Christine Koh

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I'm Christine Koh, a music and brain neuroscientist turned multimedia creative. I'm the founder + editor of Boston Mamas, co-author of Minimalist Parenting, co-host of the Edit Your Life podcast, and creative director at Women Online. Drop me a line; I'd love to chat about how we can work together!

Learning the Lingo

readyforbed.jpgSometimes I wonder how being raised by a pair of psychologists impacts Laurel. Jon and I definitely have had moments where we stop and listen to ourselves speak, and wonder whether we’re just flat out being too verbose with her. But a couple of new books from Free Spirit Publishing make it clear that others are talking a similar talk, and to saner effect. Today, I’m reviewing these titles - Ready for Bed! and Ready for the Day! - in conjunction with the Parent Bloggers Network.
Aside from the colorful, cheery illustrations and the diverse representation that is (thankfully) becoming more of a standard in kids books these days, Free Spirit’s Ready for Bed! and Ready for the Day! differ significantly from typical kids books in that they truly are books for kids and parents. In fact, if you wanted to make a quantitative comparison based on word count, the books actually weigh in favor of the parents.

readyforday.jpgThese Ready books entertain kids while educating caregivers about the language of positive parenting; the goal being to provide more effective communication alternatives to the bribing, timeouts, and other means to an end that parents use either as their modus operandi, or simply when they’re pushed to a breaking point by their kid’s behavior. For parents who want to jump right to learning the lingo, just start reading with your child and pay attention to the colored text. These books play out typical power struggles that parents and kids engage in (e.g., getting a bath, brushing teeth, eating breakfast, getting ready for school, etc.), and the positive parenting dialogue is realistic and color coded, such that green words represent ways to validate feelings (e.g., “I can see you’re disappointed”), blue words show examples of how to offer choice (e.g., “Would you like to wear your crocodile jammies or your blue stripeys?”), and red words demonstrate examples of how to offer your child encouragement (e.g., “You remembered your manners!”).

To learn more about why it’s important to validate feelings and offer choice and encouragement, immediately following the story are easy to comprehend descriptions of the three parenting techniques and how they can help make transitions easier by making the child feel respected, heard, and part of the conversation.

As you may have guessed, these books are well in line with the way that Jon and I parent Laurel, and I can say from experience that we have, in fact, found that something as simple and easy as offering choice is extremely effective in diffusing power struggles. As I wrote recently in my post on assembling her nature fairy birthday party, this type of communication style even makes situations that might seem like an utter nightmare – such as bringing a retail hungry, art obsessed kid to a sparkly and shiny place like Michael’s Arts & Crafts – a non-issue because we simply set options in front of her, from which she can make a choice. It doesn’t mean that she doesn’t ask for every sparkly thing we pass in the store, but in that situation the choice paradigm and, come to think of it, validation of her interest in creative activities, gave her enough voice in the experience that the shopping was fun and easy. Although personality no doubt comes into play, I do think that this style of communication contributes to the fact that we rarely have to deal with meltdowns.

At times I have felt as if our make-a-choice parenting style is disturbingly similar to the two-alternative-forced-choice experimental paradigms I ran ad nauseum during my research days, but I will say that the Ready books also were effective in validating my feelings. It might take a little more work and an adjustment in perspective and communication style to start talking the positive parenting talk, but the fact of the matter is that the techniques do work. I highly recommend learning the lingo through these books, which model - for both parents and kids - ways to communicate more effectively so that more of the day is spent enjoying one another, not fighting.


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