About the Author

Nicole Letourneau

Dr. Nicole Letourneau is a research chair in parent-infant mental health at the University of Calgary. She has published more than 75 articles and contributed to 13 books on child development. Her research has been featured in the Globe and Mail, the Calgary Herald, CTV News, and the CBC. She lives in Calgary.

Books by this Author
Family and Parenting 3-Book Bundle

Family and Parenting 3-Book Bundle

Scientific Parenting / What Every Parent Should Know About School / Raising Boys in a New Kind of World
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Scientific Parenting

Scientific Parenting

What Science Reveals About Parental Influence
also available: Paperback
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What Kind of Parent Am I?

What Kind of Parent Am I?

Self-Surveys That Reveal the Impact of Toxic Stress and More
also available: eBook
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It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.

— Frederick Douglass

Standing at the tall silver swing set in the middle of the park, Marsha absent-mindedly pushes Gemma, her smiling toddler, on the baby swing. She watches Gemma giggling and gurgling as she swings back and forth with two chubby fingers in her drooling mouth. Her cheeks are rosy red.

She’s happy despite all that teething, Marsha observes. Two older children break into Marsha’s thoughts as they join Gemma on the swings, laughing and talking excitedly. The swings’ chains jangle brightly as they mount the seats, the chime adding to the cheerful chorus of mid-summer. Marsha smiles. She wishes she could find as much joy in a simple swing.

Another child draws Marsha’s attention. Wearing nothing but a sailor shirt and diaper, the little boy appears to have toddled off alone at the park. Marsha wonders where his parents might be. She watches as the toddler leans over, trying awkwardly to swing a chubby leg up on the teeter-totter. Undaunted, he skips over the sand toward the slide until the laughter of the children on the swings draws his attention. A big grin spreads across his face. He makes a beeline for the empty swing between Gemma and the older children.

Marsha’s gaze snaps from the toddler to the older children on the swings. They’re going to smash right into him, she thinks. She opens her mouth to call out but can’t produce a sound. Her arms move with the torturous sluggishness of nightmares. Everything’s going too fast. Her stomach clenches, as if bracing for impact on the young boy’s behalf.

“Ian!” calls a voice from the far end of the playground. “There you are. Come to Grandma!”

The small boy stops a foot short of the swing’s parabolic arc, oblivious to the feet whizzing through space that had nearly made contact with his head. He runs giggling to his grandma, who scoops him up. Ian squirms contentedly in his grandma’s arms as she walks over to Marsha. Grandma adjusts his weight on her hip, moving him out of reach of Gemma’s swing’s gently swaying chain, to which Ian’s fingers are inevitably drawn. Gemma observes the assemblage, fingers in her mouth.

Struggling slightly to contain the tyke, Grandma says, “I could see you were about to help. Thank you so much. I was just distracted for a moment by his brother. You must wonder what kind of grandparent I am to let my little one run off! It only takes a second!” “No, not at all,” Marsha murmurs and smiles in reassurance. “I know how quick these ones can be!”


Has something like this scene played out for you before? Have you ever wondered what kind of parent you are? If you have, this book is for you. In this chapter I describe who I think will enjoy this book, and I hope you will see yourself reflected in that description.

First, I think this book is for parents, particularly those with younger children. What makes a “good parent”? Much has been written on the subject, drawing advice from philosophy, neurobiology, religious teachings, or personal experience. Authors of parenting books often assume that all parents will follow or respond to their advice in the same way. The truth is much more complex. Put simply, we usually parent the way we were parented. The decisions we make, the challenges we face, and the doubts, hopes, and desires we feel — all of these factors are drawn in part from how we were raised, and will leave lasting marks on our children’s malleable minds. If we remain unaware of these influences, even the most well-meaning parents may slip back into old patterns, the latest research crumbling in the face of a deeply imbedded reflex.

It is here that my book is different. What Kind of Parent Am I? relies on clinically tested questionnaires (sometimes called surveys) and expert questioning to identify areas where parents may have the most trouble and, based on their responses, directs them to the appropriate passages in the book. This can be done by self-scoring my specially selected questionnaires provided at the beginning of chapters 1 through 8.

This should be an excellent book for expectant parents and parents of infants, toddlers, preschoolers, elementary school-age children, and even teenagers. It is a great book for moms and dads alike, though sadly most of the research I am drawing from has been on mothers. However, in my view, moms and dads and other caregivers, too, can learn from the research reviewed in every chapter. The sections on social support and how you can get help with parenting in each chapter are relevant for anyone who cares about helping parents and their children.

This is also a great book for grandparents, aunts and uncles, and child-care providers of all types. It is is for anyone who wants to know more about their skills and abilities, and anyone interested in knowing more about themselves and what they need to be the best caregiver they can be. After all, as I have said many times over thecourse of my career, parents cannot give what they do not have. Anyone who expects caregivers to give the best possible care to children when they themselves are suffering is expecting too much.

In general, this book is also for parents and caregivers who wish to learn what they need to do to help them overcome the stressors that can inhibit their ability to be nurturing and attentive. However, even if you think everything is going great and you just want to find out what kind of parent you are, this book is for you. I hope that I will be able to reassure many of you that you are truly doing a terrific job and that you have nothing to worry about as a parent. (I will use the word parent throughout this book, but by that I mean anyone who has responsibility for the regular care of children.)

Finally, this book is for anyone who wants to know about what factors are important for parents to function at their best. It is for parents who want to know how their weaknesses and strengths are linked to how successful their children are likely to be. It draws upon the latest science, including the new neuroscientific understanding of stress and how stress levels may affect both parents and children.


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