Being a parent means having another person’s life in your hands. It means rerouting your entire life to prioritize the success and safety of another. It’s a human’s most significant responsibility. How do parents know how to go about this task correctly? Most parents receive some sort of guidance, and many look to parenting books for answers.
Parent education is a multi-million dollar industry that taps into the fears of new parents. According to askwonder.com, “Millennial moms spent $231.6 million on parenting books and $141 million on parenting apps annually.” There are several different kinds of parenting books, but the goal of most is to teach parents how to “successfully” raise children.
While the objective of parenting books appears to be helpful, there are also problems with relying on a book to raise your child. Often, these books have very strong opinions about child-rearing practices and this can cause conflict and confusion for new parents. These ideas can create pressure to do things in a specific manner and build paranoia on what’s “right.”
Many books will critique a parental decision without acknowledging the potential cultural reasoning behind it. For example, many American parenting books critique the practice of co-sleeping. However, for many cultures around the world, co-sleeping is a safe and effective practice that encourages attachment and healthy sleep. These conflicting messages can increase stress on a new parent struggling to sleep-train their child. Despite these issues, however, many parents do find these resources helpful.
Books such as The Whole Brained Child, The Power of Showing Up: How Parental Presence Shapes Who Our Kids Become and How Their Brains Get Wired, and The Sears Baby Book outline typical developmental milestones and can help parents know what to expect as their child grows. They are great resources for understanding behavior, a child’s needs, and complex problems like toilet training and transitioning to daycare. These books can also alert parents to potential problems, like when to contact a pediatrician, and they can be comforting for those who lack outside resources. This is because parenting books normalize the intense experience of being a parent of a young child and provide concrete advice and information.
Parenting is one of the most challenging jobs in the world. The industry of parent education has capitalized on the fears of new parents and their search for answers. While the goal of parenting books is to provide this needed support, they can also be a source of stress and confusion. Many lack any understanding of cultural norms and have biased points of view. That being said, it takes a village to raise a child, and for many, books are incredible sources of support. If a parent lacks resources or help, a parenting book might be a perfect tool for them. The takeaway from this is that the decisions a parent makes — whether informed by a book, family member, or their community — are personal, unique, and, hopefully, what will be best for them.