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Parenting Without Fads

People often ask me if I have my sights set on writing a parenting book.  The truth is, I’m not sure who would buy it.  I took a quick glance at the parenting section in my local bookstore last week, and it seems that it has tripled in size in the past few years.  There is a book for any type of parenting style that you could possibly choose.

Lining the endless shelves are books on attachment parenting, emotional intelligence, raising boys with feelings, raising girls with feelings, raising spirited children, raising shy children, healthy sleep habits, raising the “happiest” baby or toddler on the block (who wouldn’t want to win that contest?), talking so that kids will listen, and the list goes on.  There is even a “baby whisperer” who promises a happy and well-slept baby.

Some of these books serve as invaluable resources to new, and even seasoned, parents.  They provide answers to basic questions as well as information on how to help your child sleep, develop social skills, cope with feelings, etc.  They provide comfort when parents are concerned about new behaviors.  They help parents feel less alone in the parenting journey.

But much like dieting (is anyone still doing the caveman diet?), sometimes parenting fads emerge.  Sometimes a parenting book becomes so big that moms everywhere start to question their decision making if they aren’t following along.  Sometimes parents start buying into these “manuals” because it seems like it’s the right thing to do.  If everyone else is doing it, there must be something to it.

The reality is that there is no one right way to parent.  Children have certain needs based on their development, and that’s important to take into consideration.  Books can be very useful when it comes to learning about developmental milestones, stages, and what to expect as your child grows.  It can help to seek expert advice if potty training or positive reinforcement doesn’t seem to be working in your house.  Sometimes there is a simple solution that can be found within the pages of a parenting book.

The trick is to work the parenting advice into a parenting style that works for you.  If you’re living by the book, you’re expecting someone else’s advice to work in every situation.  All kids are different.  All families have different experiences.  We have to do what works for us and for our children.  We have to be adaptable.

My two kids have very different personalities.  While my daughter enjoys the spotlight and hasn’t met a stage she didn’t like, my son is a bit more mellow.  He talks a lot, but, like his mommy, he doesn’t need to be center stage.  He’s happy on the side.

While we live by 1-2-3 Magic (which, by the way, is the only parenting book that I regularly suggest) in this house for our daughter, our son doesn’t quite need that yet.  He’s better off with a quick removal from a frustrating situation.  It will probably work better for him once he hits three, but for right now we save that strategy for our daughter.  We take useful information and make it work for us.

My husband would say that we’re not a good example, as my expertise provides information that others don’t have at their fingertips.  This is true.  I’ve spent my adult life working with families and children, so I come from a different perspective.  But I’m weary of fads in general.  It seems that every two years a new “perfect” diet hits the morning TV circuits and lines the bookshelves.  Will it really be the right diet for everyone, or might it just have a few new ideas that could be useful?  For me, it’s about keeping up with information and applying it to my existing strategy.  I’m not such a believer in the total life change because a dietician told me I will lose 10 pounds or a parenting author promised a sleeping baby.

At the end of the day, we’re all just doing the best that we can do on any given day.  Information is invaluable when it comes to knowing how to best help your kids.  Sometimes you will find that in a book, but sometimes you will find it on the playground in the form of other parents.  The important thing is to take that information and make it work for you and your kids.

As for that parenting book for me, I’m still not sure.  For right now, I think blogging is the best way for me to help others along this journey.

What do you think of parenting fads?  Have you ever let a parenting book run your life for you?

Katie is a Child & Adolescent Psychotherapist/Parenting Consultant in Los Angeles, CA.  She has a four year old daughter, two year old son, and a rock and roll husband who makes her life complete. Katie has a parenting advice blog at http://practicalkatie.com/ and can also be found on Twitter.

Alicia C.

Thursday 14th of April 2011

I think that anyone who wants to know about anything will use as many resources as they can get their hands on and choose the individual ideas from each source that fit his or her needs. It's called "critical thinking" and most people, sadly, just never learned tat skill. If you read/listen to/believe only one person or group of people about anything, you're not being open-minded or thinking for yourself. And, while I don't completely agree with any one parenting book I've read, I've found that they all have some great little bits of advice.

Jessie, Education of Ours

Thursday 14th of April 2011

I read a lot if parenting books, and take it all with a grain of salt. Then, I pick up tricks from each and parent from my heart. Each of my children, including twins, are so different; therefore my approach is different. My home is child-led, as attachment parents and Montessorians. However, we are not permissive in any way. I don't fall for fads, especially those ridiculous teach infomercial types!

[email protected] Sandwich

Thursday 14th of April 2011

Loved this post! I don't think this is a real fad but when my first child was born I brought her home from the hospital during a heat wave. I read in my new parent manual of the time to keep the baby swaddled. Everything I would wrap her up like a burrito, she would wriggle out. I explained the sitch to my mom and she told me, "Honey, she is probably hot and your baby hasn't read that book!" From then on I knew that placing my compete trust in the trend of the day was not necessarily the best for my little pumpkin.

Practical Parenting

Thursday 14th of April 2011

That's what I always tell new parents: Ask every question you can think of, but always rely on that inner voice. Parents always know what's best for their own kids.

Alex P.

Thursday 14th of April 2011

Amazing post Katie! I thoroughly enjoyed it. I have only read a couple of parenting books and they were both What to Expect books. Now, I bought Dr Phil's Family First book and I REALLY want to read it. I just haven't had much reading time lately. He's a man who if he told me to jump off a bridge, I may not do it but I'd probably give it some consideration. I respect him and his methods.

Practical Parenting

Thursday 14th of April 2011

Thanks! That's the thing about parenthood...reading is the first to go, right?!!