The hazards of parenting books.
If you’ve ever sat down in your local bookstore and started reading parenting books, you find that there’s one for just about every point of view. If you are looking for definitive answers you will be disappointed and confused. Authors take stances as varied as “spare the rod, spoil the child” (spank when appropriate) to advocating “family bed” (where parents and kids share a bed). So you can buy a book that appeals to you, go home feeling that your style of parenting is right, will result in successful children, admission to ivy league schools, or, for the less ambitious — well adjusted children.
Why so many parenting books?
You might also notice that there are a lot of these books. The reason? One reason is that people are unsure how to parent. New parents are hungry for advice. Somewhere along the way in our fast-paced, mobile culture, some basics of parenting stopped being held down from generation to generation. Many parents suffered through inadequate parenting themselves, and despite the best intentions, simply don’t know what good parenting is. As a result, new parents are vulnerable to claims that “this is the correct way to raise your child, help her sleep through the night, get her to eat” — whatever the claim may be.
There’s gold in them books — the fortunes.
Another reason is that there are so many of these books — they are big sellers. Publishers are not overly concerned about whether the parenting approaches are valid or not — they are interested in selling books. So marketing, rather than the well being of children, takes a front-and-center role in the flood of information that parents confront. As I’ve said before, parenting books are a part of the self-help market, and that’s a very lucrative market.
Who knows your child?
In the end, none of these authors knows your child, nor do they know you. If you are an anxious new parent having a difficult time with your child, you are not alone. Often, your pediatrician will be able to help you with your questions. If your child seems to be having a behavioral problem, then how you approach the problem needs to be tailored to both you and your child.
For instance, if you are letting your child cry himself to sleep, but find it very anxiety provoking to do so, then that is probably the wrong approach for your family. Your child will pick up on that anxiety. New parents are generally anxious enough as it is. Difficult emotional and behavioral problems can become entrenched, creating a tremendous amount of anxiety for a family. And anxiety is contagious — more on that another time.
Kalea Chapman, Psy.D.