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A Few of My Favorite Parenting Books

When I run into a challenge my instinct is often to go to the library and check out all the books on the subject and skim through them looking for useful advice on the subject. Parenting, as anyone who has ever done it will (I assume) tell you, is most definitely a challenge. And so I have read a LOT of parenting books. Several were merely boring. A few I actively detested (Sorry, all you people who love BabyWise.) But there were a few that I genuinely loved. I thought I’d share a few of my favorites with you today.

Why I like these books (and not some of the others)

Before I get into the books, though, I’d like to explain why I liked these books and didn’t like the others. 

First, I’ve personally had zero success with any corporal punishment based systems of child discipline. (Doctor Dobson’s books aren’t on this list) I know lots of parents seem to get great results that way, but it doesn’t work with my kids. I also have problems with the idea of teaching my children by example that when people upset us we hit them. It’s very hard for me to see how a system of physical discipline can avoid this philosophical pitfall. 

Secondly, my goal in raising children is to help them become confident, adaptable, and free adults. Any system that treats children as Pavlovian dogs, or tries to apply the methods of horse or dog training to the education and development of children seems deeply flawed to me. I don’t want to raise compliant robots, or well-trained dogs, but interesting and adaptable people who will ask questions, take initiative, and try new things—but who will also hold fast to a few vital principles, and feel secure enough to take calculated risks and form their own strong relationships as adults. Therefore I want my discipline system to leave a lot of room for choice and initiative at every stage of development

Lastly, children have free will and intellects and should be treated as if they do. I understand that humans are animals too, and that there is some overlap in methodology, but I want methods that emphasize and respect the humanity of the child to be raised. Therefore, I want every discipline strategy to both produce the desired behavioral result, and model a virtuous reaction. 

These books are all easy to read, treat both children and parents with respect, and seem to have a pretty balanced idea of what children are, and are not, capable of. 

Bringing up Bebe

I think I’ve mentioned this one here before. Pamela Druckerman is an American woman who moved to France and had a kid. She tells a lot of hilarious stories (some adult humor) about raising an American child in France. This book is especially useful for its ideas on how to deal with clingy children and picky eaters. It helped me have a lot more fun with parenting, mainly just by encouraging me to micromanage my children less. 

As a result of reading this book, I now let my children play on playground equipment without hovering. And you know what? I love being able to relax at the park, and they love being allowed to do their thing. And if I leave them alone and do my own thing, it turns out they are surprisingly good at calculating risk, even as young as 18 months.

Hunt, Gather, Parent

A journalist had a baby…. And then didn’t know what to do with the screaming toddler it grew into. So, she put her journalist hat back on and decided to interview some behavioral scientists and investigate what certain other cultures do with their difficult young offspring. 

What I loved about this book is that it’s got three different threads, that the author braids together into a compelling and enjoyable narrative. Firstly, she visits three indigenous cultures that have traditional child-rearing methods that result in respectful, helpful, confident teens and adults. Second, she talks to behavioral scientists and presents the current understanding of behavioral forces like motivation, skill acquisition, and incentives, and shows how different parenting strategies presented in the book measure up to the science. 

And thirdly, and perhaps most entertainingly, she presents how all of these new ideas and methods worked on her own rambunctious three-year-old. 

I really enjoyed this book—couldn’t put it down. It was funny, made me feel like I wasn’t doing all that badly with my own children, and encouraged me to do things like let my just-barely-four-year-old crack eggs and then scramble them for the family…. She was actually pretty good at it! 

Another thing I appreciated about this book was her call for stronger social networks and communities to support parents in their parenting. She explains very compellingly why “it takes a village to raise a child,” and gives practical tips on building your own village to help you, even in the middle of a big city. 

How to Speak so Little Kids will Listen

 

This book is a well-written and highly practical guide to teaching your child communication and social skills while disciplining effectively. It goes through a large number of typical problems pre-rational children present, and suggests multiple strategies for dealing with them. Every child and every parent is different, and this book encourages you to find a tailored approach that works for your child. 

