Parenting books – what do you think of them?

An article in The Observer newspaper recently reported on research done by Warwick University which asked mothers what they felt about advice given by six childcare experts who had published books on how to raise a baby  - Frederic Truby King, John Bowlby, Donald Winnicott, Benjamin Spock, Penelope Leach and Gina Ford.

The researcher found that regardless of the different advice being given all were in the style that set the bar so high that mothers invariably felt like a failure when targets could not be met.  In addition, the researcher found that mothers across the generations were uncertain of which expert had the best approach which has left women feeling confused and disillusioned.

I find it sad that it has got like this though not surprised because even in my own family I have seen how older mothers are frightened to advise the younger mums in case they contradict modern advice.

For me though, the only book I ever had was a practical baby care book that guided me through the first three years of a child’s life.  It never told me how to parent in a particular way but merely highlighted what my child should be doing at a particular age, the sort of difficulties I could encounter and possible solutions.  As a new mum I found it a helpful book to dip into but by the time I had my second child I hardly used it as I had enough confidence to follow my own child and to trust my motherly instinct.

Of course if there was anything medically wrong I would visit my GP and I do recount loads of visits regarding asthma, ear infections, rashes, suspected meningitis plus all the usual routine developmental check ups.  Everything else regarding behaviour, sleeping, toileting, feeding, learning was learnt through experience, motherly instinct and sharing tips with other mums.

And with that I developed confidence as a mother that equipped me for the challenges ahead.  When my second child started to exhibit unusual behaviours (later diagnosed as ASD when he was 9) no parenting book would have been good enough and I’m sure that if I had picked up one of these books I would have been crushed as a parent.

That is not what my son needed.  He needed a confident mum, not one overwhelmed with anxiety about whether her child was meeting set targets laid down in a book.  It meant I became resourceful and flexible as I found a way of managing his difficulties.  It also meant that I developed the confidence to challenge those who were trying to pressurise my son to conform.  An example of one of these many early battles was my son’s toilet training.  He simply didn’t do what was expected of a toddler in terms of toileting which I now know is a common difficultly with autistic children.  Here is an extract from one of my very early posts regarding toileting.  (You can read the full post here.)

“….The nursery teacher asked me why he was still in pull-ups and I answered something along the lines that he was becoming dry but he absolutely refuses to wear pants.  In part, I felt that he clung to his pull-ups because he felt comfortable and secure, certainly while toilet training was becoming established.  But the nursery teacher did not want her children in pull-ups, the school policy was that children had to be dry, so I was told.  I was perplexed by this rigid attitude; could she not see that children were individuals that developed at different rates?  This was my second child; I did have some idea of what I was doing and in any case I believed in following my child’s cues though, I admit, for my son, his readiness was clearly delayed in comparison to most children.  I wasn’t overly worried about this delay as we had made some progress; it was just very protracted and required adults around him to be patient and encouraging.  I ignored the nursery teacher and continued to send my son in pull-ups.  I was not happy with the teacher’s rigidity and her unwillingness to work with me and I decided to respect my son’s development rather than the policy set by the LEA (Local Education Authority).

Things went quiet for a bit until one teatime in the autumn when I received an unexpected telephone call from a health visitor from one of the health clinics in town.    This was not the clinic that my children were under and nor was the health visitor someone I was familiar with.  Through the conversation that followed, it transpired that the nursery teacher had called the health clinic expressing concerns about my ability to handle my son’s toileting issues.  The words of the health visitor were, “I understand from the school that you have problems toilet training your son”.   “No” I replied “I don’t” and added that I was happy that my son was making progress, albeit slowly, and that the real problem was with the attitude of the school, not me.  What upset me about this telephone call was the emphasis on my parenting, rather than my child’s development…..”

The point is that as parents we know our children more than anyone.  We know their strengths, their weaknesses and we know when to seek help and advice.  By all means read the books and stay ahead with current thinking but don’t be a slave to everything the so-called “experts” have to say.  Trust in yourself and have confidence in yourself and never be afraid to question those who claim to know more than us.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
This entry was posted in Autism Spectrum Disorder, Motherhood, Parenting and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Parenting books – what do you think of them?

  1. JuliesMum says:

    I think I found parenting books very helpful for my first child – but as you say, just for the more practical aspects. I was really clueless and wasn’t sure when babies usually weaned and things like that. It was also just nice to read about babies! For a while babies became my specialist subject and I read anything I could get my hands on. But by the time of my second child two years later I had thrown all the books out and was happy following my nose. Your story about toilet training was very revealing – I certainly found schools much more rigid than I expected. I’m not sure who has hated school more sometimes – me or my children!

    • Aspie in the family says:

      Hi Juliesmum; thanks for commenting. It came as a shock to me too that nursery was so rigid about toileting. Again because it took a long time for my son to be dry, the attitude of the nursery manager was to immediately blame me. I even ended up in the headmasters office complaining about how she went to the Health Visitor behind my back about my parenting. I was furious. Deb

  2. Ann Beck says:

    The only expert on parenting a child is the individual child’s parent, after all as a parent you spend 24/7 with them and see every perspective of their personality, development and character. In my experience as a parent and a professional I have found that those who criticise the parent are usually those who are unable to meet the needs of the child and feel the need to deflect the focus away from their own shortcomings.

    • Aspie in the family says:

      I think you’re right about blaming parents as a deflection from their own shortcomings. Its something I see a lot of in education, I’m afraid which is such a shame. Teachers would get a lot more respect from me if they admitted to not understanding autism and aspergers and valuing my own experience and knowledge of my children. I guess such a change in attitude would mean a huge cultural shift in society and a greater respect for parental knowledge rather than the current ‘parents to blame for everything’ attitude. Thanks for commenting Ann; always appreciated. Deb

  3. Jim Reeve says:

    I tend to stay away from parenting books. All cases of autism are different and what works for us may not work for you. I prefer to read blogs, by parents of kids with autism. This way, you get to appreciate other families experiences and maybe their advice can help you. I’ve glanced at a couple of parenting with autism books, but I noticed that the one author didn’t have any kids with autism. I understand the author was a doctor, but that doesn’t cover everything you need to know.

    • Aspie in the family says:

      I tend to agree with you Jim. I don’t mind parenting books if they’re about a family’s experiences. What I hate is someone telling me what I have to do because some theory says so or because the author is a medic who who also happens to have no children. Thanks for commenting Jim; I have left an award for you on my post Two in One. Deb

  4. Tania says:

    I was like you with the practical book – plus a “childhood symptoms” guide by DK. As you say, you know your child best and a responsive mother takes cues from the child as to what they’re ready for.

    • Aspie in the family says:

      Mine was a DK book too. It was OK for a bit but like you say you have to take the cues from your child.

  5. Steph says:

    My first thought was ‘pah! parenting books’, waste of shelf space… and my second and third. Can you tell I’m not a fan?! Think you hit the nail on the head by saying individuals – that’s what all children are, so how can one book possibly tell you how to manage all children? I guess in that same vein though, all adults are different too, and some mums may just need that extra bit of reassurance that the book may bring to them – so maybe it benefits the mum rather than the child directly. Each to their own I say (but don’t get me started on GF……!)

    • Aspie in the family says:

      That’s very true; some parents will get a lot from them but for some I think it causes a lot of unnecessary upset. Its the way some books are written that seems to be upsetting people. I don’t have an issue with books if they empower a parent but written in a “you must do as I say” approach – no, it wont get on my book shelf either. I’d much rather chat with other mums and dads. Deb x

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *



You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>