by Helen F. Neville, B.S., R.N.
Ask Helen Fowler Neville why Is This a Phase? is the best parenting guide and she's quick to reply, "It's perfect because it's succinct and comprehensive."
And that's what this parent educator is, too: succinct and comprehensive, especially when she's talking about young children's development.
A longtime pediatric nurse, Neville from the early 1990s until 2004 directed the Temperament Project at Kaiser Permanente Hospital in Oakland, Calif. Since 1990 she has also taught parenting courses for Kaiser and Bananas, Inc., the East Bay Child Care Resource & Referral Agency. In those roles, she's answered questions for thousands of parents on concerns ranging from teething to tantrums to selecting child care. Is This a Phase? answers those questions again, in an easy-to-read format that guarantees this book will serve as a valuable reference from birth to at least school age.
Because of Neville's extensive work with children's temperament—she and another Bay Area parent educator, Diane Clark Johnson, co-authored Temperament Tools: Working with Your Child's Inborn Traits (Rev. Ed.) for Parenting Press in 1998—she focuses on the interaction of development and temperament.
"Most high energy children walk, run and jump earlier than their age mates," Neville notes as an example. "By contrast, many low energy children draw and print earlier."
Energetic, emotionally intense kids need more time to learn to control their aggressive impulses, while shy children require more months to get comfortable greeting unfamiliar adults, she adds.
Neville also differs from other child-guidance authors in her focus on topic rather than age or developmental stage.
"My goal with Is This a Phase? is to show the flow of development over time, on areas such as emotions, imagination, attention span and artistic skill. Because children develop at their own pace, I wanted parents and caregivers to be able to see at a glance where a child was on the continuum for a given topic."
Neville has filled her book with charts that quickly show what behavior can be expected in the next developmental phase and what discipline techniques are most effective at any given stage. This is especially reassuring when a child's development is being compared to that of a sibling, friend or classmate.
Neville's ability to reassure probably stems from her adventurous early life as much as her years of nursing experience. Born in Rossland, B.C. to a mining engineer and a musician, she grew up in silver mining communities around the globe, including Hawaii, India and Ghana. By the time she graduated from high school in Berkeley, she'd attended 14 schools. Her early adulthood was equally adventurous: one summer during college, she worked with the U.S. Public Health Service north of the Arctic Circle. After earning her B.S. and R.N. at the University of California San Francisco she took nursing jobs in both the U.S. and Bolivia.
Neville eventually married a man she'd met in the fifth grade. John Neville turned out to be adventurous in his own way: in 1976, this doctor was among the first husbands to interrupt a professional career for a three-year stint at child care and housekeeping when their children were 2 and 4 and Neville had returned to nursing full-time. Later she switched to part-time work, which offered both more time with her children and the opportunity to write. It also led to the career as a parent educator.
"I'd always wanted to be a nurse and I got interested in parent education because I discovered that parenting was the most difficult job I'd ever undertaken."
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