Excerpt: 'YOU: Raising Your Child'

PHOTO For the seventh book in the "YOU" series, Dr. Mehmet Oz and Dr. Michael Roizen offer tips for keeping your child healthy from infancy to first grade.Playamazon.com
WATCH Childhood Obesity: What Parents Need to Know

For the seventh book in the "YOU" series, Dr. Mehmet Oz and Dr. Michael Roizen offer tips for keeping your child healthy from infancy to first grade.

Read the excerpt below, and then head to the "GMA" Library to find more good reads.


Whether your child is an infant or a toddler, performing puppet shows at preschool or using your belly as a trampoline, we know how hard it can be to pry your eyes off your little one. Babies are as mesmerizing as they are miraculous, so it's easy to lose yourself in your adorable, sweet, gas-blasting bundle of beauty. When your infant graduates to being a little more mobile, perhaps you'll have a radar lock on him for other reasons, such as to prevent a monkey-bar mishap or to stop him from dunking your iPhone in his cereal. So we appreciate that you've taken a moment to take a look elsewhere, and we suspect that one of the driving forces that has directed your attention to this book is that you have a big question: One that both excites you and scares the diaper decorations out of you. How will my baby turn out? Good question. How will your baby turn out? As a parent or a parent-to-be, you've probably run through a couple thousand different life scenarios: will he be healthy? Smart? Polite? Will she reach all of her milestones on time? Will she turn into a modern Mozart? Will he be able to throw a ball sixty yards? Will she be a good citizen? Will he grow up to be a CEO or have trouble holding a job? An everyday hero or a smack-talking punk? A selfless volunteer who wants to change a little bit of the world or the latest reality-show knucklehead? Will she grow up to find her soul mate, or, as someone else put it so nicely, will she have enough sense to know that if he likes her, he shoulda put a ring on it?

Some of these big-picture questions may not be easy to think about -- especially during a time when you may be feeling such powerful feelings as love, joy, or even stress -- but they are indeed the kinds of issues that will keep you up at night (more so than you already are). Of course, it's convenient to credit (or blame) the genetic life force (aka DNA) for providing our children's biological and psychological blueprint for life. But more and more research indicates that the real life force that escorts children to their destiny has less to do with dnA and more to do with... you.

Now, we don't mean "you" in the blue-eyes, big-feet genetic sense of the word, but in a much different way: How your behaviors, actions, principles, and all of the overt and subtle things you do as a parent shape the environment in which your child grows up.

That's right. This is a book about children's health, but it's as much about you as it is about your boy or girl.

In YOU: Raising Your Child, you'll get our best information and advice on all of the nuts-and-bolts issues that are important to handling the challenges of parenting. We'll teach you about allergies, infections, safety, nutrition, and the many things that you can do to help keep your child healthy.

But if this book were just an A-to-Z guide that listed everything from asthma to zoo animal obsession, then we'd close up shop and direct you to the nearest encyclopedic medical website. This book is more than a problem-solution guide. It's a book that will teach you how to be a smart parent.

What does that mean?

Many of us parent by instinct, and that approach works well much of the time. Smart parenting, in addition, is really about conscious decision making: selecting choices based on what we feel is best for our children in the short term and the long term. (Decision making starts from day one: breast feed or bottle feed? Which vaccines and when? You'll see our take on the vaccine issue starting on page 392.) Many smart parents like to think of parenting as a "reverse engineering" process -- that is, always keeping the end goal in sight.

But we also realize that everybody has limited time and resources, so our book is also about balance, as we try to relieve some of the stress of parenting and also give you the essentials.

Ultimately, our goal is to teach you how to create the optimal environment for your child: an environment that's most conducive to your child thriving in all areas of life physically, emotionally, socially, and developmentally. Why? Because the latest research shows us that the environment -- as defined not only by physical space but also by the behaviors of parents and other caregivers -- is the number one determinant of your child's future in all of these realms.

In this book, which covers child health and development from birth to about age five, you're going to learn about cutting-edge research and a variety of developmental approaches. Among all of us on the authorship team, we've had fourteen children, and two of us are pediatricians -- including one who's a full-time developmental pediatrician. So we've spent much of our personal and professional lives thinking and caring about the very same issues as you. A lot has changed since the days of Dr. Benjamin Spock -- in terms of how the world works, the challenges of parenting that your parents didn't face, and what we've discovered about how a child's mind and body develop.

You'll learn that kids are like dolphins (both ping their needs to their parents). You'll learn that some of the best parenting lessons are taught by children (they subtly send messages about where their skills, talents, and desires lie). You'll learn that kids actually learn more by doing less (cool brain section up ahead!). You'll learn that children are like mirrors (their brains are, actually), reflecting behavior that you, their caregivers, and other influential people in their lives model. And you'll learn that the most powerful messages you send your kids -- from day one all the way up to day 6,574 -- may involve absolutely no words at all.

We'll teach you about these amazing insights the best way we know how -- through biology. Ultimately, all of these lessons do come down to biology, even the ones that you wouldn't necessarily think would, like behavior. After all, we've always believed that explaining "why" can make the "what to do" much, much easier.

