Books about Children and Parenting

The Joy Luck Club: A novel by Amy Tan

A novel about three women, their mothers and their grandmothers. Together those mother-daughter relationships make up 16 different stories each of which acts as a parable about parenting. The book says more on parenting than ten parenting "how to" books. "Powerful as Myth'" said the Washington Post Book World. Here is the first page or so from the book:

The old woman remembered a swan she had bought many years ago in Shanghai for a ridiculous sum. This bird, boasted the market vendor, was once a duck that stretched its neck in hopes of becoming a goose, and now look! -- It is too beautiful to eat.

Then the woman and the swan sailed across an ocean many thousands of li wide, stretching their necks towards America. On her journey, she cooed to the swan: "In America I will have a daughter just like me. But over there nobody will say her worth is measured by the loudness of her husband's belch. Over there nobody will look down on her, because I will make her speak only perfect American English. And over there she will always be too full to swallow any sorrow. She will know my meaning, because I will give her this swan-- a creature that became more than was hoped for."

But when she arrived at the new country, the immigration officials pulled her swan away from her, leaving the old woman fluttering her arms and with only one swan feather for a memory. And then she had to fill out so many forms she forgot why she had come and what she had left behind.

Now the woman was old. And she had a daughter who grew up speaking only English and swallowing more Coca-Cola than sorrow. For a long time now the woman had wanted to give her daughter the single feather and tell her, "This feather may look worthless, but it comes from afar and carries with it all my good intentions." And she waited, year after year, for the day she could tell her daughter this in perfect American English.




    The Nurture Assumption by Judith Rich Harris
Why Children turn out the way they do. Parents matter less than you think and peers matter more

Ms Harris, the editor of a textbook on child psychology for many years, rethinks and looks beneath the conclusions and assumptions in the field of child psychology and in our society as well. She finds that the nurture assumption, the belief that parents have a strong effect upon their children's personality, is so deeply ingrained in our thinking that it biases research and causes us to ignore or gloss over evidence which contradicts the nurture assumption. She points out possible flaws in psychological studies that bias results and presents a good short review of the inherent problems of research studies. Then she begins a extensive re-exploration of the current research, both convincing and fascinating, that children are mostly shaped by their peers and the society around them.



    Our Babies, Ourselves  by Meredith F Small

 Dr. Small, a Cornell anthropologist, reviews child-rearing practices across the world revealing a great variety of practices and attitudes. "Japanese babies and older children sleep between their parents to symbolize their position as a river between two banks, a being that is intimately connected to each parent as a river is to its riverbed." She points out that American parents are nearly alone in the world when they have their babies sleep apart from them. Many cultures view this as child abuse. All parents in all cultures use cultural norms as they parent in an uncritical almost subconscious manner. Some parenting practices in some cultures are surprising.. even shocking as ours are to them. "The chief, overriding parental goal of American culture, whether stated overtly or not, is independence. We seek advice in reverse order to what is common worldwide. "After pediatricians, American parents turn for advice to child-care books, then friends, and only occasionally to family. She fights, with affection, for the child as she explores parenting worldwide. She reports research wherein mother and child were videotaped as they slept. The pair move together, ascend through sleep cycles together and face each other nearly all night . "When sleeping together, mothers and babies are extraordinarily in sync."



GET OUT OF MY LIFE but first could you drive me and Cheryl to the Mall? by Anthony E Wolf
A Parent's Guide to the New Teenager

Dr Wolf, a clinical psychologist with 30 years experience with children and adolescents, asserts that teenagers these days have different expectations and a different concept of their place in the world than we did at their age and this calls for different parenting styles than those employed by our parents. He very much likes teenagers and sympathizes with the enormous pressures they face. They live in the moment, desperate not to miss out on anything, thirsting for experience completely unaware that there can be other days to have that experience or that in the big picture, which experience has not provided them with, it will not really matter that much whether such and so's thing is missed. If they are girls they will fight or lie to get those experiences. If they are boys they will covertly attain them. Boys, he says, will almost literally go to their rooms and listen to music for years while girls will argue incessantly, will look to argue. One sex perhaps being more difficult to deal with while the other perhaps more troubled as they deal with growing up almost all alone. Through many mock dialogs, the author humorously depicts teenagers asserting themselves and parents trying to deal with them with hints on how to best help them towards independence. To simplify his advice, lock yourself in the bathroom if necessary but do not argue with a teen. State rules, and he recommends rules, reassert them if broken, but do not discuss them - that can be a full-time job.



The Complete Book of Absolutely Perfect Baby and Child Care by Elinor Goulding Smith

In this little book, the author recommends that before you try raising a child you first try something simpler, like raising a hamster and perhaps stick with it; footnotes about hamsters appear throughout the book. After a discussion on clothing and diapering infants, a footnote suggests, "A hamster requires no clothing of any kind." Her main premise, though, is the use of rules, primarily the Golden Rule of raising babies; a rule she has suggested uses for throughout the book. The rule: LIE. "Lie to your mother, lie to your sisters and aunts, and above all, lie to all the other mothers you meet on the street. When a newer mother than you asks for your help, tell her you never had the least trouble. Your baby just loved his mashed banana on the first try." She gives other rules like repeating to one's self, "Oh What's the Use." Pointers appear throughout the book such as taking care to remove the tooth from under the pillow before putting any money there to eliminate the possibility of tooth-hoarding. The book begins, "It sometimes happens, even in the best of families, that a baby is born. This is not necessarily cause for alarm. The important thing is to keep your wits about you and borrow some money,"



Children and Animals by Gene Myers

In this book, Dr. Myers explores the power pets have in children's lives. Animals are "coherent" he asserts in that they can be experienced by children as an organized whole. This and other important qualities children share with animals cause children to find animals to be "real." Since they do not speak, children become attuned to other ways of expression. Animals provide a vibrant sense of aliveness and vitality. They're good listeners since they listen without accountability, the necessity in human to human communication that the speaker make sense and they are "honest;" they do not communicate one thing and do another. The natural bond between them and children and the animal's qualities that it shares with human beings and that differ from humans are important factors in the child's development of a concept of self and what it means to be human. The author goes into some depth on theories on the development of the self in which animals are an important part. Also, children are deeply concerned with and connected to animals and this is important in our children's moral development. Therefore, the author holds that our society should stringently minimize the exploitation of animals as that exploitation negatively affects child development. To be truly human and humane we may need animals around us and in our lives. The book, although technical at times, provides interesting insights and may enliven your appreciation for pets as well as the animals in our environment.



I Stand Here Ironing: A short story by Tillie Olsen

An autobiographical story about a woman raising her first daughter despite a husband who leaves her and other hardships. Here is a quotation from early in the story.

She was a beautiful baby. She blew shining bubbles of sound. She loved motion, loved light,  loved color and music and textures. When she was just eight months old I had to leave her daytimes with the woman downstairs to whom she was no miracle at all.

And a quotation from near the end as she wishes for her daughter:

Only help her to know--help make it so there is cause for her to know--that she is more than this dress on the ironing board, helpless before the iron.

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