Parents often find themselves looking for advice on how to raise their kids. It’s not surprising in a society in which we spend so little time around children that we go into this parenting business with little to no experience. However, we have to be careful where we seek advice for not all advice is equal. While there is huge variability in the advice out there, most wouldn’t be so bad as to say one should flat out ignore it, even if it’s not in line with a personal view of how to raise one’s kids. But there are books so bad that we need to be clear parents really ought not to be reading them. Sometimes it’s the entire book, sometimes it’s just some of the advice, but regardless, the following five books all contain information that should be ignored by parents everywhere…
5. Shitty Mom by Karen Moline
What is it with the slew of books on “reclaiming your life” from your kids or parenting in a way that minimizes disruptions to your life? I use this book as an example, but there are many others like it, all of which spout the nonsense that you need and should come first regardless or that parenting is something that we really don’t need to take seriously at all. We’re not talking about accepting that you won’t be perfect or the idea that you need to make sure you’re healthy in order to care for your kids, but rather the idea that you should be able to do whatever the hell you want and your kids better learn to just suck it up and go for the ride. After all, it’s your world, right? Everyone else is just living it in.
Although these books are supposed to be funny, I’m not sure there’s a lot of funny in the advice doled out. And they all have the premise that babies and kids are awful. You read it and wonder why these people had children. Ms. Moline compares one of her children to Hitler (I’m sure he’ll appreciate reading out that when he’s older; in fact I often wonder what all kids will think when reading these kinds of books when they are older) and starts the book off by pitting parents against kids (“It’s about not letting that baby win every battle.”). She advocates sending sick kids to daycare because it’s too inconvenient for you to care for them (remember it’s her world and if your kid gets sick because of it, well that’s just what happens in her world). Perhaps there would be humour here if the views were so damn prevalent with parents all over sighing with relief upon seeing advice like this. Or perhaps it’s just not funny to view your child as a burden, a pain in the ass, or the enemy who ruined your life and when you view your child that way, your parenting is going to reflect that. If you want funny, read the Bloggess or Parenting: Illustrated with Crappy Pictures or The Honest Toddler… not this drivel.
4. What to Expect When You’re Expecting by Heidi Mukoff and Sharon Mazel
Yes it focuses on pregnancy, but isn’t that the beginning of our parenting journey? If we feel totally disempowered and useless when pregnant, won’t that kind of carry over to parenting? And yet that seems to be the message of this book: You know nothing, there are a million things you can do wrong (and probably will), and you need to pass over all control to your doctor because s/he knows what’s best for you. Let’s also not forget how it sensitizes us to make sure we fear Every. Little. Thing. My goodness, horror movies aren’t as good at scaring women as this book is. I fear that the majority of women who have read it believe that pregnancy is a “condition” rife with all sorts of horrible things and that they are all lurking around every corner. If you don’t fear everything, something horrible will happen. (This isn’t to say bad things don’t happen, but when you’re at the stage of telling women not have baths, you’ve hit a realm of paranoia that is beyond what anyone should have to experience.) Not surprisingly, there’s very little in terms of citations for these pages of fear-mongering.
[Update: I have an older version of this book and older versions are still widely available in libraries and used bookstores, but apparently the newest edition is not as fear-mongering as the older ones (though some people believe it is as bad). I can’t attest to that personally, but I am putting that out there for people in case you read the newest and truly are perplexed.]
