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Parents Who Think Too Much

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Anne Cassidy is a writer and mother of three daughters, whose articles appear often in national magazines. Formerly an editor... Lire la suite
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Anne Cassidy is a writer and mother of three daughters, whose articles appear often in national magazines. Formerly an editor at McCall’s, she has been a frequent contributor to Parents, Working Mother, Woman’s Day, and Family Circle. She’s the author of Parents Who Think Too Much and coauthor of Single File.

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With the baby boom generation came the genre of parenting books that told parents how to teach their kids everything from toilet training to developing self-esteem. Generally the message has been: go easy on your child, but hard on yourself. It is starting to become apparent, especially in the best of families, that giving your kids lots of choices, validating their feelings at great peril to your own and providing "enough" individual attention for each child is creating a generation of kids over whom we have no control.

Cassidy argues that this comes from over-thinking our role as parents. We've pondered every step so much that the juice, the joy, and worst of all, our confidence is gone. The reasons are clear: We have fewer children later in life so we've had more time to ponder. We've grown up just as research on infant and child development has come of age, so there's no shortage of material to think about. As a generation we've prided ourselves on self-improvement and we bring the same zeal to child improvement. We're less likely to live close to our families, and so are more likely to seek out expert solutions.

To counter this thinking, Cassidy will suggest keeping the big picture in mind--what kind of people do you really want your kids to be? Honest, kind, cooperative, empathetic? It may mean losing sight of whether enough play dates are scheduled for the week and if you've positively reinforced the latest creative endeavor, but it will bring back your instincts about what is important to your family as a whole, and to your kids to become decent people.



Échantillon de lecture
1
Raising Children by the Book …
When You’d Rather Raise Them by Heart
 
“Where is human nature so weak as in the bookstore?”
—Henry Ward Beecher
 
I bought my first parenting book before I was a parent. The book was What to Expect When You’re Expecting, and I picked it up because of the serene pregnant woman on the pastel cover. I was hoping to become a serene pregnant woman soon, and the book told me what would happen to my body, month by month. I can still feel my hand reaching toward the shelf, a little hesitantly, because I was superstitious. Surely I was tempting fate to buy a book about pregnancy before I was even pregnant. When I look back on that moment, the hesitation takes on another meaning. It says, You were right to waver because books about parenthood ought to be handled with care.
 
Unfortunately, my ambivalence lasted about five seconds. I bought that book and many more. Through three pregnancies and our children’s early years, books were the answer. They told us when to call the doctor, what stroller to buy, and how to calm a crying baby. Eventually, the information and advice they contained made me analyze almost every decision I made about our kids, ignore my instincts, and continually question myself. They were addictive, too. Each one left me needing another fix. And each one slightly refashioned me as a parent until there was little left of my original dreams, plans, and intentions. I didn’t mean for it to happen, but it happened anyway. I had begun to raise our children by the book.
 
My friend Sue has probably read more parenting books than I have. Often after reading one, she tries out a new philosophy on her children. Her son caught on to her transformations when he was five. “Did you read a new book, Mommy?” he asked when she tried an upbeat conversational style to encourage obedience.
 
Sue introduced me to a book group. The first volume we discussed was How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk, by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. It said that we shouldn’t say things like, “If you jump on the couch again you’ll be punished.” Instead we should say, “Couches are not for jumping.” We agreed that this new way of talking to kids was eminently sensible. But it often didn’t work. You had this feeling that thousands of other parents were saying, “Couches aren’t for jumping” at the exact same moment you were—and thousands of kids were jumping anyway.
 
I won’t say I have no use for parenting books. When we’re new on the job they tell us how to bathe a baby, and when we’re strung out on the job they assure us that other parents feel the same way we do. Sometimes they even help solve our problems. Thousands of families are sleeping better tonight because Dr. Richard Ferber showed them the way to let their babies cry themselves to sleep.
 
But we pay a price for our habit. One book may roll off our back, and the next might, too. But by the time we read the fifth or the seventh or the twelfth, the messages begin to stick. Read enough books and you’ll want to read more. Read enough books and you’ll have to read more because you’ll think you can’t bring up kids without them. Books have become our constant companions, their language our new mother tongue. Their words buzz in our heads, like the pop song we heard in the elevator and can’t get out of our mind.
 
I should admit that for a dozen years I’ve been a sort of professional parenting book reader. As a writer for family and women’s magazines, it’s part of my job to read childrearing manuals and interview the authors. So while I was reading books for myself and fretting, I was also getting an earful from the experts I interviewed and fretting some more. Often it was hard to separate the two, since I usually wrote about things that our children were going through at the time. My husband, Tom, has gotten used to my mood swings. One day our toddler is fine; the next, I’m worried that she’s not bonding to a transitional object to help her separate from us during the second year of life.
 
