Parenting Blog

The official blog for Ann Douglas, parenting book author and weekend parenting columnist for CBC Radio. Ann is the creator of The Mother of All Books series and the author of Parenting Through the Storm. Her most recent book, Happy Parents, Happy Kids, was published by HarperCollins Canada in February 2019.

Book Pairing #2: If you loved Happy Parents, Happy Kids, you'll love Change Your World

I’m back with another book pairing. (Yes, I know: that was quick! It’s because I have a huge backlog of books I’ve been meaning to blog about — and launching this new blog feature has inspired me to catch up on that backlog.)

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Anyway, the second book I want to tell you about is Michael Ungar’s latest book: Change Your World: The Science of Resilience and the True Path to Success — a book that takes a deep dive into the science of resilience to identify the factors that actually allow people to thrive. (Spoiler alert: It’s not about hustling a little harder or being more motivated: it’s about being fortunate enough to grow up in an environment that is rich in opportunity.)

What I love about this book is that Ungar rejects the idea that success is something that is completely within our control as individuals and highlights instead the importance of broader, more systemic factors: what’s happening in our families, our community, and our world. Improving our personal circumstances becomes less about changing ourselves and more about joining forces with other people to make things better for all of us, in other words. As Ungar explains: “We need a clean break from the mindset that places the responsibility for self-actualization on an individual’s shoulders—it is a misread of what the science tells us about what makes us successful. If we want to understand why some people succeed and others do not, and if we want to succeed ourselves, we will need far fewer motivational gurus and much more help from the people in our families, our workplaces, our communities, and our society.”

Bottom line? It’s less about do-it-yourself and more about do-it-with-others.

I recently had the opportunity to interview Michael Ungar about his book. We talked about the importance of tapping into support from the village (a key theme in my most recent book, Happy Parents, Happy Kids) and helping our children to do the same. What follows are a series of questions (mine) and answers (his).

Q: Why are North Americans so drawn to self-help solutions? Why is it so hard for us to accept and embrace (a) our interconnectedness to other humans and (b) the impact of broader environments on our lives?

A: There is an overwhelming myth of the rugged individual that infiltrates every part of our social world. It seems to blind us to the real sources of our resilience: our relationships, our communities, our institutions. While I understand the need to be self-directed and motivated, the science of resilience tells us that striving in a world that offers us few opportunities to use our talents or succeed simply creates frustration and burnout (allostatic load). Our success depends on the world around us changing to meet our needs, or at least making opportunities available for us to use.

Q: Why is it important for children/youth to grow up understanding that they are part of something much bigger than themselves — a family, a community, humanity?

A: A child who understands that she is part of a larger system is a child who will have more of the building blocks for resilience. These include a sense of accountability to others, a sense of belonging, and a sense of one’s cultural heritage. So much of who we are, and our sense of wellbeing, hinges on our immersion in networks of relationships. Even in school, the quality of our relationship with our teacher can profoundly influence academic outcomes, especially for more vulnerable/challenged students.

Q: What is your best advice to parents in terms of how to foster this awareness?

A: First, model being part of a community, an extended family, a workplace. Then don’t be shy about insisting children become part of these relationships too. Expect them to eat with adults. Expect them to travel with you to places you are interested in. When our children see us navigating our way through the world, and finding ways to feel valued, they learn how to do the same. I just don’t understand why we let children become isolated, or insist that every activity is centred on their needs. This does nothing but create narcissism, when what we want is our children to feel a part of networks of people who rely upon them.

Ann Douglas is the author of numerous books about pregnancy and parenting including, most recently, Happy Parents, Happy Kids. She is also the weekend parenting columnist for CBC Radio.

Book Pairing #1: If you loved Happy Parents, Happy Kids, you'll love Right From The Start

Welcome to Book Pairings — a brand new blog feature that is designed to help you find other books you might enjoy reading.

I’m assuming that if you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ve probably read one or more of my most recent books (Happy Parents, Happy Kids, Parenting Through the Storm, or the newly updated edition of The Mother of All Toddler Books, for example).

That’s great (and, trust me, I’m grateful), but there is an entire universe of other great books you might want to know about as well.

Books that were written by someone other than me.

