Tips for Choosing Childrearing Manuals
Every year an average of 30 new books on “how to raise your child” are published, and the quality of information and advice they contain is highly variable. So how can you tell if a book is worth the money it costs to buy it and the time it takes to read it? Here are some tips.
Don’t Be fooled by Appearances. Some books become best sellers because parents are attracted by the clear, month-by-month charts of what is happening developmentally and the step-by-step lists of what to do. But early development is not a neat and orderly affair, and helping a child achieve the best start in life is not an exact science. So a book that is strong with regard to an easy-to-follow format may be weak when it comes to reliable and useful content.
Check for Proper Credentials. A lot of professionals who know something about certain aspects of development are not shy when it comes to addressing other aspects they know little or nothing about as well. For instance, if the author is a medical doctor, he may be strong on the topics of diaper rash and colic. But there is no reason to assume he will be equally authoritative on language development, discipline, or sibling rivalry. For those topics you probably will be better off with authors who have doctorates in psychology or education. And keep in mind that for many topics, from choosing toys to traveling with a toddler, someone whose credentials feature a lot of practical experience may be far superior to someone with a fancy academic degree.
Beware of Passionate Theory. As anyone who has raised a few kids will tell you, a lot of theories about childrearing are worthless, and even those that can be considered sound and reasonable do not hold true for all individuals in all situations. So stay away from authors who are so fond of their pet theories – as interesting and enticing as they may be – that they ignore common sense or even reality if it does not confirm their notions.
Avoid Anything That Promises a Quick Fix. When parents discover themselves immersed in a difficult problem, they often are tempted by books that present a quick and easy way out. There are numerous manuscripts that will tell you “no sweat!” and provide a solution that is “as simple as A-B-C.” But the trouble typically does not disappear immediately, and then the parents are left with the additional problem of trying to figure out why the “fool-proof” system failed. If an author possesses wisdom and integrity, the book will acknowledge that raising kids can be tough, time-consuming, and stressful on occasion and it inevitably will involve a certain amount of hard work, patience, and heartache. So steer clear of authors who merely tell you what you want to hear and search for those who have the courage to tell you what you need to know.
Michael K. Meyerhoff, Ed.D. (a.k.a. “Dr. Mike”) is a member of the management team at Romp n’ Roll. After receiving his bachelor’s degree in psychology from Columbia University, he earned his master’s and doctorate degrees in human development from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, where he also held a position as a researcher with the Harvard Preschool Project. He may be contacted via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.