I have a confession to make: many books written by colleagues sit in a pile on my desk, half- or never-read. I can barely get through these well-researched, informative books, and I know the sleep-deprived, stressed out parents I work with have an even harder time than I.
To be honest, I’m not sure a parent can become better at their job by reading advice from a book (though a short column written by yours truly might be helpful now and then). I believe parenting is best learned by trusting gut feelings, asking questions, being humble, and constantly starting over again and again and again.
Lately I’ve been thinking about another kind of book that may be more instructive than Parenting Advice books: the picture book. I’m not referring to message-heavy illustrated books with obvious agendas. Rather, consider picture books that are simple and direct. Often a fun, quick read with cool illustrations is more inspiring than 200 plus pages of professionally endorsed do’s and dont’s. Good picture books can positively influence parents as well as kids, teaching without preaching.
And so, I’ve decided every now and then I’m going to write briefly about common parenting concerns and recommend picture books that support my general ideas. To start, let’s look at Sharing.
Sharing is difficult at any age, especially in a proprietary and materialistic society like ours. Parents of young children particularly need to relax about sharing, or the lack thereof. Most young children conceptualize everything in their worlds as extensions of their corporeal beings; their toys, their food, their parents, the views out their windows. I cringe when kids are categorized as ‘good’ sharers or ‘bad’ sharers. Asking a three year old to willingly hand over a toy is like asking them to cut off their arm and give it away. Yes. Ouch. In my opinion, sharing should be considered a developmental stage, something to encourage but not force, like walking or talking, or using the potty.
Some kids move in to a more fluid acceptance of sharing sooner than others. So please, try to limit the comparisons, pointing out the ‘good’ sharer while your kid bear hugs their toy truck so tightly you fear for his circulation. Instead, read a book like Tad Hills’ “Duck & Goose” and let these adorable characters ‘float’ the message without shaming or blaming.
Duck and Goose meet when they both happen upon a polka-dot ball at the same time. They think it’s a giant egg, which adds a whole other hilarious dimension to their story. What’s great about Duck & Goose is how nuanced the sharing/not sharing subject is explored. These little feathery guys are not one-dimensional “MINE MINE MINE” characters. Sure Duck and Goose squabble, try to one-up each other, not unlike toddlers and pre-schoolers, but they also try hard to be polite and struggle to think of solutions to the conundrum of having just one ball. Like human kids Duck and Goose crave social contact and thrive on friendship, but they’re stubborn little devils. They ultimately work their differences out without sacrificing their strong wills. They are imperfectly perfect, and the kind of role models this Parenting Expert can support.
Valuable lessons aside, I also love Duck & Goose because of the way Hills has married colorful, playful illustrations with sweet, funny, but never cloying prose. Support your local bookstore or library and go get a copy now.
NOTE: Do you have any picture books that helped you tone up or tone down certain parenting impulses? Fun reads that got important messages through to your kids? I would love readers to send me suggestions for future columns to email@example.com. I’m always up for great new picture books. They’re just about my speed.
Other posts by Alice:
- Teaching Kids Tolerance
- Parenting: which style is “you”- how to work it out
- Kids regressing? Spiraling is okay
- Self-run parent camp: how to make it work for all of you
- iphones, blackberries? Why the parent in you should put them down
- The Parenting Res
- To Work or Not To Work?
- Regression Over the Holidays
- Should you lie to your kids?
- Can you get kids to do what you want?
- How can family rituals help?
- How to help siblings get along
- In defense of dads: roughhousing is good
- Know-it-all-mom and dad
Alice Kaltman, L.C.S.W. has been working with parents and kids since 1988. In 2006, she co-founded Family Matters NY with Sara Zaslow, L.M.S.W. FMNY is a parenting coaching service for Brooklyn and Manhattan families, providing support through home and office visits. Alice lives in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn with her teen-age daughter and husband, the sculptor Daniel Wiener. She also writes fiction for kids, and dances professionally in her spare (?) time. Write to Alice at firstname.lastname@example.org.