Posts tagged ‘Linda Morgan’

February 22, 2011

There’s smart, there’s “Beyond Smart”, and then there’s my mother-in-law

When I tell people about this book, or about the author’s columns in ParentMap (a Pacific Northwest Parenting Magazine), or about the author’s appearance on TV, and then I mention that the author is my mother-in-law, they often ask me the same question, and with the same inflection.  It goes like this:

“Really? That’s so neat!” pause “So, what’s it like to have a mother-in-law who is a parenting expert?” smirk

Every time.  First, they are impressed.  Then, they think about their own mother-in-laws and aren’t sure if they would want those opinions backed by the title “parenting expert”.  But it’s not like that.  I have the good fortune to have a mom-in-law who is capable of having different opinions about how kids are raised without beating me over the head with them, even as she watches me ruin her grandchild in various different ways.  But really, most of the time we agree.

Although, I do often reply that part of me wishes her columns could save some space for the daughter-in-law’s rebuttal…I mean, I’m living with the final product, you know?  And no, he doesn’t know how to make the bed.

Title: Beyond Smart
Author: Linda Morgan
Genre: Parenting

Summary and Review:

Here’s my pet peeve about a lot of parenting books (not this one).  They are written by PhDs with something to say, usually one thing that’s very specific.  These people are used to writing long dissertations on a single subject and they seem to think that that’s the kind of thing everyone wants to read. But they are wrong.  Most of the parenting books I pick up should be parenting chapters.  They are one idea and you can get most of the information from skimming the back cover, and by the time you are done with the intro chapter, you’ve learned 90% of what you are going to learn, but then you dutifully slog through another 200 pages of evidence, personal stories, and sidebars, all of which, you realize when you get to the end (or much sooner if you are paying any attention), is the same as what you learned in the intro chapter.  There are some parenting books out there where I really don’t think you need to read much more than the title.  Things like “saying no” or “setting limits” are right there in the title and you’ve learned most of what you are going to learn and you haven’t even flipped it over to read the back.

Which brings me to this book.  This book is not written by a PhD with a dissertation on her mind.  It’s written by an experienced, award-winning journalist with access to PhDs and the talent to translate what they are saying down to a few pages that you actually want to read.  It’s not a book you are done with in the introduction–the introduction just whets your appetite for the diverse and meaningful middle parts.  The book is about how parents can make a difference in their child’s learning, and it takes a really broad approach to this.  We’re not just talking raising grades here.  We’re talking emotional intelligence, temperament, brainpower, risk-taking, and a heck of a lot more.

Also, the book includes Q and A’s with really famous experts in a variety of fields: Alice Waters talks about teaching your kids about food, giving even more insight to a chapter on preparing lunches and breakfasts as part of being ready for kindergarten.  Wendy Mogel, PhD, (I’ve already blogged on one of her books here) talks about dealing with failures and the dangers of over-coddling in a chapter about dealing with a wide variety of school issues, including failure.  Michael Thompson, PhD, (I’ve blogged on one of his books, too) talks about the differences between boys and girls in a chapter on social issues.  And there’s a lot more–both chapter-wise and expert-wise.

Other topics included in this book are developing a parenting plan and becoming your child’s emotional coach from birth, dealing with the child-centered toddler years, advocating for your child during the school years, keeping up with math and science, writing, and public speaking, and getting the most out of a summer vacation.

I loved this book because it covers a wide variety of topics, it’s short and sweet, and it gives you a wide variety of opinions, not just one.  If you find yourself really interested in one of the topics, or one of the expert’s opinions, you can always go and find another book on that topic.  But this is a phenomenal place to start and a great reference.  It’s easy to pick up and look at after you’ve read it, to refresh on a few ideas because it’s well-organized and topic-centered.  Covering areas of development from birth through high school and issues including emotion, academics, food, and family, this is a must-have parenting book!

And really, bed-making aside, she did a good job with the one I’m married to, so that’s saying something…I always like to check bios on parenting books to see if the author has any kids.  I am VERY suspicious of taking advice from someone who doesn’t…