The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO


December 26, 2013

Sarah Coyne: Books help build parenting skills

JOPLIN, Mo. — I know families who thrive during Christmas vacation, getting crafty, making memories, and hanging out in their pajamas all day. I always plan on being that family.

Somewhere in the middle of the planning, though, I forget the angry truth: bickering is about to ensue. My kids will be at each other's throats before breakfast, and I will have accidentally yelled more in one day than I have in the entire past semester.

I end up feeling like all of my best parenting moves only happen because my kids are packed off to school for large portions of the day. It's not a fun realization.

I hope the truth is also tempered with grace: a general lack of structure combined with too many late nights and treats are harmful to our flow. Still, it can be an emotional struggle to navigate these two winter weeks without feeling like a failure as a parent.

If Christmas break is about to break you, here are some of my favorite books on how to relate to your kids. A little bit of expert advice might be just the thing we all need.

"How to Talk So Kids Will Listen, and Listen So Kids Will Talk," by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish: I reference this book on what seems like a monthly basis here, so please forgive me for being a broken record.

It really is that good, though.  

If you struggle with finding the right words when trying to interact with your kids, have trouble containing your own emotions when confronting those of your upset child or cannot seem to make your child listen to a word you say, "How to Talk" is for you. If you have kids or know kids or work with kids, this book is a must-read.

"Siblings without Rivalry," by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish: I realize that I'm close to sounding like a piece of marketing for this pair of authors, but their knowledge and passion behind all things parenting is outstanding.

From jealousy to competition to cooperation (or its lack) this book is incredibly helpful in teaching us how to accept our children's feelings without pandering to their infighting behavior. One of the best concepts I learned from "Siblings" is that our kids don't need to be treated equally; they need to be treated uniquely. Starting from this vantage point, we can become more able to address the guilt, sadness and confusion that can crop up in handling the everyday conflicts that arise between our kids.

"Peaceful Parents, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting," by Dr. Laura Markham: Sometimes we are so wrapped up in the personal feelings associated with kids who are acting out, that we forget to step back and see what our children actually need, from their perspective.

Because as Dr. Markham teaches us, every so-called misbehavior stems from a need and it's our ability to respond to those needs that makes or breaks our relationships with our kids. "Peaceful Parents" shares easily digestible psychology and brain development research while offering truly useful phraseology and suggestions as we learn to be calm and peaceful parents.

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In an effort to curb prostitution, St. Louis police are targeting, and perhaps humiliating, the "johns" who use the services. Postcards mailed to the homes of those charged with trying to pick up prostitutes will offer a reminder about spreading sexually transmitted diseases, along with listing the court date. Do you think this is a good approach?

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