My favorite thing about this book was the idea of “problem solving.” If you have a toddler who is consistently resisting some seemingly basic rule or task, there’s usually a reason behind it. The problem-solving method helps you walk through a strategy for figuring out why the child doesn’t want to do the thing, resolving the issue, and figuring out a way to make both the child and the parent happy. An excellent example from the book is the toddler who doesn’t want his hand held while crossing the busy parking lot. The book encourages parents in this situation to figure out why the toddler doesn’t want his hand held, and then work with the kid to come up with a solution that does work. (I had this problem, and the solution we worked out for us was for my daughter to hold onto the shopping cart instead. Our shopping trips have been much more pleasant.) What I liked about this strategy was that I feel like it models relationship skills. This sort of problem-solving behavior where each side presents their difficulties and they work together to find a solution where both parties feel respected and get what they need is absolutely vital to a successful marriage or friendship. If you want your kids to grow up with the skills to manage conflict constructively in their lives, I highly recommend giving some of the ideas in this book a try. 

Some of the ideas in the book come across as very silly, but, as the book points out, sometimes silly works. 

The New Six Point Plan for Raising Happy Healthy Children

This book, unlike the previous three, is mostly about raising older children. John Rosemond handles topics like argumentative teenagers, allowances, and in general, managing kids incentives so that they develop the virtues and qualities you want them to as they grow up. 

One of my favorite things in this book was the idea of teaching your teenager how to argue with you. Tolerate absolutely no disrespect from your child, but absolutely allow him to present his case, and if he has a good case, by all means compromise with him where appropriate. Once again, I appreciated this approach because it not only increases child cooperation, it also teaches an incredibly valuable social skill—disagreeing with someone else respectfully. (Imagine how much better American political life would be today if every parent taught their children how to disagree respectfully!)

 

Affiliate links if you want to buy these books, (and support my blog at no extra cost to you.) Or, of course, you can just do what I do, and get them from your local library.

Buy Bringing up Bebe

Buy Hunt Gather Parent

Buy How to Talk so Little Kids Will Listen

Buy The Six Point Plan for Raising Healthy Kids 

(Disclaimer: I have three children, but the oldest is only 4… so it’s unclear how they’ll turn out. That being said, I do have several years experience teaching middle and highschoolers.)

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Five strategies for coping with temporary depression

 

It’s been a long time since I posted here. I never wanted to be that blogger, but… life happens. In this case, life handed me some pregnancy depression and then a wonderful charming baby.

I’m finally back, and I’d like to share some of what I learned about dealing with temporary depression. I say “temporary depression” because if depression is your everyday reality and you don’t even know what you are like without it anymore, you should probably get professional help of some sort. If you’re suicidal, you definitely need some expert help. There are non-drug options out there. I personally had a good experience with a homeopath several years ago. Whatever the case, if your depression is permanent or very severe, these tips probably won’t be enough. These are just suggestions for how to get through the occasional rough patch.

Talk to someone about it

This can be incredibly helpful. If you feel hopeless or discouraged, bottling up your negative thoughts inside can make it worse, because you don’t have the energy to challenge them. Sometimes you need to get those hopeless and discouraged thoughts out in front of someone else so that they can tell you how wrong they are. Of course, if you confide in the wrong person this can be the opposite of helpful. You need a person who wants your good, first of all. Next, it helps if the person has some understanding of depression. “Just snap out of it,” is rarely useful advice. Neither is, “You’re not praying enough,” or “Offer it up.” Prayer is good, yes. Prayer can be helpful. And depression is certainly a cross that can be offered to God. But if you’re really down and asking for help, it’s likely you can’t even remember how to pray. You might feel like you hate God, as well as everything else. You might be able to offer up your misery anyway, but you still need help. So try to find an understanding friend who cares about you and is not currently depressed themselves.

Ideally this person will sympathize and then help you strategize.

When you tell someone about your feelings of depression, it’s helpful if you don’t start with, “My life is awful! I hate everyone. Everyone is awful. No one loves me.” This might be how you feel at the moment, but probably not actually true, and it’s very hard for your friends to hear.

