Perhaps you devour each one you find, hoping it finally will have the answers to your questions.
Perhaps you avoid them like the plague, preferring to go it your own way.
I understand both points of view.
In South Australia, we used to have a 24-hour Parent Helpline. If I rang it was on a Sunday night when my husband was at church and I was at the end of my tether. When I couldn’t get the child to sleep, the baby to settle, the new-born to feed, or the night terrors to stop, the calm voice on the end of the phone was exactly what I needed: “You are doing well,” and “It’s going to be okay.” Some parenting books function like that - the voice of calm that helps you ride out the storm.
Other times a parenting book can add to the feelings of guilt and inadequacy. You can be left thinking, “I can’t be like them!” Or perhaps, “How could she have twelve children, including triplets, home-school them and still have time to write a book?” Then there’s the sinking feeling you get when you suspect they have filmed you in your home and are using that example of what you said as how not to parent.
So, why read parenting books?
Here are my three reasons:
To keep your parenting options open. I certainly don’t read parenting books to find ‘the answer’, ‘the only rule’ and the ‘you must’ trick. It’s not possible that any one author has everything right, nor is there only one right way to parent. But there are many good ideas out there and God has given people wisdom to share.
To actively reflect on your parenting. I know my children better than anyone, I know their areas of sinfulness and I certainly know my own! Sometimes we all get bogged down a bit. A fresh idea or a new perspective can help.
To keep up with change. Not changes in parenting style or tactics, but changes in kids! In a few short years, you leap from sleep and feeding issues; to toileting and discipline management; to school and sibling relationships; to money management, screen wisdom and subject choices for the future. When I re-read a parenting book after a few years, I walk away with a completely different key point, and often find it either more or less helpful than before.
Christian parenting books take the approach that we’re sinful, we need a Saviour, that God is in control of everything, and he loves our children more than we do. For me, that’s a good common starting ground.
One of the only books I ever stopped reading after the first page was a parenting book that opened with “Children are little angels sent from heaven…” Really?! No way, they are sinful humans, just like their parents, in massive need of God’s grace.
I read a lot of parenting books. Partly it’s to review them on my blog. Partly it’s because we’re involved with the parenting ministry at our church. But mostly it’s for me and our family. It’s what I choose to invest in.
The time spent reading is worth it if I finish with a few good ideas or reminders. Just a couple of thoughts to ponder, discuss with my husband and re-think how this crazy, exciting, lifelong journey of parenting is going.
So, what are you going to read next?
Wendy & her husband (with their three lovely teen/tweens) are in full-time ministry in Adelaide, involved with university students, and marriage and parenting ministries. Wendy reviews books and blogs at musingsinadelaide.blogspot.com.au.