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Parenting: By the Book

While being a mom or dad can be challenging, it doesn’t have to be done alone. Following are three parenting books that offer slightly different perspectives on the demanding but rewarding work of bring up kids.

“Unfortunately children don't come with their own owner's manual...”

Unfortunately children don't come with their own owner's manual -- at least none of mine did. And just when I thought I was getting things figured out with one of them, along came a whole new set of things to learn from another child. While being a mom or dad can be challenging, it doesn't have to be done alone. Following are three parenting books that offer slightly different perspectives on the demanding but rewarding work of bring up kids.

Parenting by Strengths - A Parent's Guide For Challenging Situations is a concise, informative guide written by a group of professionals, who are also parents. This easy-to-read publication consists of several, individually authored chapters that address a wide range of parenting concerns including communication and stress management, discipline issues, pre-adolescents and teens, and how to approach the difficult topic of sex with your children. As well, the book contains ideas for parenting special needs and multiracial children, and a chapter on emotional coaching skills for parents.

Relying on their training and experience, the authors offer straightforward and applicable information for almost any family situation. But rather than focusing on "fixing" behaviors in your child, these writers, whose backgrounds are based in social work, psychology, family coaching, counseling, and marriage and family therapy, take a positive approach to the daily challenges of raising children. They encourage parents to discover and use their strengths while developing strategies that will allow for positive family interactions. Best of all, their information is presented in less than 100 pages, making it possible for even the most time-strapped parents to actually read through these informative ideas.

Dads get their own read in Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters by Meg Meeker, M.D. But don't worry about the promotion of male emasculation. This book isn't about giving up your manhood or becoming uncomfortably touchy-feely. Rather it focuses specifically on the important male traits that allow a father to become a hero, protector, teacher and inspiration to his daughter as she navigates life.

"Fathers in particular have tremendous impact on daughters. She compares all other boys and men to you. You're responsible for teaching her what to expect and what sort of behavior to demand from her male friends," says Meeker, a pediatrician with more than 20 years of experience in counseling girls.

In the book, Meeker addresses the essential virtues of a strong father including leadership, perseverance, courage, pragmatism and grit. Emphasizing the impact of role modeling, she also discusses how a father can influence his daughter's decisions about drugs, alcohol, sex and her future in a rapidly evolving society.

Along with cues on how to talk to girls about sexual activity, body image and eating disorders, Meeker, encourages fathers to teach values to their children as well as institute a defense plan that will help protect them from overtly sexualized advertising, clothing lines and media influences.

Revealing 10 secrets every father should know, Meeker shares positive, practical insights that she has gained from research and in hundreds of hours of personal counseling, including the importance of listening and a simple hug. "Your daughter needs you to hug her often. If you are gentle, respectful, and loving, that's what she will expect from boys. Let her know what you see in her. Let her know she's beautiful. Let her know that modest is just another form of respect--for herself, for you, and for what she expects from boys."

While Meeker readily admits that raising children can be an uphill battle in this complicated world, her sensible guide will help dads recognize the powerful and crucial role they play as a strong father in the life of their strong daughter.

Finally in A Nation of Wimps, Hara Estroff Marano, an editor-at-large for Psychology Today, addresses the increasing impact of invasive parenting -- both on children and adults. According to Marano, parents, in an attempt to guarantee the success of their offspring in a highly competitive environment, are taking extraordinary steps to ensure a smooth path for their child's achievement.

However, these efforts to sanitize and safeguard children's every waking moment are often backfiring. Instead of producing youngsters and teens that are prepared to deal with the uncertainties of life, this generation is failing to thrive and remaining dependent on adult intervention. Based on research and interviews with educators, parents and young people, Marano shares some unsettling facts in her book.

  • More than twenty-one million prescriptions are written for stimulant drugs to enhance attention, primarily in kids ages six to fourteen. Antidepressant use in children has risen 333 percent in the past decade.
  • Over forty thousand U.S. schools no longer have recess despite the critical role of play in a child's healthy development.
  • Significantly fewer young adults are meeting the classic benchmarks of adulthood (leaving home, finishing school, getting a job, getting married, having children) by age thirty or even age thirty-six.
  • Widespread cell phone use allows parents to keep track of children but may also contribute to negative neurodevelopmental effects in adolescents.
  • Over-parenting is also impacting adults by contributing to the disproportionate investment of parental emotions, finances and time, which can erode marital bonds and contribute to the divorce rate. It may also play a role in the privatization of parental concern and fear that makes parents focus on their own child to the exclusion of the greater needs of young people in general.

    Though Marano's book at times paints an extremely negative and disheartening picture of the modern parent, she concludes it with a lengthy list of suggestions moms and dads can incorporate to help their children mature into competent, capable individuals without having anxious adults hanging over their shoulders.

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