You will get better results if you can objectify your feelings. Your feelings are a real thing that you have to deal with. Just because they aren’t themselves an accurate reflection of reality doesn’t mean that they aren’t real. It is objectively true that you are feeling that way, and that you need help managing that experience. So if you can, try saying something like, “I am feeling depressed. It feels like hopelessness and misery. I know there are good things in my life, but I can’t feel that way right now. I know the world is actually colorful, but it feels gray right now. Do you have any idea what I could do that would make me feel better, or manage my feelings better?”

Get out of your head and do pleasant things

When you’re depressed, the last thing you can usually do is get out of your head. So why is it on this list? Because it’s still what you need to do, even though it’s impossible. So maybe this heading should be something like, “do pleasant things that are easy to start and force you to get out of your head.” But that didn’t sound very catchy.

My personal go-to strategy for this one is to text a friend and say something like, “Hey are you busy today? I’m having a bit of a rough spot and I was wondering if you had time to hang out/chat on the phone/go shopping with me.” I might not be able to motivate myself to get off the sofa and do something useful, but I can at least motivate myself to text someone, and they might be able to get me off the sofa. I might not be able to break out of my negative thought pattern, but at least I can call someone and say hi, and they might be able to make me talk and think about something other than how much I hate everything and what a loser I am.

When none of your friends are answering the phone you can try listening to a podcast, reading a book, or doing an easy-to-start hobby activity to help you get past the worst of it. I spent an afternoon laying on the floor listening to multiple episodes of the Art of Manliness podcast (which I do recommend) while my kids played nearby. It was all I could do that day, and the podcast helped me get out of my cycle of negative thoughts.

I also bought a nice grown-up coloring book and used it toward the end of this pregnancy. It really did help. My kids colored their coloring books and I colored mine. I felt a bit silly, but it got me through the day, and was the closest thing to quality time with my kids that I could manage.

One other thing to try, is if you have a to-do list, pick the easiest thing on it (pro tip: always make sure there’s something easy on that list) and do it. Then check it off. Making progress on a project is a great way to increase dopamine and serotonin levels, which will make you feel better.

Leave the past in the past

I talked to a counselor to help me with my depression and discovered through the process that part of what I was struggling with was not just my current emotional challenges, but baggage from my past. I had previously felt depressed and helpless, and the feeling of depression made me feel helpless again, even though I was in a different situation where I had more control over pretty much every aspect of my life and so many more options for helping myself. Just realizing that I was dealing with past challenges as well as present ones when I really only had to deal with present ones was very helpful. So take a step outside your thoughts, if you can, and see if you’re subconsciously assuming things that aren’t true.

Cut yourself some slack

Another thing my counselor told me was to admit that I was actually facing real difficulties and stop telling myself, “I should be able to do more, do better, be better…”

I was pregnant and had two young children to take care of. This is actually a challenging situation. Just because other people might do something harder doesn’t mean that what you’re doing isn’t hard. Who says you should be able to manage that without some extra help? Who says you shouldn’t lay on the floor and cry sometimes? Laying on the floor and crying isn’t a sin, and sometimes it’s all you can do. Don’t make it harder on yourself by telling yourself you’re a loser for doing it. All that will do is make you more depressed, more anxious, and more likely to end up laying on the floor crying.

Sometimes it’s helpful to remind yourself what you did do. I fed my children and kept them safe today. So what if I also spent a couple hours crying? I accomplished something worthwhile today.

Would I rather not have spent two hours crying? Definitely. But it’s more helpful and more healthy to focus on what you did succeed in doing that to beat yourself up about something you might very well have no control over.

Ask for help

You don’t have to be bedridden, having a baby currently, or dying in order to ask for help. Obviously, you should do for yourself what you can, and be ready to help your friends when you can, but sometimes you do need help with physical tasks. Ask for help before you’re so desperate and miserable you can’t do anything.

