Take charge with advice geared to help you survive raising children Snakes, public speaking, flying, death: many people cite one of these as their greatest fear, but obviously parenting was not listed among the choices on their questionnaires. Nothing could be more intimidating, more hair-raising than the prospect of being handed a helpless infant and expected to nurture it into a capable adult. Cynthia L. Copeland understands the daunting quality of the task at hand. Her light-hearted yet heart-lifting book, The Diaper Diaries: The Real Poop on a New Mom's First Year is for moms, by a mom and at under $10, it's a bargain. Armed with this book and what this mother of three identifies as the essential ingredient for surviving motherhood a healthy sense of humor first-timers can face everything from discomfiting body changes to the breast vs. bottle dilemma.

Along with dirty-diaper disasters, laughter-inducing sections include "Projecting the Future," which compares a proud mother's wishful thinking about her baby's traits to their more likely outcomes. When your baby "is not afraid of getting shots at the pediatrician's office," she writes, you are apt to envision the child becoming a world-famous humanitarian like Dr. Jonas Salk. But Coleman injects her own needle of reality, humorously predicting that the child will more likely become a tattoo artist in Atlantic City.

Mingled with her "been there, done that, and you can too" humor (and smile-invoking illustrations) is some sage advice. Copeland suggests using an empty box, the ground or "indestructible daddy" to entertain baby, rather than store-bought, expensive paraphernalia. And she wisely warns new moms about the "All-Baby, All-the-Time" trap. "Sweet newborns turn into cranky two-year-olds who become close to intolerable 13-year-olds," she cautions. "But your husband will always be the same good guy who thinks you have a cute butt and makes the world's best lasagna." No matter how well you survive that first year, however, issues of discipline will surface along with your child's first utterance of defiance. (Typically, the word "NO.") No More Misbehavin': 38 Difficult Behaviors and How to Stop Them (Jossey-Bass, $14.95, 352 pages, ISBN 0787966177), by Michele Borba Ed.

D., offers an in-depth examination of 38 specific behaviors, from shyness to stealing, and step-by-step instructions on how to modify them. Each chapter contains strategies and tips, a behavior makeover plan, and a place to record your family's progress. If you are the mother of a daughter approaching her teens, you'll appreciate a new book written specifically for this troublesome stage, When We're in Public, Pretend You Don't Know Me: Surviving Your Daughter's Adolescence so You Don't Look Like an Idiot and She Still Talks to You (Warner, $12.95, 208 pages, ISBN 0446679518) by Susan Borowitz. The author acknowledges that the friction that develops between mothers and their maturing daughters is a natural outgrowth of the daughter's need to create her own identity. The trick for mothers is to stay connected during this tumultuous time, and Borowitz offers a wealth of ways to keep the lines of communication open. "Kids are at their most vulnerable when they go to bed and therefore are much more inclined to be open with you," she writes, explaining that her nighttime talks with her own teenage daughter proved among the most "fruitful and connecting" during those difficult years. Finally, we'll close with a book we hope you don't need, but if the "D" word has crept into your life, this volume may be the most important one in our lineup. What About the Kids? Raising Your Children Before, During, and After Divorce (Hyperion, $23.95, 400 pages, ISBN 0786868651), by Judith S. Wallerstein and Sandra Blakeslee, is a comprehensive guide for helping ease the effects of divorce. Wallerstein is the author of The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce, a bestseller that delved into the long-term effects of divorce on children. In What About the Kids? she addresses the problems that occur at different stages of the breakup and different ages of the affected children. Wallerstein doesn't flinch in tackling painful subjects, offering advice from her many years of counseling families. "Parenting is always a hazardous undertaking," she writes. "Much of the time it's like climbing a mountain trail that disappears and reappears, making you wonder if you're still headed for the top or if you're stranded on a cliff. But parenting in a divorced or remarried family is harder it's like climbing that same trail in a blizzard, blinded by emotions and events out of your control." Parenting may be the most frightening, difficult thing you ever do, but you should be able to survive it and live to enjoy the fruits of your labor with guidance from these parenting veterans. Linda Stankard, a writer in New York, is a survivor of parenting.

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