Monday, August 15, 2011

Book Recommendation: From Diapers to Dating

I belong to an online community of mothers in Austin (called Austin Mamas) and a mothers' group in my neighborhood (called The Heights' Kids Group). Someone on one of the lists recommended the book called From Diapers to Dating: A Parent's Guide to Raising Sexually Healthy Children.

I immediately ordered the book from the library, but when it arrived, I was hesitant to read it. I felt like I wasn't prioritizing my parenting needs appropriately. I mean, surely there are more urgent and important things for me to be reading about as the mother of a 5-month old?

Boy, was I wrong!

I really believe that all parents should buy and read the first two chapters "The Basics" and "Infants and Toddlers, Birth to Age 2" before their babies arrive. I'm going to purchase the book and keep it on my shelf, so that I can read the remaining chapters "2-5," "5-8," and "9-12" as they become relevant to us. Even though I'm all about down-sizing my book collection and de-cluttering right now, I feel like this book will be a useful reference throughout the years.

Fortunately, much of what it says in the infants and toddlers section overlaps with things I've already thought about as a Women & Gender Studies minor in college, as well as approaches that I've learned through my Montessori training.

For example, here are some of the recommendations that I found very useful:
  • Talk with your partner to clarify what your values are related to sexuality; take the time to think about what you want to teach about sexuality
  • Find teachable moments
  • Remember that children want to talk with you about your values
  • Don't just wait for the questions
  • Reward your children's questions, so that you become an "askable parent"
  • It's okay if you don't know the answer
  • It's natural to feel uncomfortable
  • Listen to your children--when they ask a question, start by asking them what they already know.
  • Facts are not enough; you also need to share your feelings, attitudes, values, and beliefs
  • Educate both your sons and daughters
  • Use words and ideas that are appropriate for your child's level of development
  • It's okay to make a mistake; just admit it and apologize!
  • Remember that actions speak more loudly than words

In terms of the ideas and strategies that are most relevant for infants and toddlers:
  • Teach all the parts of the body, including genitalia and use accurate words. The idea is that if you use euphemisms only for the genitals, you are giving your child a message that these parts of the body are uncomfortable or different. You may, without meaning to or realizing it, even introduce a sense of shame or guilt about this part of the body.
  • Decide how you want to respond when your infant touches his/her genitalia and think about the potential ramifications of your approach.
  • Dissect gender roles and be aware of how they influence your children from the very beginning.
  • Think about what you want to teach your child about what it means to be a man or woman. Children internalize these messages from a very young age.
  • Whatever approach you decide on, be sure to communicate it to your child-care provider for as much consistency as possible.

I've added this book to my list of recommended parenting books, which you can access in the left-side column, if you're interested!

P.S. Don't forget to enter the Feeding the Soil header re-design contest! We already have four lovely entries from Olivia and one lovely entry from Sebrina.

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sarah scissors said...

I always look forward to your posts, I find it hard to relate to some of the mothers in my area, I'm due to have a baby in Feb, since talking to alot of new mums, one thing I've noticed is they struggle with their partners and the new balance among the new addition. Can you recommend a book for both partners to help them adjust into the parenting world and how it could effect their relationship? may be a little specific...?

Michele said...

Very timely, we were just having this discussion with another friend. Its challenging to know what to say and when to say it to little ones.

Sara E. Cotner said...

Hi, Sarah! Thank you for the encouragement!...The only book that comes to mind is And Baby Makes Three by Gottman:

It's a really good book. I definitely recommend it! I need to write a post on the topic of balance and equal distribution of responsibilities. I will also add the book to my list of recommended ones.

Kelly said...

Sara, thanks for this recap. This book has been on my to-buy-and-read-once-I'm-pregnant list since my friend who hosts the knitting group recommended it to me. This confirms my desire to read it and my belief that you two should meet! :)

Julia said...

This book sounds great, I'll definitely give it a try! But at the end, you mention child care providers and I'm curious, what are you doing about childcare, especially since you don't have family nearby? I know with your move things will shake up a little, but since I know you're also trying to achieve some career goals, I'm interested on your personal take on childcare, especially with infants.

Sara E. Cotner said...

Hi, Julia! I will answer your question in a post called Q&A next week. Thanks!

Carrie said...

Sara-What is the publication date of your book? I can't seem to tell whether the May 2011 version is any different from the 2008 version other than the fact that it's in large print. I can save nearly $9 by purchasing the 2008 version, but if 2011 has updated info, I'll go for that. Thanks.

Sara E. Cotner said...

Hi, Carrie: The library book was the oldest version, but I ordered the 2008 version. I honestly couldn't tell much different between those (although I didn't spend much time comparing).

Carrie said...

Thanks, Sara! I'm ordering it from Amazon today. Potty training has started me thinking about how we want to deal with these things. I'm hopeful that the book may have some comforting words for dads of sons, in particular, and whether moms, dads, or both is/are the best parent(s) to address issues with male children.

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