Thursday, October 27, 2016

The Low-Pressure Guide to Parenting Your Preschooler by Tim Sanford, M.A. (book review)

When my sons (ages 9 and 7) were toddlers, I was just overwhelmed. Kids are a lot of work! There was so much, as a young mother, I did not know. Keeping them alive and well was a lot but then there were these outside pressures. As a Christian, I must teach them about God and right and wrong, and they must be saved! As a human, they must treat each other with respect and share! Even when it's their favorite toy! As a person who hates being embarrassed, they must act appropriately and not throw tantrums in Wal-mart (and I need to teach them when they can pee outside and when they can't). These pressures were not bad things; most of them were good things to teach, but the pressure they added was immense and added to my feelings of drowning for about 4 years.
image via Amazon
When Princess was born (age 15 months now), I didn't want to stress about things. I did though. I stressed about breastfeeding, about her sleeping habits, about sibling rivalry (of which we were blessed with none). AHHHHH! Now looking back at the last 15 months with clearer, less post pardum fog, I can see that stress happens. However, I don't need to add more of it to my life.

"The Low-Pressure Guide to Parenting Your Preschooler" by Tim Sandford, M.A., has really been a game-changer in my life (and not just with my preschooler). This book has helped me shrink my job description to one thing as a mother: nurture. My husband's job description: validate.

That's it.

Does that mean I don't do other things? Do I just cuddle and coddle all day? No! I nurture by sharing God's Word and love with them. I nurture by feeding them and making sure they know appropriate social rules (or try). I nurture them by discipline even!

So how has this been a game changer? It's a heart issue for me. Why was I trying to put so much pressure on them turning out right and making sure they were doing this or that? Because of the world. But nurturing them? That's God. God made me the mom, the nurturer. It's not a shift in what I'm doing, but how I do it and how I feel about it.

I learned in my older son's preschool years about letting a child choose. Not giving them total free-for-all choosing power but limiting their choices. Sanford promotes this by showing parents that it's ok to let your child use their God-given voice. They have free will and are going to use it, so we need to mold it. "Billy, do you want to eat your fruit first or your chicken?" "Susie, do you want to wear your red skirt or your blue pants?" Small choices for small people will help. Now, I'm thinking of a friend's child who is extremely strong-willed and this may not temper that entirely but I think it will help! They want to be heard as children in a world where "be seen and not heard" is on the outs but still in play sometimes (like during football games).

Sanford talks about stress traps (read the other reviews on Amazon and they give a pretty clear outline of this). One is the what-if pattern which is basically thinking along the worst case scenario lines. Or even thinking about the future with fear. I find myself having these conversations in my head, fictional but with people. What-if conversations, if you will. Or I find myself worrying about my kids' futures - will they marry, will they live with us forever, will they keep a job? These are not things I can control! So why worry about them today?

How do you stop these fictional talks or worries? One tip from this book is to write this on a 3x5 card:
"1. Name five colors I see right now.
 2. Name five sounds I hear right now (give yourself permission to create sounds as well, like scratching on the chair armrest, etc.).
 3. Name five things I physically feel right now (not emotions, but things like "my watch on my wrist" or "wind in my hair," etc.).
 4. Name something I need to be doing - or thinking about - right now."
This strategy pulls our mind back to the present where we can focus on the here and now, things we can control, and what we should be thinking about or doing. This has helped me a lot in the passed few weeks when I've caught myself in the what-if traps. "When you find yourself involved in what-if thinking, answer the four questions again and again. Habits are built on repetition, and bad habits are broken the same way."

I think my favorite part of this book is the Appendix. Truly. Most of the time I don't bother reading appendixes but this one really summarizes the whole book. There is a lot of learning done while you read this book and I cannot remember it all! Neither can you but this short-handed summary really helps. I can look here and remember that I need to hold and fold, not grab (not take responsibility for what's not mine). I can remember the stress traps of shoulds and what-ifs. I can remember my favorite quote from this book, "que sera, sera" or "what will be, will be."

I recommend this book for parents - and some grandparents. Whether your child is a preschooler or you're an empty nester, I think that everyone living today can benefit from this book. It's such a low-key way to parent. It has allowed me to let go of things I can't control (like how my kids turn out!) which I believe to be a plague for parents today!

Disclaimer: I received this book in order to write an honest review. All opinions are my own and may differ from others' opinions.

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