with my favorite book for the youngest kids: Mama and Daddy Bear’s Divorce, by Cornelia Maude Spelman.

I’ve reviewed this one before, but it’s worthy of reposting: The story is about “Dinah” (a bear,) who loves her family but tells us that: “…one day, something sad happened.  Mama and Daddy said they were going to get a divorce.”   Dinah talks about her feelings (sad and scared) and some of her inner questions.  She talks to her parents about her feelings, and both parents reassure her that they will always be her mama/daddy.  As the book progresses, she describes how she spends time with both parents separately.  Her parents make some mistakes, but the theme of parental love and involvement persists.  The book concludes by saying that after time she feels less sad, and that her parents and sister will always be her family.  It’s a peaceful and positive ending.


Was it the Chocolate Pudding? by Sandra Levins is another favorite.  The story unfolds with two brothers making a big mess with some chocolate pudding.  The next day their parents tell the boys that they are getting a divorce.  The older brother puts 2 & 2 together (gets 5) and thinks it’s because of the chocolate pudding, and is therefore his fault.  This gets sorted out in the end, and the kids are portrayed as adjusting well.  This is a great book for really focusing on the fact that divorce is an adult matter, and really addresses the (all too common) misbelief in kids that they are the cause of the problems.  As a small note, this book is unique in that the father stays in the home and has primary custody (not what is usually portrayed.)  I highly recommend this one.


Dinosaurs Divorce, by Laurie Krasny Brown & Marc Brown may be the most well-known book about divorce for kids.  It’s not my favorite, perhaps because of the comic-strip format, but it’s still a good book.  It’s an informative style, not a narrative story.  It covers all the basic info that kids need to know about divorce, including why parents divorce, custody, feelings, holidays, step-parents and more.  Think of it as a reference book for your kid.  Good to have on the shelf.

At Daddy’s on Saturdays, by Linda Walvoord Girard is an older book, but I like it for its realism.  After this school-aged girl’s parents divorce, her father’s custody rights are more like visitation.  One time he even forgets to come.  (ouch!)  But that happens in real life, and for kids for whom that’s true, it’s good to have a book that mirrors their experience.

Fred Stays with Me! by Nancy Coffelt is really a story about a young girl and her trouble-making dog, who happen to live in a split-custody arrangement.  Really, this is a narrative story that any kid would enjoy (the dog causes lots of trouble!) and the divorce angle is very minor to the story.  But, that’s the reason I like it.  It’s not the book that will explain divorce to your child, nor the book that will help her figure out her emotions, but it is the book that will show that there are all sorts of normal.  That’s a good thing.

Two Homes, by Claire Masurel is another good one for the youngest kids.  The main character is a young boy named Alex, who goes back and forth between both parents’ homes.  The book focuses on one theme–that Alex is loved by both parents.  The last line of the book is particularly sweet: “We love you wherever we are. And we love you wherever you are.”

If you have a favorite that’s not listed here, please leave a comment telling me about it.  I’d love to add to my list!

This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive compensation if you click the links and then buy.
(and if you do, thanks!)

Book Review: Always and Forever

Always and Forever by Alan Durant is a child’s picture book about death, grief, and moving on.  It’s very much the sort of book that I like to review here.  But this review came about completely accidentally, and the surprise ultimately made me like it even more.

I sometimes check out kids’ books from the library with a minimum of attention to the content of the book.  If the cover looks good, I open to the middle.  If those pages don’t have too many words, and the illustrations are decent, the book goes in to my stack.  My librarian readers are probably cringing now.  :^)

So, due to my neglectful vetting, I sat down to read this book to my daughter today without a clue of what it was about.  I figured it out as soon as I looked at the inside dust jacket, and had a moment’s pause.  Our family dog died a month ago, and we talked about death and grief a lot then, but a story about death and grief seemed out of place today.

But I believe that one of the shortcomings of our modern culture is that we fool ourselves into thinking that death is rare and predictable.  It is neither, and I want my daughter to know the vocabulary, and the concepts (especially that things get better!) about death before she has to experience death with an emotional component (there’s a big difference in the emotional impact of reading a book about death and having someone you love die.)  So I read the book.  And then I wrote this blog entry.  ;^)

I’ve heard many parents of young kids say that they want to protect their children from the ills of the world.  Actually, I’ve probably said it myself–it’s a pretty common and reasonable parenting belief.  But, death isn’t really an “ill” of the world.  Death is a normal part of life, and I was reminded that it’s the surprise of death that can sometimes be most painful.

When I teach parents about how to talk with their kids about sex (see my other blog) I talk a lot about the importance of giving the youngest kids the vocabulary to identify their body parts and functions.  I remembered this as I was reading Always and Forever earlier today.  I felt like I was giving the structure/framework of the “concept of death” to my daughter.  Not as fun as some of our favorite books, but I was glad I did anyway.  Check it out from your local public library or click below to look at it on amazon.

(note: I originally wrote this several months ago but it somehow didn’t get published, so I’m putting it up now.)

Book Review: Mama and Daddy Bear’s Divorce

When parents of young children divorce, explaining the concept of divorce is often a great challenge.  Books can help with this, in part because they give parents a script to follow, concepts to go along with the words, and pictures that give kids a concrete visual image to go along with the words.

Mama and Daddy Bear’s Divorce, by Cornelia Maude Spelman is a great book about divorce for young children.  The story is about “Dinah” (a bear,) who loves her family but tells us that: “…one day, something sad happened.  Mama and Daddy said they were going to get a divorce.”   Dinah talks about her feelings (sad and scared) and some of her inner questions.  She talks to her parents about her feelings, and both parents reassure her that they will always be her mama/daddy.  As the book progresses, she describes how she spends time with both parents separately.  Her parents make some mistakes, but the theme of parental love and involvement persists.  The book concludes by saying that after time she feels less sad, and that her parents and sister will always be her family.  It’s a peaceful and positive ending.

I highly recommend this book, available at your public library, or from amazon here.