How I choose my parenting books
Some thoughts to consider before implementing advices from so-called experts into your family
In this article I will highlight a few points, what matters to me with every book I read. With those points you can then decide for yourself, which books you want to apply on your precious children.
During my education as a small children educator I have learned many things about development, about different people with different approaches and it always interested me. There were fellow classmates that took the approach of so-and-so, trying to implement their philosophies and ideas in the daycare centre they were working in. One of the fellow student was able to banish the changing table where she was working, due to her being convinced about the approach of one of these authors.
I have no problem with that because in my opinion those are things that make no difference in the end in a child’s life. It’s matter of preference.
I was working in a big daycare center with five groups. My duty was wherever someone was needed. Due to that, I had the privilege (and the challenge) to work with very different adults. The five groups were all fundamentally different, in their approach, understanding of education and the way they handled daily situations with the children.
Because of these different approaches my time during my studies to become a small children educator was very intense. I was being confronted to find out what my beliefs are concerning ways of educating, raising kids.
With this background, I was always very curious when friends told me about a specific parenting book they were using with their child. Mostly, I bought it, read it, and did some researches on the internet about it. There are close to twenty of these books I have been reading and doing research on.
For now, I will not name them. I will not tell you the ones I loved and the ones I hated. What I will do, is to highlight a few points, what matters to me with every book I read. With those points you can then decide for yourself, which books you want to apply on your precious children.
- Do a quick browsing through the book. What is the overall tone of it? Does the author make you believe that you are only a good parent by applying his ideas? Does it sound like you need to apply his book (s) letter by letter to have success? If it’s Christian literature, does it say that you are only a good Christian by applying his methods? If it does, here is my suggestion: if you are an insecure parent, don’t even read the book. It might make you feel bad as a parent and make you even more insecure. If you are a secure parent, read it, take the good out of it.
- In Christian literature, there are two main categories of books, going back to one theological belief:
- a.) Does the author believe that the child is wicked from birth, and that with your parenting, you have to “make them aware how wicked they are and that they are sinners? That you need to “redeem them” in order to become good adults?
Doing some research for this article I fell on a teaching from a minister I never heard about. He explains that kind of theology in an understandable way:
“The mother cannot tell what her tender little infant may grow up to be—tall or short, weak or strong, wise or foolish—he may be any of these things or not—it is all uncertain. But one thing the mother can say with certainty: he will have a corrupt and sinful heart. It is natural for us to do wrong. “Folly,” says Solomon, “is bound up in the heart of a child” [Proverbs 22:15]. “A child left to himself disgraces his mother” [Proverbs 29:15]. Our hearts are like the earth on which we walk; leave it alone, and it is sure to bear weeds.”
b.) The other category of books has a different approach to that very subject:
“Little babies are born innocent. Everybody knows that babies know nothing when they are born. They do not know right from wrong. They do not know to refuse the evil, and choose the good. They do not have evil imaginations of the heart. The Bible says that the “imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth,” not from his birth. It is only when children know to refuse the evil and choose the good that they can have evil intentions, evil purposes, or evil choices of the heart. Until they know right from wrong, their actions have no moral character, they can do neither good nor evil, and they are innocent before God. The Bible teaches that children must reach the “age of accountability” before they can commit sin.”
It is important that we get clear with ourselves, what we believe about this matter. Many of the Christian parenting books are based on either theology. It will be much easier for us to accept or reject a book by understanding how we want to approach that.
When I read a book, I try to get “the spirit”, the heart of its content.
Even with my favourite books, where I gained great insights, I do it that way. No step-by-step book-application on my children. No automatic copying of methods into my family. But I take the idea behind, the principle behind, and implement it in our family the way we get the best result. Follwoing is an example of how we applied it:
There was the advice on what to do when the child does not want to obey. Get the child to do some thinking, learning to overcome that inner refusal by standing against a wall until he has thought it through, coming up with a solution. With our oldest, we could not imagine to do that, but the idea behind was something we liked. So we applied it, by taking him on our laps, holding him firmly but gently, even telling him how loved he is, how awesome and how happy we are with him… but that he needs to sit right here with us until he made that decision (to clean up his toys like he was told) . The first time it took him 45 minutes to calm down, and taking that decision. The second time 30, then we quickly got down to 5 minutes). That way, we had no child facing a wall, but a child on our lap. The result was the same and we had applied the idea in our own way, perfectly suited for this specific child.
- I always do some research on the Internet.
With most of the popular books there is some interesting information about the author, about children who grew up under that teaching.
I search for people who are happy with the author and read why. I search for people who can’t go along with the teachings, and read why.
There is even one author whose two adult children cut off all contact with their parents for years.
Facts like that make me ponder. Do I really want to follow this author’s advice about how to treat my children and teenagers?
These advices will help you a great deal to know what material, methods and principles to implement in your family.
And please: If you are unsure about being a parent, maybe because you can’t just copy what your parents did… don’t swift that responsibility to any so-called experts on child education. If you have a bad feeling about something a book says: Don’t do it. Take responsibility for what you do and why you do it. Don’t blindly follow the advices you read in any book about child rearing. My purpose here is not to tell you what I think about a specific book I read. The purpose of this article is to help you, to know what YOU think, what YOU want, what YOU believe.