Parenting ideals are constantly evolving. These excellent, up-to-date guides provide strategies for communicating with your kids in ways that will resonate today.
★ Bringing Up Race
“We need to talk to our children about race long before they start making up their own stories,” writes Uju Asika, author and mother of two boys. “We need to tell them before the world whispers too many lies in their ears.” Asika is a Black Nigerian woman who grew up in Great Britain and has also lived in the United States. As a girl, people occasionally called her racial slurs. Her older sister was once tied to a chair at age 6 and verbally abused by other kids for being Black. “I’m no stranger to prejudice,” Asika writes.
For years, Asika has written a popular parenting blog called “Babes About Town,” which focuses on fun family outings in London. Now she’s the author of Bringing Up Race: How to Raise a Kind Child in a Prejudiced World, which tackles that all-important question, “How do you bring up your kids to be cool, kind, and happy when there is so much out there trying to break them down?” It’s an extremely informative and enjoyable read, thanks to Asika’s wise but never preachy style and her inclusion of stories from her family and many others. She also shares the opinions of various specialists and closes each chapter with “Talking Points,” Q&A-style examples that tackle real-life scenarios that might come up for kids of any race, such as, “If my child is curious about someone’s family background, how can they ask without appearing rude or racist?” or, “I want my kids to go to the best schools, but I’m worried about them being in a monocultural environment and picking up values that don’t suit us as a family.”
Reading this book feels like having a stirring, in-depth conversation with an affable expert on this vital topic. As Asika concludes, “There’s nothing more urgent than bringing up our kids to think globally, fairly, and with empathy for their fellow humans. We need to be responsible for raising a generation of people who are more open, more tolerant, less afraid.”
★ Dear Highlights
In 2014, an 8-year-old boy wrote to Highlights magazine to say, “I’m a romance kind of guy, but my friends HATE it. Can you help?” Since its founding in 1946, the magazine’s editors have personally responded to this and every piece of mail a child has sent, whether it’s a letter, poem or drawing. In fact, one young reader wrote regularly over the course of 10 years, beginning at age 7, sometimes with daily emails. All told, the editors sent him more than 200 replies, admitting, “He started to feel a little like family, and today the staff often wonders aloud how he is doing.”
In 1979, the magazine started drawing on this wellspring of letters, publishing a monthly “Dear Highlights” advice column filled with questions and concerns on all sorts of topics, including Santa, siblings, friendship, parents, sexuality, identity, body image, illness and death. Now the editors have compiled selections from their correspondence treasure trove in Dear Highlights: What Adults Can Learn From 75 Years of Letters and Conversations With Kids, edited by Highlights editor-in-chief Christine French Cully.
Although names have been changed for privacy reasons, ages and dates are included with all the letters. Chapters are organized by kids’ primary concerns, such as families, school and societal issues and events. Often, facsimiles of the original letters are shown, in the children’s real handwriting, alongside a multitude of other particularly wonderful drawings and poems. The historical references are intriguing as well, as children have asked questions about the Kennedy and King assassinations, 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, the Challenger disaster, COVID-19 and more. Both kids and adults will find it easy to get lost in this lively, unique and fascinating book.
How to Talk When Kids Won’t Listen
“The more you ask me to do something, the less I want to do it.” I repeatedly heard this statement from my three children, and we all stalked away feeling frustrated. I definitely needed a copy of How to Talk When Kids Won’t Listen: Whining, Fighting, Meltdowns, Defiance, and Other Challenges of Childhood. Part of the bestselling “How to Talk” series, this book is yet another winner.
Authors Joanna Faber and Julie King explain that when we try to calm kids down by minimizing their troubles, they end up feeling worse. Straight-shooting words of wisdom are laced with cartoons and helpful humor, such as the insightful quip, “When you’re upset your new shoes were stolen at the gym, that’s not the moment you want your friend to remind you to be grateful you have feet.” Faber and King tackle everything from homework hassles, sibling battles and screen time to sex and divorce concerns. Chapters end with fun quizzes designed to reinforce the strategies discussed, as well as key takeaways with scripts. For example, if you want a child to help out around the house, offer them a choice instead of telling them what to do: “Do you want to put away the leftovers or load the dishwasher?”
How to Talk When Kids Won’t Listen is an essential guide that’s easy to dip into as needed. As Faber and King write, “If we want kids to grow up to be independent thinkers and responsible problem-solvers who can consider the perspectives of others, we have to consider their perspective and give them practice making decisions, taking responsibility, and solving problems.”
The Unlikely Art of Parental Pressure
When it comes to raising successful children, parents typically ask the wrong question, according to psychologists Chris Thurber and Hendrie Weisinger. Instead of asking how much pressure they should apply, parents need to reframe the question: What are the healthiest ways to push our children? Using a variety of case studies, these authors offer parents effective strategies to do just that in The Unlikely Art of Parental Pressure: A Positive Approach to Pushing Your Child to Be Their Best Self.
Thurber is a psychologist at the renowned Phillips Exeter Academy, and Weisinger has worked with plenty of Fortune 500 executives and is the author of numerous books, including Performing Under Pressure. They point out the necessity of praising a child for doing their best rather than feeling disappointed that a certain goal wasn’t achieved, such as a first-place trophy or an A+. They also outline the differences between healthy and harmful pressure and explain that one key to success is helping kids not to choke at important moments, while offering tips on exactly how to achieve this goal.
Whether you’re concerned about your child’s grades, athletics, music lessons or social life, The Unlikely Art of Parental Pressure is likely to be a transformative guide.