Title: The New First Three Years of Life
Author: Burton L. White
Publication Year: 1995
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Review: This is the single most practical book on parenting a child under than 3 years that I have read. I think the reason I like this book so much is that it is based on years of research and observations and written in a somewhat technical style that I am familiar with given my science and engineering background.
The book is not conversational or funny (though there are passages that I find amusing and the author seems to sincerely care about the reader and their children). However, it is easy to read and is packed full of useful information about typical behavior and recommended parenting practices for each age group between birth and 36 months. My biggest problem with it is that my oldest child is now 3 and I wish the author had written books about older children as well.
While there is a lot of useful information in this book, the most helpful advice in my opinion was how to prevent your child from developing a demanding personality. Before 5 months of age, the author believes it is nearly impossible to mess up. However, starting around 5 months, your child will learn how to cry for attention. While this is a good sign and shows that he or she is developing properly, you want to prevent them from using their “cry for attention” as much as possible.
He recommends doing this by preventing them from becoming bored and even advocates the use of devices which have somewhat lost popularity such as walkers and jumpers. Once the baby learns to crawl, around 7 and a half months, he recommends not putting them in a port-a-crib, but instead letting them explore the home safely. Beyond this age, the main advice is to teach your children that, while they are extremely important and dearly loved, their wants and needs are no more important than anyone else’s, especially your own. To instill this in them, he says you should evaluate what you are doing whenever your child asks for attention and every once in awhile, make them wait.
The author also presents unusual, but interesting information on discipline. Rather than spanking your children to discourage an undesirable behavior like biting, he says an alternative yet effective method is to just hold a small child in place, since newly mobile babies do not like to have their movement restricted. For the slightly older child, the most effective form of punishment is to restrict their access to you, their caretaker. If necessary, this can be done by just ignoring the child and turning your back to them.
However, for the biggest impact, a baby gate can be placed between you and the child. You stay where the child can see you and still let them have access to the rest of the house. I’ve done this two or three times for about 20 seconds when my oldest child was around 18 months and I can attest to the effectiveness of this method. Even a year later, if my son did something I didn’t like and I mentioned the gate, he acted like it is a fate worse than death. I’ve had less success with my second child, on the other hand, who is presently only 15 months. She’s presently not as phased by the gate, but she definitely doesn’t like her movement restricted.
I think all-in-all, I’ve read most sections of this book three times between my two kids. The only downside to this book I can think of would be if you didn’t find it soon enough and already had a demanding child. The book’s methods are most effective if you start before your child is crawling. Fortunately, I discovered this book when my first child was only a couple months old, and I think he’s a happier, more cooperative child because of it. My daughter is presently in the testing stage, but I think with the help of this book, she’ll get through it nicely. (Personal Rating: 9/10)