Parenting books I meant to burn

I watch the young mother who lives near me and bite my tongue.

As she searches for exactly the right school for her boys (just like I did), reads parenting books galore (guilty) and discusses the “right” approach for various tantrums (mea culpa), I feel like I’m watching myself about 10 years ago.

Which reminds me of the bonfire I meant to have.Fire destroying leaves of a paper thrown in a fire

The bonfire to destroy all the “helpful” parenting books I have collected over the years.

Where shall I start?

The book recommended by a psychologist that cautioned against the word “no”? Ah, yes. That was the year I spent trying to “redirect” my little darling. Without ever uttering the word “no.” And I went at this task with the focus of a vigilante. Perhaps my first clue that this method was not so bright should have been around page 49: “After the third time Dexter set his bedroom afire by practicing his Scout skills indoors, Betsy finally caught him before a spark flew. She looked deeply into his eyes and said, “How about a game of mahjong, honey?” (I may be paraphrasing here just a tiny bit.)

My first thought? Perhaps not mahjong. The tiles are WOODEN. I mean, wood, fire, sparks—is this woman fully awake and firing on all cylinders? Try Twister. Or Legos.

My second thought? Are you f*$&ing kidding me?

Well, in all truthfulness, the second thought came about six months into my redirecting phase when my son and I were in a gym, watching a sporting event. As I watched a boy slightly younger than him start to mark the bleachers with a permanent marker, I alerted his mother. She must have been reading the same book (very in vogue at the time) I was. There was not a “no” to be heard. Instead, she asked little so-and-so if he’d like to go get some ice cream at the concession stand. He said “no” and kept drawing. Obviously, he had not read this book, as he used the forbidden word. It might have been at that moment that I started to see how this book might just be a teensy bit ridiculous.

And my third thought was that I was going to check the school directory to be sure there were no Dexters in my son’s class.

Then there was the tome that followed this permissive book, with a title along the lines of “Something Something Laying Down the Law.” You get the idea. I started to doubt this author’s veracity around page 125: “And as Marcia walked slowly out of the juvenile detention center after visiting Junior, she at least had the comfort of knowing her firm morals and principles had been upheld. Her son may have been headed for the Big House, but her house was now a den of peace and quiet.” (I may be paraphrasing here and there.)

Catching up with dadNeed I go on? Really? You people are relentless.

The book about boys being boys. The book about enforcing sleep habits that did nothing but deprive the entire family of sleep for weeks on end. The book about raising healthy eaters who eschew all junk food because of their trained palate. (My sons will still tackle you for a Dorito. That one was obviously a bust.)

As I look back on this era of child-raising with a not-so-fond, thank-God-those-days-are-over perspective, I think of my neighbor. And the bonfire we could have with our collective collection of rubbish parenting books by people like Noah Lotmorethanyoudo, PhD (I’m sure he is Greek, with that long last name.) and I.C. Allthemistakesyoumake (Not Greek. Perhaps Serbian?).

But I don’t think she’s yet at the mommy stage where she realizes her gut is wiser than all of these quacks.

So maybe I’ll wait another six months or so before inviting her to my bonfire, with her books. Maybe I can track down little Dexter, who should be in his teens by now. And, I’m sure, more than qualified to start a fire.

Thanks to his mother. And her unquestioning faith in the “experts.” Whoever they are.




15 Comments Add yours

  1. willowmarie says:

    Please send me an invite! Experts…Grrr!

