Monday, September 26, 2011

Book Review: Positive Discipline- The First Three Years

There is a whole series of books called Positive Discipline.  I initially borrowed Positive Discipline's Positive Timeout, which is really for older kids.  I then went back and checked out The First Three Years because it's more age appropriate for my youngster.  The book is written by three people with the first author's name listed as Jane Nelsen.  She's the co-author on every Positive Discipline book.

The book is broken up into six parts and eighteen chapters which cover birth through age three.  The six parts are titled: Welcoming Baby, How Children Grow, Getting to Know your Unique Child, Sleeping Eating and Toileting, Getting Along in the Great Big World, and Keeping Your Family Strong. 

The book does discuss discipline but it also discusses learning your child's temperament, looking for childcare, etc.

I really enjoy the book.  The main premise I took away from the book is to set reasonable boundaries, but the only thing you can do for toddlers is to remove them from the situation and distract them (or remove the tempting object).  This is essentially what I've been doing with HB so it helped reinforce this concept.  It also talked about understanding your child's temperament.  Certain children are more squirmy than others and that sort of thing.  Comparing your child to another person's child is just silly.  And thinking a parent is bad simply because they can't control their child's natural tendencies is dumb.  So I liked that part.

Some parts I disagree with:  Page 147- "Somewhere between the tenth and twelfth month, many babies lose interest in nursing (or in taking a bottle).  Many mothers ignore the signs and push the bottle or breast at the baby until they give in and start taking it again..."

I'm not sure where this information comes from.  Most everything I've read suggests that children do not naturally wean until the age of 3.  Studies of indigenous societies prove that.  So does our biology (milk teeth for example).  Yes, some children become disinterested in the bottle, but it's not the same with the breast.  And yes, there are a few children who wean at that age.  But the vast majority do not without some sort of encouragement to wean from mom.

"It is important to realize that once the window of readiness to wean passes, nursing or taking a bottle may become a habit instead of a need."

Still completely baffled by this statement.  Yes, a child can become attached to a bottle much like they become attached to a lovey.  But if you look at the dictionary definition for the word "habit" you will see that it has something to do with repetition.  So bottle feeding and breastfeeding from the beginning are established as "habits."  But given the context I will assume that they mean desire rather than need (poor editing I imagine).  Unfortunately, the authors are forgetting the benefits to "extended" breastfeeding are beyond that of nutrition.  Even if a child is learning to be autonomous they still recognize their need for their parents.  So I don't see it as "squelching[ing] the first blossoming of their sense of autonomy" but rather another way in which a child feels they are safe, loved, encouraged, and supported by their parents.  Not to mention the other biological benefits to nursing beyond age 1.  The authors clearly didn't read the WHO's recommendation to continue breastfeeding until age 2 or beyond.

"Some people disagree with this point of view.  We know people who advocate nursing children as old as six and eight years old.  This may be 'right' for some."

I think it's right for many, but as they point out breastfeeding for long periods of time can cause frustration for some parents.  However, I think this book tends to make extended breastfeeding more taboo rather than an option.

There is a subsection entitled "extended nursing" and one of the parenthetical texts says this "(The support can be very helpful, since many people will be critical)".  The authors should include themselves on that one especially since they are against it although they point out that many people disagree with their reasoning.

Sleep is also a topic of which I disagree with.  They don't really advocate co-sleeping, although they stipulate that it's up to the family.  The believe that even infants need to learn to sleep on their own.  I understand that that should happen eventually, but for crying out loud, if you as a parent sleeps better with your child than without, then co-sleep.  They also believe in crying it out and think Ferber's method of waiting for 5, 10, than 15 minutes is ineffective (even though they recommend the book). 

Page 139- "Allowing a child to 'cry it out' is always a dilemma for parents.  They wonder if this will be a traumatic event that will scar their child for life.  We believe it is more traumatic for children to develop the belief of 'I'm not capable,' which may happen if they don't learn independence in small doses." 

Yes, I believe children need to learn that they are capable but shouldn't sleep be one of the last autonomous things a child needs to learn?  I mean, how would you feel if you parents put you in your crib and let you scream all night long until you fell asleep from exhaustion?  That's not learning autonomy.  That's learning to be distrustful of your parents.  Even Ferber doesn't advocate this for infants or toddlers (which is the age group I'm assuming the authors are talking about).  And he's a juvenile sleep doctor.  These authors qualifications are education specialist, marriage and family therapist, and child care director.  They are not medical doctors.  They aren't sleep specialists.  So they're assumptions about juvenile sleep and extended breastfeeding should be ignored.

As far as discipline, I like their ideas.  But again it's one of those parenting books where you take the good bits and throw out the garbage.  I recommend reading it for disciplinary ideas, but not for basic childhood care.

Hope that helps.


1 comment:

  1. Thanks for posting this! I'm a bit surprised to see those topics went that way on a positive parenting book honestly. Prob shouldn't be since noone really falls all one way or another lol. I've been looking into some discipline books though and I think this was one of them I was curious about.

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