3. Save Our Sleep by Tizzie Hall
Oh Tizzie. What list of worsts would be complete without you??? The woman who brings us strict schedules, the risk of overheating babies (which can lead to death) by wrapping them in 8-10 blankets, and not responding when your child vomits. The latter is just the icing on the cake in an otherwise bad book on parenting. Schedules, not focusing on or responding to baby’s needs, and again viewing the child as manipulative are ideas that characterize this book completely, and these meld together when she speaks of the vomit situation. You see, Tizzie recommends that if your little baby is screaming so much at night (because of course she advocates crying-it-out) that s/he ends up vomiting from the stress of it, the baby is actually trying to manipulate you into holding him/her (sadly she’s not the only one to claim this as similar things have been written by Richard Ferber and Jodi Mindell). What to do? Do not respond and comfort your child that is clearly in the midst of one of the most stressful situations of his/her young life. You must stick to your schedule and force this baby to stop asking for help. But really you need to “vomit-proof” the bed so you just have to remove the sheet (without making eye contact with your baby) and leave the baby there. Only change the baby if absolutely necessary. This extends into toddlerhood as well. One great example she herself provides is of a toddler who got so upset, he vomited and pooed himself, but the recommendation was to change the sheets then let him fall asleep crying in his shit so he didn’t learn to poo himself in order to get the attention from mom and dad that he clearly wanted. (The parents could change the diaper once he was asleep.) Folks – I can’t make this horrible advice up, but I can tell you to stay the hell away from it.
[In all reality, I could add all sorts of sleep training books in this spot. Tizzie is not alone in these asinine views, and books like Sleeping Through the Night by Jodi Mindell (which also advocates for leaving a child in vomit, as stated above) or Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Marc Weissbluth (which advocates that somehow sleep has to take precedent over every other need, including security and food, and advocates for not giving a child much love and affection) are just as bad. And of course anything Gina Ford should be avoided with a 10-foot pole.]
2. On Becoming Babywise by Gary Ezzo
There are two versions of Babywise: The original and the updated. Although both versions would earn spots on this list, it gets to be number 2 because of the original which is sadly still in circulation, especially in libraries where updates aren’t always so quick. First, why would both be on the list? Well, the updated version still has inherent in it the belief that newborns are manipulative and evil and that they are not deserving of the attention and responsiveness that they actually do need. In several parts, the authors discuss how newborns do not have any good virtues (e.g., kindness, goodness, etc.) and that if their needs are consistently met, they will grow up to be self-centered assholes (like they apparently already are). His argument is that you should respond to needs, but that babies often cry or try to eat but apparently these aren’t “real needs”, because remember babies are basically self-centered, Machiavellian assholes out to mess with your life if you let them. I struggle with the idea that any good parenting can arise from this perspective.
It is number 2 on this list, however, because of the original version which some people are still reading and taking to heart. In this version there were strict guidelines on feeding times and touch times – in short, huge promotion of scheduled care. We know scheduled care with newborns is bad, but this one was so bad, the American Academy of Pediatrics had to make a public statement against this book because the methods were clearly associated with dehydration and ‘failure to thrive’ in numerous infants. In short, following the advice was putting babies at severe physical risk of harm. With that, you may be asking, what book could possibly be worse?
Well, the number 1, worst book is… To Train Up A Child by Michael and Debi Pearl
There are quite a few supposedly Christian books out there that are along the same lines as this one, but none seem to have the popularity of this gem. Let’s start with the fact that there’s a petition to get this book removed from Amazon and it’s not for crazy reasons. The book promotes itself as a Christian guide to parenting, but it’s nothing like the parenting I’ve seen by my Christian friends, which is loving and involves full-term breastfeeding (when they can), co-sleeping (if safe), lots of touch, but generally just loving and responsive practices. This book endorses inflicting physical pain on babies and children under the assumption that they are evil little bastards out to get you and that you must break their will to be a successful parent. Some of the suggestions include pulling your baby’s hair if s/he bites when nursing, teasing your child with something they want then hit them when they reach for it, using switches on babies, and spanking a child for up to 45 minutes at a time if the child doesn’t want to sit in your lap or clean up or simply tries to defend himself against any beating. Did I mention that there have been multiple deaths of children due to the practices in this book? Yeah, not a great selling point if you ask me. If you want to try and defend this book and the methods discussed within it, this site is not for you; in fact, this world isn’t for you.
There you have it. Five books not worth your money or your time so try to avoid them as best you can.
If you want to read some of the BEST parenting books, you can do so right here!