“Supernanny” by Jo Frost

I hate parenting books. The last thing I want to do after an exhausting day parenting my energetic, needy boys is read about parenting. I want a break! Television, movies and reading for pleasure suit that need much better.

Yet I am far from a perfect parent to 5yo Drake and 2yo Guppy, so I feel guilty about not reading the books. I know I’ve got much to learn, but I rebel against the books, whose advice I find hard to follow and not always applicable. At a recent playdate, a friend noticed my boys’ oppositional behavior, and suggested Supernanny. Why not, I thought, worn down by the boys and their frequent fighting, both with me and with each other. I got the book from the library. Three weeks went by. I renewed it. Another three weeks went by. I renewed it again. Finally I read it.

It’s easy to read, with pictures, big type size and a truly useful set of sections on typical problem areas like eating, playing with others, and bedtime. It is basic, and perhaps more focused on parent guidance than on child nurturing. But I am taking away a few pieces of advice, so it was time well spent.

On the futility of reasoning with toddlers:

Reasoning, pleading, bargaining, threatening–none of these work with [toddlers]. For these strategies to work, your child would need mental powers she just does not yet have. (p.32)

It’s okay to offer a toddler a choice between two acceptable alternatives. But offering a toddler lots of choices tells him that you don’t know what you’re doing–otherwise, why are you asking?–and that therefore he’s the boss. (p. 50)

Small children will always win [in these situations] because they don’t really understand what a bargain or a promise is all about. What you’re dangling in front of them in the form of a treat is just too tempting, and they will try their utmost to get it right now. And what you see as a trade-off, she sees as a rule that keeps changing–which, as everyone knows, is a rule that isn’t really a rule at all and doesn’t have to be followed. (p. 71)

On involving kids with daily tasks:

Small children need attention. When they don’t get it, they act up. The trouble is that there simply aren’t enough hours in the day for you to give your toddler the attention he wants and deal with everything else as well. When you have two or more kids, short of cloning yourself, you have to think of ways around the problem. (p. 77)

And some helpful advice I’m going to try, like earlier mealtimes for the kids, who tend to be hungry at 10:30 and 4:30, not noon and 6:30. And staggered bedtimes, so each boy can have a little one on one time before bed–kids aren’t the only ones who can use “divide and conquer” to their advantage. Heh, heh.

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