Category Archives: Books

Book Review: Unlocking Parental Intelligence

I like getting my hands on a good parenting book now and then because it helps me step outside my own perspective long enough to get some helpful nuggets of wisdom. I found that I read these kinds of books a lot more when I was overwhelmed with the prospect of becoming a parent and when I was trying to figure out for the first time what to do with a tiny newborn who never wanted to be out of my arms. Now my kids are in different phases–but I still find myself occasionally perplexed about their behavior and the best way for me to respond. Kids don’t come with instruction manuals for their unique make and model (though wouldn’t that be nice?). But we do have a few excellent resources to turn to for answers. One of them is the book Unlocking Parental Intelligence: Finding Meaning in Your Child’s Behavior by psychoanalyst Laurie Hollman, Ph.D.

In her book, Dr. Hollman offers parents a five-step process for approaching their children’s undesirable behavior. She helps the reader see that rather than reacting to a temper tantrum, for example, it’s important to step out of the immediate scene and attempt to understand the bigger picture. She encourages parents who are faced with a situation of unwanted behavior to ask “What does it mean?” not “What do I do?”

Dr. Hollman’s five steps toward gaining “parental intelligence” are:

  1. Stepping back. Try not to react in the moment. This may prove difficult if, say, your two year old is wailing in the checkout line that he wants a pack of gum. The idea is that we shouldn’t yell and snatch it away. Rather, take a deep breath and look at your little one without becoming emotional. Why is he acting this way? This step allows us to get into a mindset of seeking understanding. But it does require “tolerating frustration–a skill we are also hoping to teach our children.”
  2. Self-reflecting. Dr. Hollman says we need to look at how our own past and emotions may be affecting how we respond to our children. If I can realize that I am feeling embarrassed that my son is throwing a tantrum, that might change what I do in response. Our own emotions, past experiences, and relationships with our own parents may be complicating what is happening with our children. By self-reflecting, we can adjust our approach as needed.
  3. Understanding Your Child’s Mind. “Understanding your child’s mind is central to knowing your child,” says Dr. Hollman. I need to ask myself “What is he going through right now? Is he tired? Is he sick? Did he have different expectations that might be causing the breakdown?” This is the stage where instead of asking “What do I do?” I should ask “Why is he upset?” That takes some patience, yes. But it is a wonderful road to understanding the deeper layers.
  4. Understanding Your Child’s Development. It’s important to understand that children go through different stages at different ages. Dr. Hollman says it’s important to ask two questions: What is expected at my child’s stage of development? and How far apart is my child’s chronological age from my child’s developmental age? So, this is where we can break out the books on child development and see what we should be expecting. Temper-tantruming 2-year-old? Yep, right on target. If my 9 year old is doing this, on the other hand, we may need to have a conversation about what happened earlier that day.
  5. Problem solving. Once we’ve stepped back and tried to understand the bigger picture about what is going on with ourselves and what our child is experiencing, we can begin to work toward a solution.

After introducing her five steps, Dr. Hollman discusses examples of 8 different parent/child dynamics and how the parents were able to work through difficult issues by seeking understanding and problem solving together. The approach is a refreshing reminder that as a family, we are an interactive system, constantly affecting and being affected by each other. As Dr. Hollman put it, “Parental Intelligence is a relationship-based approach to rearing children as opposed to solving problems by punishment. Parents don’t lose their say about their children’s behaviors, but rather they understand the reasons behind the behavior, its context, and workable approaches that help their children and themselves to change the behavior or their view of the behavior.”

I appreciated using this new approach as I’ve interacted with my own children in the past few weeks. When my son got upset about my insisting that he wear his helmet when riding his bike, I tried harder to step back and ask what he might be experiencing at this pre-teen age and all it’s peer pressure to be cool and live dangerously. (That doesn’t mean he gets to ride without a helmet. We still have to problem solve this one!) When my 7-year-old got upset about her big sister leaving her out during a playdate with friends, I tried harder to look at what her emotional experience must be and invited her to be my special shopping helper at the store. Or when my 9 year old cried about cello not being fun anymore, I tried hard not to lecture, but rather search with her about what might be causing the extra frustration (we discovered that her new teacher simply hasn’t realized how much Ellie loves learning new pieces even when she hasn’t mastered the technique of older pieces).

Overall, I think this is a wonderful parenting book with an important reminder that our children need us to seek understanding about who they are and what they need as they grow and experience all the newness of each stage. They need patience and love and trust and a guiding hand as they figure out how to be their best selves.

Heroes on the wall

For my “A is for Abinadi” launch party, I had some little stickers made up with heroes from the book. Just some of my favorites–Nephi, Queen Esther, Mary with Joseph and Jesus, Samuel the Lamanite, Eve, and Captain Moroni. I thought it would be a fun giveaway for the kids who came to the party. I let my kids pick out the ones they wanted to keep. My son, who’s eight, picked one of each and put them on a white paper. Then he wrote “My favorite scripture heroes” at the top. I thought that was cool, but didn’t think much more about it.

A couple of weekends after the party we were finally moving our littlest child out of her crib because she was turning four and she was old enough to insist that she “needed a big girl bed.” But why? You’re so cozy in there! OK, we knew it was time. With our other two kids, we always had a new baby motivating us to move one child out of the crib to make room for the next. This time the incentive was low. But when she was ready, we got ourselves excited too. Before we made the move, our oldest son and daughter were sharing a room. We took this opportunity to move the girls in together with the bunk bed and let our son finally have his own room–much to his delight.

Kids have a way of putting the things they love up on the walls. We all do. And now that this was his own room, he had free reign. The first thing he wanted up was the poster of an alligator he got as a prize at school with the word “Smile” written in what looks like it’s supposed to be blood. Cringe.

His grandma gave him a pin board so he could pin up other things that are important to him. We set up the board for him above his desk and let him go at it. When I walked in later that night, I found the scripture hero sheet pinned up on his board. Now, when he sits at his desk, he has these spiritual giants to look to. That made me smile. It was a moment that, for me, summed up the whole reason I wrote “A is for Abinadi.” I wanted kids to be familiar with the amazing men and women in the scriptures and maybe, just maybe, let those people be their heroes.

IMG_2122

Scripture Hero Fun!

A-is-for-Abinadi-Heidi_Poelman_illustrated_by_Jason_PruettWelcome to the official website of author Heidi N. Poelman, and the book A is for Abinadi: An Alphabet Book of Scripture Heroes, illustrated by Jason Pruett.

A is for apple but also for Abinadi! Teach your children about some of the greatest heroes in the scriptures with this beautifully illustrated alphabet book. They will love searching for items that represent each letter while they get to know heroes like Captain Moroni and Esther. Along with learning their ABCs, your children will learn to recognize and love these great Book of Mormon and Bible examples.

Find out more…