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My Boycott on Parenting Books

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I hate parenting books. The advice doesn’t work and I think the “real life” examples are a bunch of fabricated B.S.


I’ve read a lot of books, trying to figure out the toddler mind. I’m supposed to give choices and use lots of empathy. One method involves mirroring my son, roaring, “Me mad! Me want cookie!” so that he knows I feel his anger.


It would be so much easier if I just let my three-year-old son, Dane, do whatever he felt like doing. Play at the park for seven hours or overstay our welcome at a playdate? Sure! Watch eleven back-to-back episodes of Curious George? Why not!


I should just save the headache. Stop shaving years off my life from the constant stress of trying to steer him in the right direction, yet being fought the whole way. But this would be irresponsible, so I continue to read the books, looking for an answer.


One of my biggest challenges is getting Dane to switch gears, the source of many a tantrum. Here’s what the experts say:


On Activity Transition:
Some parenting books suggest giving the child a ten-minute warning, then doing a countdown, when it’s time to transition activities. As in, “Dane, in five minutes it’s time for your nap … Dane, two minutes and it’s naptime!” The child will then agreeably stop his activity, lovingly grab your hand, and skip up to bed or out of the park.


It doesn’t work. It never, never works for me.


When it’s time to transition activities, I can actually feel my blood pressure rise and my pulse quicken. My stomach gets a little tighter and my breath becomes shallow.


This is how it goes: 


“Dane, it’s time for a nap. Let’s go upstairs, you can help me put Kylie to bed, then it’s your turn.” Kylie is his one-year-old sister.


“NO!” he shrieks.


“Then I’m putting Kylie to bed and when I come down, you can either walk upstairs like a big boy or I’m going to carry you. It’s your choice. But either way, it’s time for a nap.”


Obviously, I end up carrying him, dodging kicks and head butts. I’m truly surprised I still have all my teeth that they haven’t been knocked out by his thrashing head.


Why can’t I just say, “Dane, it’s one o’clock. Naptime.” Why do I have to do the whole song and dance?


On Tantrums and Using Your Words
Today at Target, he threw such a fit that he turned purple and his forehead vein popped out.


As a parent in Today’s World of Child Rearing, we are supposed to be all about feelings. “Oh Dane, sweetie, I can see that you’re really frustrated. How sad. Okay, honey, now, use your words darling. Ouch, hands are not for hitting, sugarpie. I can tell you’re very angry with Mommy for asking you to hold her hand in the parking lot!”


What the hell? What I really want to say is this:


“Dane—get your ass over here and hold my hand before you end up on that guy’s windshield. YOU are not in charge here and if you don’t get up from the ground right now I’m going to leave you here.”


Not only wouldn’t I say that, I couldn’t say it, because the nearest person within earshot would be on the phone to Child Protective Services within five seconds.


Books tell me I’m not supposed to use the words “don’t” and “no” because they’re negative. “Tell the child what he CAN do, not what he CAN’T do!” I mean, I could damage his self-esteem and tender psyche by telling him not to hit the cat. I’m not supposed to force Dane to say sorry to his sister after he knocks her over with his tricycle. But I do anyway.

For whom does this advice work? And did the child grow up to be a good adult? Or did he grow up to be a self-absorbed, entitled creep? I think that from now on, I’m going to trust my gut and listen to mothers who have been there. No more books. There are better ways to spend my money, like on a babysitter so I can go to Target solo.

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