When I bought my first phone in 2003, a humble and durable Nokia 3310, it came with an extensive do’s and don’ts manual. I unpacked it, proceeded to use the manual cover to cover and followed the instructions – insert the battery into the phone and leave it overnight to charge.
Years later when I was expecting our first child, now almost an adult at the age of 10, I missed one Manual. Why in God’s name didn’t these small but extremely complex people bring a manual with them?
buy now | Our best subscription now has a special price
A decade of raising two children who couldn’t be more different compelled me to get my hands on not one but five books that have helped me so far:
Baby Whisperer Secrets: How to Soothe, Connect, and Communicate with Your Baby
By Tracy Hogg with Melinda Blue
While What To Expect: The First Year has some great advice for the months after pregnancy, Secrets of the Baby Whisperer will help you get inside and unwrap your bundle of joy. Babies have different temperaments. It might seem odd that someone who is barely able to tell their elbow from their diaper would be expected to have a point of view, but understand that babies Temperaments and perspectives have helped me navigate many seemingly random behaviors with more calm. Having a routine for the newborn and for me made life a lot more manageable.
Tracy Hogg’s golden principle – “Start as you want to continue” – served me well not only in the first few months but for many years afterwards. Even today, when confronted with the situation: ‘Should I allow the children to eat in front of the television?’ or similar, I ask myself first, would it be okay if this became a habit? If so, fine; If not, proceed with caution.
Raising Boys: Why boys are different and how to help them become happy and balanced men
Raising Girls in the 21st Century: Helping our girls grow up wise, strong, and free
By Steve Biddulph, Paul Stanish (Illustrators)
At some point, the world of the four temperaments (which I learned about from The Baby Whisperer) of infants and toddlers begins to become more complex, with gender becoming an additional variable. Then Steve Biddulph held my hand. I started my journey as a second-time parent thinking I would raise my son the same way I did my daughter, allowing for her temperament of course. I came so close to crushing patriarchy in this generation. While this mission is on track and my two kids help clean up and breakfast on the day the helper needs a break, each had a different path to that end.
Thanks to Biddulph, I realized that guys usually need to know who’s boss. So while you ask for help daughter works better, the son has to be called for help. The book talks about stages of development – how boys from the age of 5 need more attention from their father, how girls have to slowly push themselves to their limits. Both children will need another adult to turn to as a teenager, and I need to develop those relationships now so I can trust the adult to turn to (yes, parenting is a lot of work).
How to speak for children to listen and listen for children to speak
by Adele Faber, Elaine Mazlish, Kimberly Ann Coe (Illustrator)
So I had a playbook – one very different from generations before, one that believed that children’s spirits should be nurtured and not oppressed by the “norms” of yore. Big! But they’re still kids, and while I’d like to give them some autonomy and a sense of agency (crucial for confidence), where and how do I draw the line? Daughter got into a new school and came back crying that she’s the only one who doesn’t have the latest iPad – should I yell at that ungrateful guy? Son came home in a murderous rage when teacher reprimanded him for not paying attention – should I distract him and make him work harder?
How To… focuses on really understanding what the child is saying and finding ways to communicate their boundaries without breaking bridges. More specifically, strategies that come before yelling and punishment and, when it comes to punishment, what is appropriate.
As in the cases above – the daughter just had to express something of what she was feeling For the very first time and always in my life I had to deal with her, I just had to sit with her and be there; the son benefited from imaginary punishments inflicted on this teacher (he boiled her in oil, in case you’re curious) and volunteered that perhaps he shouldn’t have played with his ID.
What Every Body Says: An Ex-FBI Agent’s Guide to Fast Reading People
by Joe Navarro, Marvin Karlins
This was never intended as a guide for parents. I originally bought this to deal with some tough area leaders at work. But it has proven useful for properly assessing emotions, as children may not be able to articulate exactly what they are feeling. Are they moody out of frustration or insecurity? Were they angry or mean to the kid next door? Joe’s experience with spies and world leaders came to my rescue.
by Andre Agassi
When I found out my parenting style, the Tiger Mom was very fashionable. Your child has potential and you owe it to them to push for success. The other side of the story was open – the perspective of a child who raised a tiger to define success but teased his parents. His account helped me decide whether I wanted success or happiness more for my children and whether I could let them decide.
Bonus: My current favorite is a show woman secretary, on PrimeVideo. Dealing with two teenagers and an adult is no easy task and it helps when a dedicated father takes on the task.
(Pooja Sardana is an entrepreneur, philosopher, traveller, passionate advocate for gender equality and mother of two children, a girl and a boy aged 10 and 7 respectively.)
Download the Indian Express app for the latest parenting news.