And if your friends offer to help, do take them up on it if you want help. Don’t be concerned that it’s weak or selfish. It’s not weak to take proper care of yourself, and no one can do life alone. If you have kids, you will need help all the more. Parenting isn’t supposed to be a solo activity. It’s not supposed to just be the parents. Sometimes you need to get other people to help you. Hire someone if you have to and if you can possibly afford it. Consider it an investment in your most valuable asset–your mental health.

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What I’ve been up to lately

It’s been awhile since I posted, but that’s not because I haven’t been writing.

I just finished an edit of my novel, Heaven’s Hunter, and got a fabulous new cover for it. I’m so excited to share it with you all. It’s available on Amazon as both a paperback and an ebook.

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Sharing a Friend’s Stories

A few weeks ago I posted about how excited I was to have finished writing a book. But I would not have written that book if it were not for a particular friend and mentor who I met as a child and who pushed me to write, to be confident that I could write, and who, in fact, was the one who suggested that I start writing the book that became Heaven’s Hunter.

Her name is Colleen Drippé, and today I would like to share her work with you. If you are interested in science fiction, first of all, you will like her work. She has a lot of fun building interesting worlds for her characters to live in. But even if you are not a hard-core science fiction person, you will still love the characters. Her characters deal with difficult and dramatic circumstances, but the hardest problems they face are–as it is for all of us–the ones within themselves. Seeing her characters struggle and overcome is both entertaining and inspiring.

To learn more about any  of the books, or purchase them, click on the picture, which will take you to the book’s page. (This post contains affiliate links. Purchases made through these links pay me a small commission at no extra cost to you.)

 Freed by the annihilation of the corporation that owned him, archæological looter Eduardo Sabat goes into business for himself.  But why does he accept a search and rescue mission in the same region of Quele Colony where he suffered his most terrible experience as a corporate slave?  He isn’t sure, but he suspects there are still some things he still has to resolve.  In the end, the ever surprising Godcountry region has its own answers for him – answers that will change him beyond his wildest dreams.

I have read this one a couple of times, and it’s just plain a lot of fun, as well as an invitation to some self-examination. I highly recommend it.

 

Young Helen Kley of El Colony, a world dominated by women, doesn’t know what to make of the two young men who suddenly come bursting into her life, rescuing her from a humiliating kidnap attempt. That they are offworlders, she has no doubt, that they are corporate agents of some sort, she suspects. Otherwise why do they withhold their names, giving her only the number of a safe line to contact them? In the end, she becomes friends with the one she dubs “Pro” (the other she call “Con” because of their differing attitudes) and simply learns to think of them as her guardians. Only when she comes of age, two years later, and is by custom given her father’s name and an invitation to visit heretofore unknown relatives on his homeworld, does she learn the truth about her adopted guardians. In fact she learns truth after truth as she and Pro, whose real name she finally learns, must battle their way through one adventure after another as they seek her missing father while avoiding his enemies. In the end, she faces not only threats from the outside, but also the need to come to terms with her own values and background — to choose and to choose rightly. Everything she has learned to care about depends on her choice — her own happiness and the welfare of those who have become dear to her.

I just read this one recently, and I think it’s my favorite so far. It moves quickly, the characters are attractive and relatable, and I found the plot quite satisfying. It has plenty of action, good conversations, interesting monsters, and some really inspiring characters.

 

Treelight Colony has enjoyed more than a hundred years of peaceful, agrarian life, in isolation from the rest of the civilized galaxy. But now they have been bought by the unsavory Pesc Corporation, who plan to drag them into the modern world and make them part of the interstellar family.

Pesc sends Marja Sienko, a social engineer on her first assignment, along with her corporate slave and a robotic secretary, to prepare the colonists to be modernised. But it isn’t long before Marja suspects that the Corporation has something else in mind — something both sinister and mysterious. And she is meant to play a part in their plans — not as their delegate but as their victim.

While Marja struggles to modernise landowners who prefer to live like medieval vassals, the Star Brothers arrive for their periodic visit to check on the colony diocese, and Brother Brendan Stillman and his two semi-civilised Lost Rythan “helpers” discover that something is rotten in the “peaceful” colony of Treelight. Highwaymen abound, the bishop knows more than heís telling, and a group of “druids” have formed a symbiotic relationship with the surrounding forest.

