What’s Wrong With Parenting Books?

by kayris on June 17, 2009

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Of the many things that changed in my life after my children were born, one of the biggest was my attitude towards food.

Once my son started eating solids, I was careful to avoid artificial sweeteners, food dyes, certain types of fat, etc. One day, while peering into my refrigerator and seeing “his” organic ketchup on the shelf next to the non-organic ketchup I bought for my husband and myself, it struck me how silly it was to buy more than one kind of ketchup. I wondered why I was so careful with what I fed him, but not nearly as careful with myself. If organic ketchup was good enough for him, why wasn’t it good enough for me?

It was like a little cartoon light bulb appeared over my head. That realization, combined with a gift subscription from a friend to Prevention Magazine, and a desire to no longer feel fat and frumpy, changed my life and my outlook when it came to food.

Nutrition became a personal interest, and in addition to starting to exercise, I overhauled the way we eat.

That was over four years ago, and I feel like my health has steadily improved. While my older child is picky compared to his sister, who eats anything that doesn’t eat her first, I feel like both kids eat substantially better than a lot of kids their age.

Understandably, I also take a lot of criticism for the way I choose to feed my kids from friends and family, but I’ve mostly gotten used to it. It’s easy to brush off comments when I’m maintaining a healthy weight and feel great.

Easy, that is, except for a recent comment by an acquaintance that rubbed me the wrong way. It all started when I mentioned that I planned to use M&Ms as a reward for when my daughter potty trains, because she’d climb to the moon and back for a piece of chocolate. The girl has her mother’s sweet tooth, and I’m not above using chocolate as a bribe for toilet learning. This person implied that my daughter’s interest in candy was unusual and perhaps it meant that she wasn’t getting enough to eat. When I objected, she said, “But what do I know, I feed my kids Happy Meals and don’t read parenting books.”

So what’s wrong with parenting books? I’m assuming that she thinks that I read them, therefore I think I know everything, and here’s why it rubs me the wrong way. For one, I don’t regularly read parenting books, and even if I did, wouldn’t that imply that I DON’T know everything? Why would you read a book if you already knew how to do what it was about?

My college education was intense, but my degree is in a science field, not parenting, and I’m as new at this as every other parent. So what’s wrong with reading a book or two or fourteen for a little help along the way?

I do have the What To Expect series somewhere in the house. With child number one, I consulted it for guidelines on milestones, and with child number two, I was too tired to care about milestones and just wanted to know how to get her to sleep more. For that, I turned to Elizabeth Pantley’s No-Cry books to help fine tune our bedtime routines, and when my three-year-old son was giving me fits, I checked Your Three-Year-Old: Friend Or Enemy out of the library. I read the pertinent parts of each book, then used what I thought might help me become a better mother. Isn’t that what parenting books are for? To help us overcome problems and become the best parents we can be?

I never claimed to know everything, but I do know that my daughter eats plenty of healthy food and I do know that she gets plenty of treats too.  I also know that a lot of kids like candy and it’s not unusual for them to be motivated by it.  And I do know that our pediatrician, whom I respect and trust, thinks my daughter is healthy as a horse.  So I do know that the way I feed my family, which I learned from books and magazines, is working well for us.

What do you think? Do you read parenting books and do you find them helpful? Or am I being too sensitive?

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kayris (29 Posts)


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