  2. Angie K Walker says:

    I nipped my reading of Childcare experts at the birth stage. I could see then that I was getting obsessed. I loved reading (let it be said second-hand and already out-of-date) Miriam Stoppard book about pregnancy, birth and the early years. I guess I was nostalgic for my memories of the times when babies wore hand-knit cardigans and everything seemed so less complicated. However, the advice “not to worry if you pass a small motion many people do” when giving birth was perhaps a little optimistic. I won’t delve into that memory here. So, apart from the odd relapse, I made a decision not to read experts on my kids but to follow my intuition. My sister, who has read every single book on childcare felt that I should read up on teenagers but I held out. I think we’ve gone backwards in a lot of ways. There’s too much medicalising of a lot of things and too much expert knowledge. Advice constantly changes too, as anyone can see, so that makes me think that a lot of the “advice” is a load of tripe. Thworkingere’s a lot to be said for common-sense and working on your confidence. I found mine grew after the first child, as it would when learning any job.

  3. Kate says:

    I would love to attend your bon fire but alas my books are long since gone – to the trash not even the donation box!! Try adding these to your list of titles (paraphrasing them) “parenting your adoptive child – the road to trust and shared love” or “ADHD – behavior correction modifications for the parent” (yes they were trying to correct MY behavior) or last but not least “What to expect Baby’s first year” – I was panicked when I discovered NEITHER of my kids followed those milestone and yet both went to school, walking, talking, fully potty trained and sleeping through the night!!

    LOVE your posts – always spot on!

    1. candidkay says:

      Well I hope you have kept those behavior correction modifications shiny and spiffy over the years (yours, of course):).

  4. Jessie says:

    I love this! I’m not a parent either, but I know someone who reads books after books and article after article and I can’t help but think she’s wasting her time. I still have tons of time to plan ahead for children, but I don’t have any intention to read a gazillion baby books. I think one, even mostly on pregnancy is helpful, but getting perspectives from every psychologist out there is just going to confuse you and the kid. I think you just have to live through and deal with the terrible twos, and if you’re really lucky, you don’t have a kid that goes through that phase (my mom claims I didn’t).

  5. Kami says:

    I have a stack of those books I can build into a good-sized bonfire. Reminding myself that I loved them got me through lots more crap than any advice I ever read.

    1. candidkay says:

      Well said, Kami! And we all need to remind ourselves of this every so often:).

  6. My husband and I love to reminisce about how our mothers could give us “the look” and we’d stop dead in our tracks without a hand being lifted or a word being uttered. I’m convinced now that our memories must be faulty because when you hear my mom telling it, I never behaved and she has the bald spots to prove it. Parenting is all about building a relationship (with someone whose brain is still developing), which no book can teach you. I sometimes scan the internet looking for guidance but ultimately, I totally agree with you. I know my kids best.

  7. Your post really made me laugh! I’m not a parent, but having cared for a few young children and teenagers over the years (as a teacher and occasionally, live-in babysitter), I know that I’d have been sacked on the spot for following the advice of the so-called experts you’ve quoted here:)! Anyway, thanks for making me smile! Meliza

  8. Roy McCarthy says:

    Amazing how the world’s population has gone from two to seven billion without much help from parenting books.

  9. Had to laugh at this. I watch the moms with boys in my 7 year olds class and think back 11 years to when my son was 7. All the parenting books really need to say is set boundaries and love them. Honestly when you talk to them about all the other stuff, all they hear is blah, blah, blah, blah.

  10. Hobbie DeHoy says:

    Yeah, I stopped reading parenting books before my eldest even started kindergarten. You can find a book out there to support any kind of parenting you want to do, and I figured since I only followed the advice of the ones that I liked anyway, I felt safe trusting my maternal instincts. I think reading them as validation, not as inflexible instruction manuals, is the way to get the most value out of them before you quit reading. That said, my children’s preschool used a very specific method of classroom management called “conscious discipline” and parent coaching in this method was part of the offerings there. Hearing from a community of like-minded people, including experienced teachers, can be very helpful. Moderation in all things!

  11. Emma Duncan says:

    Haha, I tried the “not saying no” thing – pointless. Great post.

  12. You’re so right! You’ve got me thinking now…I may have to write an “inspired by” post soon. ~K.

  13. suemclaren24 says:

    “Experts” – ref: Future Babble, by Dan Gardner.

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