Brother Brendanís superior, Father Moto, deploys Dust, a former criminal turned hacker, to snoop through the Pesc Corporationís files to discover what’s really afoot, while, back on Treelight, the native forest (whose “trees” are more than mere vegetation) slowly toils to reclaim the planet as its own.

I haven’t read this one, but it does sound intriguing.

 

Father Ruiz of the Star Brothers, sets off to convert the heathen of Fen Colony and finds himself in a moral rats’ nest.  Dealing with a totalitarian government, an invasion of rebels, an entrenched native hierarchy and warring tribes, not to mention the gelens themselves, who turn out to be moon worshipping semi-telepaths, his difficulties multiply.  When his first convert turns out to be a war criminal and the most powerful empath on the planet, things can only get worse.

I read this one a few years ago. Imagine the worst possible peer pressure you have ever experienced. Then multiply it by 100. Imagine that the people who wanted to influence you could actually get inside your head…. That’s what the main character of this book has to deal with–be prepared to share his pain. But you will share his victory as well.

 

Sequel to Colleen Drippé’s book Gelen, Vessel of Darkness continues the story of Fen Colony, home of the Drayak tribe and their psychically gifted gelens. Mutated from Earth normal, these semi-outcasts have now begun to find a place within the tribe. Vess Lorn’s son, known as Spear, a gelen himself, but also a member of the Drayak royal house, has been elected king of Drakendon — and things will never be the same. It isn’t an easy job, however. Spear must not only juggle an uneasy alliance with the stranded forces of Net Central, the offworlders, but also confront a new menace. Dilich Hayan, powerful gelen and North Islander, has arrived at the Drayak Citadel, carrying with him an ancient curse as well as the hopes of his own unbalanced people. Through his patterning, a bridge is formed with a new power rising in the west and suddenly not only the gelens but everyone in the colony is threatened. Dilich is not happy as the “vessel of darkness” and tries to fight free. But his own struggles are not enough — both king and queen (Ella Trenre, a gelen whose powers equal those of Dilich) must stake everything in the battle, along with Rac Marcus Wolfbane, a newly ordained priest, the pirate, Render, Spear’s two smuggler brothers, and Racka, a man tormented by the murder of his former mistress, who serves as the king’s advisor.

I haven’t gotten a chance to read this one yet, but it’s definitely on my list.

 

Finally, there’s the third book in the Gelen series, Dawnstrikers. It’s not out yet, but it sounds awfully exciting too. You can preorder it by clicking on this link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08ZLX82TF

Planet Fen, lost colony, is now cut off permanently from the rest of the civilized worlds. Unfortunately a lot of people are cut off with it: the occupying troopers and their families, innumerable bureaucrats, scientists, technicians and even a missionary or two. They are all outnumbered and culturally swamped by the native colonists, a mixture of half converted primitives and a contingent of ferocious xenophobes who want all offworlders exterminated.

In this, the third book of the Gelen series, the bishop and the commander at Havekgerem, both have their hands full. The former must rein in a group of Faring Guards, fanatical, axe-wielding Lost Rythan exiles who are determined to protect him at all costs, while the commander tries vainly to police the region with his disgruntled troops. And in the midst of this come the Dawnstrikers, native blackshirts blindly following their charismatic leader as he hatches a plan to not only kill all foreigners but also to wipe out their rival tribe. And they almost succeed —

I certainly hope you enjoy her work as much as I have.

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I wrote a book!

It’s been a long time since I posted, and a lot of that has been because I was busy getting my science fiction novel ready to publish, and getting it printed. It’s finally available to buy here on Amazon. I am so excited!

I’ve been writing this story off and on for a few years, and after 2 major revisions and countless minor revisions, it’s finally ready to go.

It’s a Catholic space adventure story with themes of revenge, loyalty, faith, hope and friendship.

(Affiliate link)