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.