But even I, parenting book maven that I am, cannot claim to have read anywhere near the more than 2,000 books in print on childrearing topics. I try, but no sooner do I finish reading one than a new one pops up in its place. I get dizzy every time I make one of my weekly trips to the library or bookstore. Maybe it’s from looking sideways at the book titles or maybe it’s from realizing my children are needy in ways I have only begun to imagine. From The Magic Years to The Magical Child. From Dr. Spock to Dr. Brazelton. From Good Behavior to A Good Enough Parent. From Dare to Discipline to Children: The Challenge. There were five times as many parenting books published in 1997 as in 1975, when the word “parenting” was not yet a classification and books about childrearing were listed under “Children—management.” Now an infinite variety of books tempts us with information and the hopeful, misleading message: We can help you make sense of your child even if no one else can.
 
You don’t have to read books to raise your kids “by the book.” Books are at the heart of parenting classes that operate out of church basements and school cafeterias across the land. The lofty theories expounded by experts seep from books into magazines, Web sites, and from there, it seems, into the very air we breathe. There’s a synergy to it all. Magazine articles rely on commentary from experts who are also the authors of parenting books. Classes elevate book techniques to near cult status.
 
This advice is not foisted upon us; we eagerly seek it out. Nearly half (46 percent) of 1,000 parents surveyed recently say they pay serious attention to news reports and newspaper articles about early childhood development issues. Thirty-six percent regularly look for information in magazines and 39 percent say they regularly pick up literature in their pediatrician’s office.
 
There are about 100 parenting magazines being published today and scads of newsletters. There’s plenty of advice available in newspapers, on television and radio, too. Our daily paper, the Washington Post, has several articles on kids every week and a regular parenting column on Wednesdays. Family issues have long been staples of the television talk-show circuit, and they’ve recently become favorites of prime-time news shows. A cursory review of these shows for one week this year found segments on child prodigies, children out of control, and parents who lost custody of their kids. Turn on the morning or evening news and you’re as likely to hear about teaching kids values or the popularity of Beanie Babies as you are the deficit or unemployment. Our need for information and advice has not been lost on the advertising community. Baby food and disposable diapers pitch themselves by “ages and stages.” Advertorial “magazines” combine articles on teething with formula advertisements.
 
What you don’t get from the media, you hear from your child’s school or doctor. Our children’s elementary school offers classes for parents several times a year and sends home advice on how to motivate kids in its weekly newsletter. Pediatricians give child development information and discipline advice with each well-child checkup. They can also refer us to child psychologists, an increasingly more common need as parents grow more bewildered and less in control.
 
And then there’s the telephone. Whereas in the past the parenting advice you’d get over it would most likely be from your mother, now you can dial 900 numbers for tips on everything from bed-wetting to weaning, at the rate of 95¢ a minute. If you’re worried you might harm your child, you can get free advice by calling a hot line staffed by trained volunteers. In our area there’s now a “warm line,” which offers parenting advice of a less urgent nature.
 
Hospitals offer instruction on how to give birth to a baby; how to diaper, feed, and bathe one; and how to prepare a sibling for one. In a move that seems almost self-parodying, one hospital near us offers an “entire evening of informative, straightforward” discussion “for couples considering parenthood.” (That’s their emphasis, not mine.) No longer is the decision a private one; now it’s a discussion topic to share with possible parent wanna-bes. With this kind of introduction to parenthood, it’s no wonder we sign up for baby exercise and “toddler taming” classes.
 
And for some parents even this is not enough. They move on to the “harder stuff,” parent conferences or expos or the weekend seminar I was invited to recently—“Parenting 2000.” Parents pay $500 for this weekend to “discover ways of sustaining a child’s happiness and aliveness while preparing him for the coming millennium.”
 
“he Internet has become a major source of parenting information and advice. If it is the future, which many think it is, then tomorrow’s knowledge will be more specific, personal, and interactive. It may be less accurate, too, since the fact-checking methods that protect parents from bogus claims in books and magazines aren’t in place on the information highway. Still, I know parents who’ve learned about chromosomal abnormalities or found help with breast-feeding problems through the Internet. One of the hottest new Web addresses for parents is the “Preventive Ounce,” an interactive site which gives you a profile of your child’s temperament and suggestions on how to deal with it.
 
When I found this site I was reminded of something my friend Mary Scott once said to me. “I go through phases of getting the neurotic parent books out of the library and reading them. I always hope to God one of them is going to say, ‘This is exactly how you deal with Kate Scott.’ Kate Scott is her oldest daughter, age nine. Who hasn’t harbored this secret desire when opening up a book, that it will tell us exactly what to do with our own particular child? The closer we can come to satisfying that need, the more hooked we’ll become.

Informations sur le produit

Titre: Parents Who Think Too Much
Sous-titre: Why We Do It, How to Stop It
Auteur:
Code EAN: 9780440508120
ISBN: 978-0-440-50812-0
Format: Couverture cartonnée
Editeur: Random House N.Y.
Genre: Guides pratiques
nombre de pages: 368
Poids: 473g
Taille: H216mm x B140mm x T21mm
Année: 1998

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