June 23, 2011
Triple Book Short: For Parents
People who know me know that I am a voracious reader. Among other things, I probably read about 25-30 books per year — and I wish I had time for more. I probably read about 50% business books, which I blog about. Most of my other reading is in a couple specific topical areas that interest me like American History and Evolutionary Biology. Over the last few years, Mariquita and I have discovered and read a handful of books about parenting that have been foundational for us as we work deliberately at raising our three kids, and two of them have roots in some of the same philosophies, psychologies, and research as a lot of contemporary business literature. So for parents everywhere, I thought I’d devote a book short to these three books.
The first one is Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, by Marc Weissbluth. Having kids who sleep long and well has been the foundation for us to have a well functioning household. Well rested kids are much easier than tired ones. Well rested parents are more effective. We have found that the principles in this book have consistently served us well on this front. All three of our kids more or less slept through the night starting at 6-8 weeks and have been great sleepers since then.
Unconditional Parenting, by Alfie Kohn is basically, for those in the HR/OD field, “Action/Design” for parenting. The principles in this book have applied to kids as young as 1 year old, and the examples in the book go through the teenage years. Our main learnings from this book have been around moving away from more traditional forms of reward, punishment, and control and towards helping our kids make decisions as opposed to follow directions by understanding our kids perspective on things, working to help them articulate their own understanding of a situation, and helping them see the perspective of others.
Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child, by John Gottman, builds on a lot of the same underlying work that Daniel Goleman writes about in articles and business books around Emotional Intelligence (in fact, Goleman wrote the forward to this book as well). The book lays out a process the author calls Emotional Coaching to help kids learn empathy and problem solving by showing kids empathy, teaching them to understand and label their own emotions, and working with them to craft solutions on their own, but doing the whole process in a very calm and 1:1 manner. One of my favorite parts of the book, which is so unusual in business books and any kind of self-help book, is that the author has a whole section devoted to when NOT to use this process.
Parenting is a very personal thing, and there isn’t a right or wrong way to go about it. I have a friend who is fond of saying that parenting is a little bit like the way comedian George Carlin used to describe “other drivers” on the highway. People who are going slower than you are “a**holes” and people who are going faster than you are “crazy.” Only you drive the “right way.” So true, but if you’re a parent, there’s no more important thing to be deliberate about practicing than parenting, and these books have been a good practice guide for us. We have found a full read of these three books to be very helpful to us in our work with our kids, and we have been very lucky that our main babysitter has been aligned with us on philosophy (and has been willing to read these books with us).