Five books that saved me as a parent

When I bought my first phone in 2003, a humble and durable Nokia 3310, it came with a detailed do’s and don’ts manual. I unboxed it, started using the manual cover to cover and followed the instructions – insert the battery into the phone and charge it overnight.

Years later, while expecting our first child, now almost an adult at the age of 10, I missed having a manual. Why in God’s name didn’t these small but extremely complex humans come with a manual?

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A decade of raising two children, who couldn’t be more different from each other, compelled me to get my hands on not one but five books that have helped me so far:

Secrets of the Baby Whisperer: How to Calm, Connect and Communicate with Your Baby

By Tracy Hogg with Melinda Blau

While What to Expect: The First Year has great advice on the months following pregnancy, Secrets of the Baby Whisperer helps you get inside the mind of your bundle of joy and unwrap it. Babies have different temperaments. It may seem odd that someone who is barely able to tell their elbow from their diaper should have a point of view, but understand that babies have temperaments and outlook, helped me deal with many seemingly random behaviors more calmly. Having a routine for the newborn and for me has made life much more manageable.

Secrets of the Baby Whisperer: How to Calm, Connect and Communicate with Your Baby by Tracy Hogg with Melinda Blau. (Photo: Amazon.co.uk)

Tracy Hogg’s Golden Principle – “Start as you want to go on” has served me very well not only in the first few months, but for many years after. Even today, when faced with a situation of ‘Should I allow the children to eat in front of the TV?’ or similar, I ask myself first, would it be good if it became a habit? If so, fine; otherwise, proceed with caution.

Raising Boys: Why Boys Are Different and How to Help Them Become Happy, Balanced Men

And

Raising Girls in the 21st Century: Helping our girls grow up wise, strong and free

By Steve Biddulph, Paul Stanish (Illustrator)

At some point, the four-tempered world (which I learned from The Baby Whisperer) of infants and toddlers begins to become more complex, with gender becoming an additional variable. This is where Steve Biddulph held my hand. I started my journey as a second parent thinking that I would raise my son the same way I raised my daughter, of course, taking into account their temperament. I was so going to break the patriarchy in this generation. While this mission is on track and my two children help tidy up and prepare breakfast on the day the assistant needs a break, each had a different path to that end.

parenthood Raising Boys: Why Boys Are Different and How to Help Them Become Happy, Well-Rounded Men by Steve Biddulph, Paul Stanish (Illustrator). (Photo: Amazon.co.uk)

Thanks to Biddulph, I realized that boys generally need to know who’s boss. Thus, while asking for help for the the girl works better, the son must be ordered to help. The book talks about developmental milestones in each – how boys need more father attention after age 5, how girls need to slowly push the boundaries for themselves. Both children will need another adult they can turn to for guidance during their teenage years and I need to develop those relationships now so that I can trust the adult they turn to (Yes, parenthood requires a lot of work).

parenthood Raising Girls in the 21st Century: Helping our girls grow up wise, strong and free. (Photo: Amazon.co.uk)

How to talk so kids will listen and listen so kids will talk

by Adele Faber, Elaine Mazlish, Kimberly Ann Coe (Illustrator)

So I had a playbook – one quite different from previous generations, one that believed children’s minds should be nurtured and not nullified by the “norms” of yesteryear. Great! But they are still children and while I would like to give them some autonomy and a sense of agency (crucial for trust), where and how do you draw the lines? The girl joined a new school and came back crying that she’s the only one who doesn’t have the latest iPad — do I have to shout at that ungrateful wretch? The son has come home in a murderous rage since the teacher scolded him for not paying attention — should I distract him and make him work harder?

parenthood How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber, Elaine Mazlish, Kimberly Ann Coe (Illustrator). (Photo: Amazon.co.uk)

How… focuses on actually understanding what the child is saying and finding ways to communicate your boundaries without cutting ties. Specifically, strategies that precede yelling and punishment and, if it happens to punishment, what is appropriate.

As in the above cases – the girl just needed to express something that she was feeling for the very first time and that I will always have to deal with in life, I just had to sit with her and be there; son benefited from imaginary punishments given to said teacher (he boiled him in oil, in case you want to know) and volunteered to say maybe he shouldn’t have play with his identity card.

What Everyone Says: An Ex-FBI Agent’s Guide to Reading People Quickly

by Joe Navarro, Marvin Karlins

parenthood What Everyone Says: An Ex-FBI Agent’s Guide to Reading People Quickly by Joe Navarro, Marvin Karlins. (Photo: Amazon.co.uk)

It was never meant to be a parenting guide. I originally bought this to deal with tough area bosses at work. But it has proven useful for properly assessing emotions, as children may not be able to express exactly what they are feeling. Are they cranky out of frustration or insecurity? Were they angry or mean to the kid next door? Joe’s experience with spies and world leaders came to my rescue.

Open

by Andre Agassi

When I determined my parenting style, the Mom Tiger was very popular. Your child has potential and you owe it to them to push to succeed. Open was the other side of the story – the perspective of a child who became the definition of success with tiger parenting but resented his parents. Her story helped me decide if I wanted more success or happiness for my children and if I could let them decide.

parenthood Opened by André Agassi. (Photo: Amazon.co.uk)

Prime: My current favorite is a show, lady secretary, on PrimeVideo. Managing two teenagers and an adult is no small feat, and it helps to see an involved father taking on the task.

(Pooja Sardana is an entrepreneur, philosopher, traveler, strong supporter of gender equality and mother of two children, a girl and a boy aged 10 and 7 respectively.)

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