Books for first-time parents

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz July 30, 2012 06:00 AM

In deciding what to give at a baby shower to my friend's daughter who is expecting for the first-time, it probably will come as no surprise that I'm choosing some parenting books. Here are my choices:

1. "Your Baby and Child," by Penelope Leach. The mom-to-be actually has this on her baby registry list and it made me smile to see that my friend Penelope, who I've interviewed many times over the years and shared tea with at the old Ritz in Boston, was still making a new mom's must-read list. I couldn't agree more!

2. "Your Baby Is Speaking to You," by Dr. Kevin Nugent. I love this book, I've been waiting to have someone to buy it for since it was published last year. This is not a typical parenting book, in fact, it's almost a cocktail table book with gorgeous photos by Abelardo Morell and an artsy format that you can dip into, reading only a page at a time. That alone is a sure sign that the author knows not only about babies but also about the life of a baby's parents. Nugent is director of the Brazelton Institute at Children's Hospital, Boston.

3. "You Raising Your Child, The Owner's Manual from first breath to first grade," by Michael F. Roizen, Md, and Mehmet C. Oz, Md. This is one of those big, all-encompassing books, and I like it for its combination of simple explanations, practicality and common sense.

4. "Put Yourself in Their Shoes,
Understanding how your children see the world," by Barbara Meltz. You didn't think I would have a list of books and not include my own, did you? It's not written for parents of newborns -- it kicks in at the tantrum stage -- but surely
it belongs on every parent's night stand, don't you think?

I hope you'll share your suggestions for books for new parents.

Are visiting grandson's bad behaviors a bunch of bad habits or something more?

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz July 27, 2012 06:00 AM

My 6 year old grandson is spending the summer with me. I thought that the lying, stealing, wetting pants (day and night), picking at other kids and just saying mean things in general to other children (older ones) was because of the change in his environment but I have learned that these are the frustrations my daughter is dealing with on a daily basis. He has a sister 3 years younger. I want to make absolutely sure I am giving him exactly what he needs and be able to give her sound advice on how to deal with these issues. Please help me help him. Thank you so much,

From: Denise, Fort Myers, FLA


Loyalty bind putting child at risk

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz July 25, 2012 06:00 AM

[This letter has been condensed. BFM]
Help...I'm at my wit's end. My 6 yr old stepson acts horrible! He has 13 and 19 yr old sisters and their mother was deported when he was a baby. His father's two sisters [Margarita & Marcy] helped with the kids. In fact, Margarita, who is unable to bear children, moved in and basically raised Santiago, the 6yr old. Marcy basically raised the oldest, leaving the middle child to be raised by dad. Then I came along. They are a Hispanic family and I am Anglo. Their father and I dated for two years...all seemed ok. Then we moved in together and all help broke loose.

Aunts still came in house taking over and not allowing me to take care of kids or much privacy. Until recently I was not allowed by aunts to take 6yr old to school or attend school activities. They didn't care about middle child. She and I have become very close. 6 yr old and I started getting close and wanting to call me mom and the aunts had a front of him....He cried to me and asked why his aunts dislike me. I had to lie and say I don't know sweetie...don't will all be ok. We basically share custody with the aunts because he spends Wed night with one and Fri night with other. Plus they pick him up from school almost every day.

Basically....we know they have said bad things about me and talked bad about me to him and in front of him and he is acting so bad with me. They let him do anything he boundaries while at their house and his behavior is horrible. He throws fits...screams at everyone... He now talks bad about me in Spanish and no one corrects him when he does it but his father. Ramon has talked to them...fought with them yet they still will not discipline him. He is getting worse because he is spending more time with them and it's awful! I'm at my wits end and about to move out cause between the aunts and this kid hating me....I just don't think I can handle it anymore. There is so much more but too much already typed. :(....please help.

From: Sherry, Paris, TX


Mom and child's dad are struggling with her lying

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz July 23, 2012 06:00 AM

Barbara, my 6 year old daughter is lying to her father and me about some serious things. Her father and I were never married and we do not live together. He is married and now they are expecting a child. When she goes to her father's house, she will tell him things like my mommy said that you never wanted me or lie and tell him that I do her online readings for her.

She has also lied to me about things that they have supposedly said. She has told me that they told her it was ok for her to call Sarah (her step mother) mommy, which is absolutely not ok with me being that I am her mother.

This is causing some serious tension between her father and me. We already do not have a good relationship with each other and all the lying just makes it worse.

We have both talked to her about her lying but it doesn't stop. I suggested a sit down with Madison, her father and me so we can all discuss the issue together but I have gotten no response from him on that suggestion which is also frustrating.

Do you have any advice for me?

From: Kelly, Winter Park, FLA


Thumbs down on "Little Devil" as a nickname

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz July 13, 2012 06:00 AM

Dear Barbara,

My question is regarding a name that my mother-in-law uses very loosely toward my 22 month old. When my daughter does typical toddler things my mother-in-law calles her a "little devil." I feel that this is not an appropriate term to use at all, especially toward my daughter and directly to her. I have told my husband that I do not want her saying this and have asked him to speak with her. He thinks that it's not a big deal; I think he just doesn't want to address this with her. I am a little out spoken but I feel I should not be the one to address this topic.

