If you’re anything like me as a parent you’d have bought a new book for almost every stage of your children’s development, and every behavioural challenge your kids presented you with. I even bought a book which told me about every stage of my pregnancy and felt utterly deflated when it told me I may have put on 2-3 kilos in weight and I’d piled on 10-12 kilos!! Whilst these books might seem helpful; plugging any gaps in our parenting know-how at the time, they rarely last the distance. Why?
1. There is as much variation in child and parent temperament, family set-up, sibling dynamics, and early childhood experiences to write a book for each and every family! You see a one size fits all approach to parenting simply doesn’t work, as the ingredients which make up each family are so unique no parenting book could address this in 200-400 pages. Whether a technique works depends equally on the mood in the family, and how confident a parent feels in administering it, just as much as the technique itself. In fact, I have often said a ‘poor’ parenting technique administered with conviction is always more effective than a more ‘great’ technique administered with lack lustre. We need to have a clear understanding of the foundations upon which we are building our family culture, and fortify any gaps, before we can start building up with techniques, tools and strategies. The groundwork, and time spent on it, in my experience, is what makes for happy, confident, and successful families.
2. By focusing on one small aspect of parenting these books rarely consider the big picture, which usually means you have to buy multiple books advocating multiple techniques that don’t necessarily compliment each other. This inconsistency becomes evident in the way you parent and commands less authority amongst children; who are very quick to pick up on your difficulties grappling with the concepts.
3. The scenarios which are covered in these books don’t always cover the same issues you are struggling with at home, which can be so demoralising. So you find yourself slightly ‘lost at sea’ when your child responds in a way which the book doesn’t address, or hasn’t even considered. Then you lose heart, abandon the technique and find yourself back on that hamster wheel sourcing a new book!!
4. One of the biggest issues with parenting books is they tend to create divisions amongst couples; usually with one parent feeling the book vindicates their parenting practice and calls into questions the other partners’. Whilst I know there are often big challenges around getting partners ‘on-side’ and consistent with good parenting practices it doesn’t help create a united front within your family when it comes to parenting. This creates the worst of all issues, disharmony and inconsistency, which children are quick to capitalise on as we try to parent.
5. Finally, the advice from books and parenting sites often seem to contradict each other, and much in the same way as food, what is seen as good parenting practice today, suddenly becomes the worst way to parent tomorrow. These moving goal-posts make it almost impossible to parent consistently.
It has always been my wholehearted belief that parenting should reflect the uniqueness of each family. Much like the terrain of any journey; two are never the same. We can then use new tools and strategies we pick up from books and parenting sites which we can modified, and use in a more bespoke way to support the challenges we encounter on the way; safe in the knowledge they are a good-fit for our family situation.