Family,  Working Moms

Parenting Books…Ugh…

So many parenting books prescribe the “best” and sometimes “right” way to help your child sleep, eat, play, bond, socialize and behave. They often promise to solve an assortment of other issues you may be facing as a parent. How on earth does a parent choose the “right” book? Hmmm, is there a right book or method? And what did people do before there were parenting books? Right?

I have spent countless hours and money on parenting books of all varieties. Books on attachment parenting, books on “crying it out,” books that suggest rigid schedules, books that suggest no schedules, positive discipline, 1-2-3 discipline, demand feeding, feeding at only specific times—I have read it all!

Do I have regrets about my rigid schedule? Not many

What am I hoping to find? Sometimes my search is motivated by pure desperation and being absolutely convinced that what I am experiencing with my children is not “normal.” I am a master google searcher when it comes to issues with children! Sometimes it is motivated by pure inquisitiveness. I look on the Internet, read blogs, look at parenting forums and of course, buy more books! Seriously, I could start my own parenting book library. 

When my girls (pretween twins now) were babies, life was all about getting them to sleep. That was the Holy Grail for me. If you have twins, or have known anyone who has twins, you will know how all-consuming the quest for sleep can become. I found a method that promised me nights of uninterrupted sleep and I stuck to it like nothing I have ever stuck to in my life. I timed when my babies ate and when they slept. I measured food quantities, I got blackout blinds, a “white noise” maker, I swaddled, I…you get the picture. I was a machine. I faced a lot of judgment from people who thought I was being too rigid and potentially damaging the bonding process (by the way, many of these opinions came from people who either did not have children, or only had singletons). I waffled between not caring what these people thought to not trusting what felt right for my family. Can you relate to this? Why does other people’s opinion of how we parents cause us to falter in what feels right to us?

In the end, my rigid method worked. My kids slept through the night very early on and I thought I was oh-so-clever for figuring out the great mystery of how to make a baby sleep. Admittedly, I was likely very smug about this to the people I felt were judging me. Sorry!

Fast-forward a few years later… Did all my hard work and perseverance pay off? Did I have the best little sleepers in the whole wide world? No! There were many nights when my girls went through phases of getting up 10-15 times a night. I kid you not, 10-15 times!!! I thought I was going to lose my mind. Here were just some of the reasons they would give me for waking me: “I need water,” “My doll needs to be tucked in,” “I need music on,” “I’m itchy”… and on and on went the reasons why they needed me to get out of my warm cozy bed in a half sleep stupor to tend to them in the night. This connects well with our post on why moms drink (see here)

So what went wrong? Once a good sleeper, always a good sleeper, I thought. Or conversely, once a poor sleeper, always a poor sleeper. I don’t believe this anymore. Do I have regrets? Not many. I am a pretty structured person and this worked really well for me for the most part. I loved that I knew that by 7 p.m. most nights both of my girls would be sleeping and my husband and I could hang out and have some quality time together.

Here’s the only thing: I think that constantly consulting parenting books made me see certain behaviours as problems instead of seeing them as just part of the unpredictable nature of child development. Also, parenting by the book, so to speak, did not prepare me to be flexible as my kids got older. So, when my daughters decided to stop sleeping through the night, I was surprised, upset, confused, and well, and mad.

Back to my question of what went wrong: The answer is that nothing went wrong, everything is and was as it should be. Kids go through phases. Currently we are in an ‘I am 10 but want to dress like I am 13’ phase. I have had to step back and remember that my girls are going to continue to change and need different things at different times. Wow, is parenting ever humbling. Like, every day humbling.

Have I stopped buying parenting books? No way! Now, I read them with more of a critical eye to get ideas and a different perspective, not to get the answers. I don’t consult parenting books to solve anything, but to know that I am not the only one dealing with a particular issue. I read parenting books to give me a few strategies to try out for a specific phase.

My love/hate relationship with parenting books continues. I will continue to buy them, read them and pass them on because I do think that we parents can use all the help we can get. “Expert” knowledge can be good, but often your own knowledge and gut instinct about what works best for you and your family is even better.

Here Are My Top 5 Favorite Parenting Books
1.     Hold On To Your Kids: Gabor Mate and Gordon Neufeld (This is great for all phases of parenting- by far the most useful parenting book I have ever read).
2.     The whole Brain Child: Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson (This is a fascinating book from a neuroscience perspective on the role the brain plays in all of those frustrating, seemingly out of nowhere behaviours we see…read tantrums). 
3.     Parenting From The Inside Out: Daniel J. Siegel, M.D., and Mary Hartzell, M.Ed. (This book helps parents understand why they respond to their children the way they do and how to use that insight to build a deeper connection with their children- warning, this makes you examine your own childhood to understand how you parent)
4.     Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child: John Gottman and Daniel Goleman (This one is for learning how to teach your children how to name, understand and regulate their emotions. I can tell you as a therapist, this is one of the greatest gifts we can give our children). 
5.     The Highly Sensitive Child: Elaine Aron (exactly what it sounds like. This book is for anyone out there with a highly sensitive child- notice it is not called the ‘over-sensitive’ child. I read this one many, many times over the years. I like this book because it helps the reader develop an appreciation for sensitive children and how they experience the world).
Bonus Book:
6.     Far From the Tree: Andrew Solomon  (Okay, this is not so much a parenting book, just a super interesting book on coming to terms with, and parenting children who either have unique needs, are differently abled, or are just very different then us).
Have a favorite parenting book? Let us know!
Happy Reading,

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