The One Parenting Book That Should Come with a Warning: Do Not Try This at Home!
As a child therapist I am constantly hearing about new parenting philosophies, trends and approaches. After fifteen years, most of them sound pretty similar.
Recently I have gotten on this kick of getting the audio version of the most popular parenting books out there. I figured I had a 90 minute commute three days a week – why not fill the void with more knowledge.
The first two books filled me with fresh ideas and a new vigor to soak up learning. After all – even a seasoned child therapist and mom of three can learn a few new things!
I listened to Ross Greene’s audio version of The Explosive Child – and quickly put it at the top of my “must read” recommendations for parents. I also listened to Tamar Chansky’s Freeing Your Child from Anxiety and found myself awed at the amount of wonderful and insightful advice she offered parents. A definite must-read for any parent with anxious children!
My thirst for knowledge came to a screeching halt as I listened to Amy McCready’s If I Have to Tell You One More Time. Her extremely popular free webinar is all over the Internet – so when a parent told me they had taken the webinar and found it helpful – I was all in.
Unlike the other two books – my heart sank as I listened to the first few chapters. After an hour into the audiobook I had a growing list of parenting behavior that was not acceptable and harmful to my child.
I went home and found myself tripping over my words as I tried to parent my children for the next few days.
I could no longer tell my child, “good job” without feeling a ton of guilt – as the author said I could be damaging my child.
I choked and stumbled on my sentence as I caught myself telling my child, “I am proud of you.” I was told that to use such words is judging my child.
When my daughter was showing me her math score I literally took back my compliment, “You are so good at math!” and quickly replaced it with the more effective parenting sentence, “You worked hard at math and therefore you got a good grade.” My child just looked at me with confusion and walked away.
What is wrong with mommy – they must be thinking.
The book should come with a warning, “Don’t try this at home” – as I was becoming more ineffective than I ever had been – double guessing and triple guessing my parental interactions.
I thought – if this can make me feel overwhelmed – what could it do to some of the more anxious or self-critical parents I work with in my practice?
As I trudged through the book – I was left with many great tips and some wonderful reminders. The author has summarized some very popular parenting approaches in a very succinct and effective manner. There was nothing new in the book, but it repackaged and renamed some very sound advice. I loved the suggestion of extra time with your children and I love positive parenting approaches in general.
So why was I not feeling so positive after listening to this book?
With social media, we cannot escape the strongly opinionated professionals and parents who love to tell you what you are doing wrong and how you should be doing it better. Luckily there is some backlash out there – with a strong message to end parent shaming.
As a child therapist and writer – I want to boost people up, not tear them down. I realize that giving people “should nots” will do nothing to encourage positive parenting and everything to make them doubt their abilities. Parents can be taught positive parenting approaches with grace, acceptance and soft guidance.
I know I might be extra sensitive and so perhaps I took the do nots a little too deeply. But I know that I am not alone. I have had many parents proudly tell me they do not “praise” their children. I understand the author’s intentions around this topic – and they make sense, but the meaning may have gotten lost with this all or nothing message.
I am sorry, but I do not think that if I tell my child “good job” or “you are great at math” that I am doing irrevocable harm. Would it be better to highlight what they did well – of course. Would it be great to outline their hard work and effort – definitely. Am I a bad parent if sometimes that doesn’t come out of my mouth. I think not. And I am here to tell you- you are not either.