Thank you
From: CJW, Providence, RI


Uh oh. I have too much stuff, too

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz July 11, 2012 06:00 AM

The social science study of American families ("Life at Home in the 21st Century") that Beth Teitell wrote about in yesterday's Globe -- that people have "too much stuff, too little time" -- struck home. I have a closet that has a pile of some my son's childhood toys that I'm saving for the grandchildren. My son? Adult, single, happy.

Teitell interviewed a woman whose 2-year-old daughter has a kitchen set with 400 accessories. The little girl doesn't play with them, she'd rather be watching TV, her mom said. I also bet she'd rather play with the plastic storage containers in her mom's cabinet -- trust me, I know they are there -- than with the toy. To that mom, I also would point out that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation is for children 2 or under not to watch TV. This inability to process commercials is one reason why.

For a more nuanced read on the same topic, I suggest this piece in The New Yorker, "Spoiled Rotten, Why do kids rule the roost?" by Elizabeth Kolbert.

My take on all this? There's no denying we are all -- adults and children alike -- products of our culture. There's also no denying that we have created the culture, generation by generation. Time to take it back. Here are some sites that can help:

Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood;
"The Story of Stuff;"
Alliance for Childhood; Center for a New American Dream; Common Sense Media and Teachers Resisting Unhealthy Children's Entertainment, also known as TRUCE.

Visit with stepmom needs some prep work

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz July 10, 2012 06:00 AM

My husband's stepmother recently almost overdosed on prescription drugs. At her last visit to our home, my husband's father told us she was much better, but when she got here it was the same old thing. She was falling asleep at the table, falling asleep in the middle of interacting w my 2 year old , and inappropriately showing affection ie. long kisses on the cheek ( because she was falling asleep). Almost like a heroine addict. I told her not to pick up my 2 month old, she still tried. I told her not to pick up my 2 year old and she did multiple times. It was frightening.

Then she confronted ME! Told me she wouldn't have come if she had known she was going to be treated that way. My husband and I are meant to go to visit them and we are arguing over the duration of our stay. My husband insists we must visit them at their home and that she's doing much better now. I do not want to be put in that position again. I told him I could do 2 hours and he is telling me it has to be 4 hours. Honestly, I'm so unbelievably uncomfortable around this woman at this time that I don't want to go at all.
Please give me a better perspective. How can we stay in a relationship w his dad and stepmom while she is suffering through this and still keep our sanity and children safe?

From: Erica, Glendale, AZ


Slowing down that thumb-sucking

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz July 6, 2012 06:00 AM

Hello Ms. Meltz,

I love your column, and really respect your balanced advice. I'm writing to you now with a question that is probably not worth a whole column, but I'm hoping you can point me toward some resources: what are some good techniques to stop thumb-sucking?

My 30-month old daughter sucks her thumb frequently, and it doesn't bother me or my husband. However, our dentist recently told us that she's starting to see some physiologic changes (her pallet is rising) and that it's important to stop this behavior.

She does have a "lovey" and self-soothes by holding it while sucking her thumb at quiet moments during the day, and while falling asleep. I don't anticipate breaking the habit will be easy, and as a former thumb-sucker (until age 4 or 5), I sympathize with my daughter. How can we make this as painless as possible, for everyone?

Thank you so much,
From: Valerie, Dorchester, MA


Taming the toddler tantrums

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz July 3, 2012 06:00 AM


We have a 25 month old son who up until about 4 weeks ago was a perfect little Angel (at least in our eyes!)! He really does have a very entertaining and sweet personality and he is usually a joy to have around! About 4 weeks ago, we started with what I am sure is common 2 yr old behavior, tantrums (huge kicking screaming head banging ones!!) when tired, hungry, can't have what he wants! It is almost impossible to get him to do anything asked (get shoes on, come inside to eat, get into chair to eat, bath, etc etc). I have tried giving warnings for transition (in a few minutes we will do...) and setting a timer (when the timer goes off we will...) and counting to 5 (if I get to 5 you will go into time out). NOTHING seems to work well. I feel like my 2 year old is running our home, and no strategies are working, this is also very frustrating and upsetting for both my husband and I as well as our little guy!

Background info: we have a new 3 month old baby too...just to make things more interesting!

Our 2 year old is very very good with the baby and seems to really like him...

In addition to the tantrums, we are also experiencing separation anxiety (leaving at daycare or with a babysitter or even grandparents!) and very clingy behavior!!

Any help would be so appreciated!

From: Melanie, Kingston, Ontario


About the author

Barbara F. Meltz is a freelance writer, parenting consultant, and author of "Put Yourself in Their Shoes: Understanding How Your Children See the World." She won several awards for her weekly "Child Caring" column in the Globe, including the 2008 American Psychological Association Print Excellence award. Barbara is available as a speaker for parent groups.

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Barbara answers questions on a wide range of topics, including autism, breastfeeding, bullying, discipline, divorce, kindergarten, potty training, sleep, tantrums, and much, much more.

Send your questions to her at:
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