Along the way, we're going to ask you to join in a game of pretend, as you assume a metaphorical role as river guide. See, the way we think about child development -- and smart parenting -- is to imagine a child's journey through life as a boat ride down a long, often unpredictable river. You, as the guide, help control the direction and speed,while your youngster sits back and takes in everything around him (including watching you, so that he can eventually learn to paddle or steer on his own). This analogy, we hope, will help you understand parenting on several levels:

Consider the boat that is your child's genetics. Everyone is shaped a little bit differently, and that plays a role in how you can navigate the river, but it's hardly the only factor that determines the quality of your trip together.

Your paddle really serves as your own behaviors, actions, and words.

It helps you steer the boat in terms of where you go and what your passenger sees. You can bring your boat to a standstill, you might crash into a rock and get stuck, you can choose which path (of many) the boat takes, you can go fast when needed and slow down when you need a break. You, for much of the time, are in control. But the biggest lesson of all when it comes to paddling is this: sometimes you don't need to paddle at all to get where you want to go. In fact, there is such a thing as overpaddling -- trying so hard to do right that you actually send your vessel in the wrong direction. Lots of times,you're better off going with the flow. Our mantra: Parent smart, not hard.

The river represents the environment in which your child lives.

Sometimes there's rough water, and sometimes there's calm water. Sometimes you have a wide river with lots of choices of where to steer a boat and sometimes, in narrow sections, you just have to ride the rapids. The bottom line is that no matter how expert a guide you are, the environment has a bigger impact on you and your youngster's ride together than anything else. one of the great lessons we learn from traveling the river is that the easiest places to travel are the channels that are well worn and well traveled, and you'll encounter windows of opportunity in which to find those easy-to-navigate places. Your child will actually help direct you there.

Your boat carries all the equipment you'll need. You have maps to help you predict rough waters ahead ("I want to get a tattoo!" announces your daughter). And you have life vests, too, in case you run into some trouble. Both of them come in the various support systems that you already have and will develop en route, including your partner, friends, extended family, doctors, and even the internet, books, and other resources that can help you navigate a river that many before you already have voyaged successfully.

The destination? Well, those are all the traits, skills, attitudes, emotions, and behaviors that make up the person your son or daughter eventually becomes. As you can guess by now, your child's destination depends greatly on which path you take and how you lead the way -- not by your words, but by your actions. But a big lesson we'll be exploring is that what you want for your child might not be right for her, so it's so important that you learn to read her signals and help her go where she naturally wants to go.

Your ultimate goal as guide is to teach your passenger enough about the river so that she can eventually take the helm. This handing-off process starts very early (think toilet training), and culminates when your passenger has attained all the skills necessary to be her own guide: How to make important decisions, how to be calm and confident in the face of adversity, and how to live a productive, satisfying, independent life. If all goes well, she'll be giving you a ride about two decades from now.

Since you're reading this, chances are that you've already embarked upon your river ride. Think of this book as one of your river maps, helping you plan the itinerary that will lead you and your child to your desired destination. Two qualities make for exceptional river guides: experience and knowledge. While you may or may not have the experience of parenting, we believe that this book can help you with the second part of that equation. Throughout the book, you'll learn about science and strategies, you'll use the strategies, tools, and tips, and we'll cover all the big topics important to parents, including how to help your child sleep better, how to help your child maintain a healthy weight, how to best treat a fever, and hundreds of others. Here's how the book works:

In the first three chapters (as well as throughout the book), we'll concentrate on this whole notion of creating the optimum environment for raising your child -- and the things that you can do to maximize your child's potential and happiness. It may seem as if we're dabbling in psychology, but what we're really teaching you is neurology: that is, the science of how the brain best learns and develops. This development relies on the stimuli (environment) that you provide and the healthy habits that you instill from your heart and from the start.

After that, we're going to move into more of the hard-core health and medical concerns that parents have. What do you do if you have trouble breast feeding? Why is your child a picky eater? How do you treat allergies? What do you do if your child is sick? What is that bright red rash on your child's rear end? As doctors and as parents, we know that it's hard to keep the big picture in mind when day-to-day tribulations and health anxieties keep demanding your focus. This book takes you through the most prevalent childhood health issues and tells you how to diagnose, treat, and prevent them.

We'll also provide practical guidance on some decisions and actions you'll have to make and take, such as picking a pediatrician, finding a day care program, childproofing your home, and installing car seats (80 percent of them are installed incorrectly, so it's vital info).

In our signature YOU tools section, we'll show you kid-friendly ways to keep your offspring in shape. We'll share simple, great-tasting recipes that your whole family will enjoy, and we'll summarize the various points of view about the hotly debated topic of vaccines. First-time parents will find our YOU tool for newborns especially helpful; there we'll offer info on diapering, feeding, sleeping, bathing, and all the other mysteries of caring for an infant.

Our YOU Plan gives an overview of critical developmental milestones you can expect (but not obsess over, please), as well as some tips and tricks that will make the various stages from birth to age five a little bit easier. Think of it as the pocket version of our detailed map -- good for a quick glance when you're in a hurry or need a refresher.

In our appendix, we'll cover issues that may be important to some of you, such as multiple births, nontraditional families, and a handful of specialized health concerns such as autism and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD.

We know, we know. So exciting, so titillating, so promising that you can't wait to jump right in and devour dozens of pages on the fine art of applying cream to a diaper rash or teaching manners (not to mention the much more big-picture topics). But before you begin, we want to introduce you to a few high-altitude thoughts about parenting -- the recurrent themes that, while perhaps not front and center every day, should be on your radar screen as you undertake the greatest job in the world. Call them the YOU Parenting Principles, if you will...