Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Why Parenting Books Suck

I've got A LOT of parenting books. I started reading them before my oldest was even born. I was, of course, going to be the perfect parent. We both were.

When I think back on things I had to be one of the most obnoxious first time moms of all time. In fact, much to my shame, the first time I let my in-laws take Chai Tea somewhere without me was when she was nearly ten months old. It was Christmastime and they wanted to take her to Seattle Center to see the lights. I actually wrote out a list of rules that they had to read before they could leave. I remember them snickering over it quietly. There were things on it like DO NOT TAKE HER OUT OF HER CAR SEAT FOR ANY REASON and I even attached an information sheet on what to do for an infant choking. I was also adamant that they have her back at a certain time. She had a schedule, you know.

Every new struggle with any of our children sent me running in search of the latest and greatest book. Over the years we've encountered many opinions from others in regard to our parenting. All different, of course. We were too strict. We were too lenient. We took everything too seriously. We didn't take things seriously enough. Our consequences were too harsh. Our consequences were lacking. It is true that we weren't always consistent. That is, unless you count being consistently inconsistent.

I decided long ago that parenting books suck. So why did I recently buy yet another one? Apparently, it was to underscore that belief. And waste money.

This latest and greatest book was written by a Christian guy that actually lives in our area. I am not going to name it. His big thing (and all of them have their own "big thing") is that kids are like checking accounts and you have to make a deposit before you make a withdrawal. Okay. What does that mean? Well, that means that if you tell your kid to do something and they don't do it that before you can say anything to them you have to make a "deposit" into their "account." Example: You walk into the family room and your kid has their school books strewn about on the floor, is watching TV before doing their homework, and there is a cereal bowl with milk still in it perched precariously over your new carpet... where there is also a no food rule. Deposit - "Hey You! Wow! You did a great job on your hair today! Did you try something new?" then you let the kid talk about that. Then you are ready to make your "withdrawal." Only you can only pick one of the things they are currently doing wrong and it must be approached as such, "Hey, did you remember that we had a little talk about not eating in the family room?"

Barf. I found the book to be nothing but creative manipulation.

I get a newsletter put out by a veteran homeschooling family. I got the latest one about three weeks ago. These people have raised all of their children and now those children are starting their families and are all choosing to homeschool their kids as well. I've not always agreed with everything they've put out there but I do believe that their hearts are in the right place and that they have a lot of good ideas. However, in this last newsletter there was an article written by one of their daughters. She has a 3 year old and a 1 year old. She went on and on about how she is effectively laying the foundation that will ensure she does not have problems with her children when they are teens. Really? She also had the audacity to state that if anyone is having a problem with a teen it is their own fault. Her statements in that article fully revealed that she believes that she has the power to control her children's choices through her parenting.

Why are there so many parenting books on the market? Why are so many of those books in conflict with other books? Does anyone really have the answers?

The bible tells us, "Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it." Proverbs 22:6. When he is old? Would that not indicate that there might be a time when he does not?

I have very much always wanted to find that certain set of steps that would guarantee success. How did I define success? I guess I would have to say... that would include our kids all following our faith, being well educated, being contributing members of our society (by providing for themselves and having a servant's heart toward others), being happy and, of course, arising and calling me blessed.

To be honest, there are days lately when I wonder how much of what I wanted for my children was really what I wanted for me. Let's face it, most of us look at kids that have moved through their lives with little trouble and automatically think their parents really had it together. I'm really not that shallow. I love my kids and have wanted the best for them for them. But, I am also guilty of using my kids behavior and accomplishments as a barometer of my mothering. When they are on track I feel like I am a good mom. When they are struggling I feel like a bad mom.

At what age are our kids accountable? We have all been given a free will. We all make choices in regard to our lives. Why is it that some parents even feel they can take the credit for their kids' good choices? Maybe they are erroneously believing that they have control?

I think parenting books prey on the hopes and fears of parents. They all tout that they've found the answers. Buy me! I can give you that perfect recipe to make your kid do what you want them to! Do these steps to insure yourself against future problems! Here's a how to on how to get out of the hole you are in!

I think most parents really love their kids and do the best they can by them.

I've been thinking a lot lately. I've realized that most of the parents I know that have raised their kids don't really offer parenting advice. They are the ones that quietly state how hard it is. I've definitely moved from being and advice giver to survivor mode.

Deuteronomy 30 basically states that if we love God with all of our hearts and all of our souls that He will take care of our descendants. It seems I need to work on that and everything else will follow. Eventually.


Kathy said...

Good post on parenting. I have no advice to offer. I survived it. My daughters survived me. Now that I am a grandmother and have gone through raising my kids and I have matured (perhaps) and I have learned that I really don't have many answers; I would probably make all of the same mistakes and feel the same insecurities if I had to parent young ones again today. Hope that doesn't confuse you, it is late.... hugs!

Flea said...

Wow. Very insightful. Thank you for being honest!

One of the big reasons I stopped homeschooling after nine years was because I equated my success as a teacher with success as a mom. And I sucked at teaching. So I must be a horrible mom, right? No! Well, kinda.

I too have collected my share of books. My favorite, though, is by Dan Allender, who is not a parenting specialist, and the book talks mainly about him, not kids. I think it's called, How Children Raise Parents. I thought of it here because he addresses the parent's heart, not the child's, which is kinda what I hear in you, in your journey. How cool. :)

Rick said...

Very good post Bean - this one is a keeper. One of these days, when you DO travel and speak, you will be coming back to this post for material to share.

I don't care who you are as a parent. We ALL make mistakes and we have to trust the Lord that He can ,and WILL help our children over come the errors of their parents, if they will let Him.

Thanks for the recent post on my blog - good stuff there too.

Karen Deborah said...

Zowie woman, some profound REAL stuff here. We are sheep, we follow each other around. I always thought if I could do it over I'd be a better parent. So god with his big sense of humour is letting me do it over with my grands. guess what I am as big an idiot this time as I was the last time. Only now I have the early stages of dementia and can't even remember what I've said or what they've said, or that I need to pick Heather up from work,OUCH.
It kills her when I forget. I keep telling her not to take it personally. I think we have kids to understand the heart of God. His longings for us are like the ones we have for our kids. We all struggle along trying to do a good job, trying to be better at it than our own parents and pretty much just trying to finish the job still sane. Great post.

Elysa said...

I've said it before to you (and others) and I'll say it again. God was (and is) the perfect parent yet Adam and Eve, HIS children, still chose wrongly and messed up royally!

Yes, we can strive to love them and raise them rightly, but it all boils down to free will. And sometimes that really sucks rotten eggs.


Anonymous said...

Profound and Biblically sound! No wonder I like hanging out around ya!

Anonymous said...

Hi coffee bean,
I found your blog on the NSDA board. I also have ADSD and have a blog. I haven't read your blog yet and I'm not sure what else we have in common but I think blogging is a fantastic outlet for SDers and a great way to connect.
Nice to make your acquaintance!

Brenda said...

Great post! How does this deposit sounds "You have lovely hands. Use them to clean up your big mess."

Alison said...

Love the picure of you!

Great post. I completely agree with you. When my children were little, and even before they were born, I was the best parent and knew everything....Now I admit to knowing nothing and just doing the best I can. Sometimes life throws you a curve ball and you have to catch it the best way you can...I think you are doing a mighty fine job of catching your curve ball. I hope I catch mine with the grace that you have caught yours.

Flea said...

I know you're the cacao tree, but TAG! you're it!

dlyn said...

Found your blog from Flea's. I am in the wonderful position of watching our older daughter and son in law raise their kids. We did it perfectly of course!

Anyway - great post and I will show it to my daughter!