Books that somehow relate to the big ideas in many of my books: things like community and connection and resilience and parenting in ways that work for both parents and our kids.

Books that I loved and that I’m pretty sure you’re going to love, too.

And that’s what this new feature is all about: helping you to discover some other really great books. We are, after all, living in an age of information overload: a time when it’s increasingly difficult for books to find readers and readers to find books that they are guaranteed to love. That’s why I’m stepping in to do a bit of book matchmaking myself. It’s my attempt to be of service to both my readers and to the many authors whose work I really like and respect. Wherever possible, I’ll be including a mini-interview with the authors of those books. I think that helps to make things more interesting for you and it gives me a great excuse to connect with some of my fellow authors. It’s pretty much a win-win in other words.

So without any further ado, here’s the first book pairing.

Book Pairing #1: If you loved Happy Parents, Happy Kids, you’ll love Dr. Vanessa Lapointe’s brand new book Right From The Start

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Right from the Start (which is being published today) is a guide to getting parenting off to the happiest, healthiest start during the baby and toddler years.

Psychologist Dr. Vanessa Lapointe has written a wise and intuitive book that takes gets at the magic of parenting. Dr. Vanessa sees and celebrates the transformative elements of parenting: the fact that parenting is a life-changing experience for parents as well as kids. The fact of the matter is that none of us are ever truly done learning and growing — and now we have the opportunity to learn and grow alongside our kids.

This is a key theme in my most recent book, Happy Parents, Happy Kids — and it’s something I talk about a lot in my weekend parenting column for CBC Radio. The reason is simple: I find this tremendously inspiring. We don’t have to be perfect. We don’t have to have all the answers upfront. We simply need to commit to learning and growing with our kids.

A few weeks back, I took the opportunity to connect with Dr. Vanessa Lapointe to talk with her about her new book. What follows are the highlights of that conversation. (I’m the one asking the questions and she’s the one giving the answers.)

Q: Why is it so important to “do your own work” as a parent? How does this make parenting easier and less stressful?

A: Becoming a parent brings with it entry into the parent-child relationship for the second time in your life. You’ve been in this kind of a relationship once before, when you were a child. This familiarity means that we can fall quickly into old patterns that were established for us in our own childhood. So even though you swear up and down you will do this differently or better, your subconscious programming will reactively take over. You want to stop yelling at your kids but you just can’t seem to jump on those shouts before they fly out of your mouth. You want to feel confident as a parent but no amount of self pep-talking seems to make any difference. This is how we are pointed to our own work. When we grow ourselves we can step in from a place of heart and strength to really grow our children in the best possible way. And while none of that is easy, it is decidedly worth it for the significant reduction in stress that you will experience alongside a huge increase in general ease and happiness with life.

Q: How important is it to connect with other parents who are just as committed to doing this work? Are there advantages to learning and growing alongside other parents and building a supportive community for yourself and your kids?

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A: As parents we were never meant to go this alone. Having a village or community of like-minded people who can champion and support you is really key when it comes to feeling like you’ve got this thing called parenting. To have a community that you can turn to on a hard day, or when something comes up that you aren’t really sure about helps parents to feel not quite so alone. Wouldn’t it be a wonderful thing if parents everywhere had that kind of daily support? The trickle down impact for our children would be incredible! Kids don’t grow in isolation. As Urie Bronfenbrenner put forward with his ecological theory of development, they are nested in families and in communities and those nested influences are incredibly important in terms of developmental outcomes.

Q: What is your best advice to parents who may secretly worry that they don't actually have what it takes to be a good parent? (I think a lot of parents carry around this secret fear.)

A: I almost think we are wired culturally to run what I call a “not good enough” program. We live in constant fear of doing it wrong. But what if I told you that was just a story? What if it isn’t actually real? What if all along we have been perfectly wired up as humans to be incredibly brilliant at raising our young? Imagine if that were our story instead?! Think about the voice in your head that has you thinking you might not be a good parent. Hear that voice and understand that voice. And then, let that voice know that the real you has got this. And lean in to the possibilities of what comes with feeling like you’re going to get it figured out.


Ann Douglas is the author of numerous books about pregnancy and parenting including, most recently, Happy Parents, Happy Kids. She is also the weekend parenting columnist for CBC Radio.