Tuesday, 1 February 2011

The Politics of Parenting By Kate

When it comes to parenting, I regard myself as a pick'n'mix progressive. I like the label mainly because it alliterates, but also because it does sum up my approach in a pithy sort of way.

Books, as I mentioned in my previous post, are well worth consulting when planning one's parenting campaign. But as soon as you start choosing your titles and taking their advice to heart, you are in effect making a political decision.

Parenting methodologies are as polarised as any political situation you care to mention. And you nail your colours to the mast even in pregnancy.

Sheila Kitzinger and Janet Balaskas advocate a move away from over-medicalised labouring and towards drug and intervention-free births carried out in any position other than the classic lying prone. Possibly a headstand isn't deemed suitable either.

Once the baby is born, you have the routiners in one corner: Gina Ford and Tracey Hogg et al. Then you have the pro-co-sleeping/baby-wearing/breastfeeding/let the baby decide etc. gang in the other (Dr William Sears, Deborah Wisdom, Kate Evans etc.).

For sleep problems, there are the control crying advocates (Marc Weissbluth, Richard Ferber) and opposite them, Elizabeth Pantley, who would probably rather eat her own arm than leave a baby to cry.

Once the child reaches toddlerdom and above, you have the naughty step/reward chart type method espoused by Supernanny (Jo Frost); or you have the "Don't order your kids about, consider their feelings" approaches favoured by Lawrence J Cohen, Adele Faber & Elaine Mazlich; there's the no punishments or praise philosophy as outlined by Alfie Kohn; or Dr Christopher Green's attention/distraction/time-out techniques.

It's all rather confusing and has the potential to make the already bewildered and out-of-their-depth new parent flounder even further. Not to mention the extra guilt of failing to do what the books suggest to add to the existing load of guilt carried by virtually any mother you care to talk to.

My advice on making a sensible selection? Read the reviews online (or wherever), find out what other people thought of the books and then decide which is likely to suit your own personal style best. Read with an open mind, use the bits you think will do the job and disregard the rest.

For what it's worth, here are the books I've liked best so far:

Janet Balaskas:
New Active Birth
-OK, I had a C-section, but the yoga exercises were really worth doing and I felt very positive as my due date approached thanks to her book.
Naomi Stadlen: What Mothers Do (Especially When It Looks Like Nothing)
-THE essential book for preparing yourself emotionally for motherhood (and indeed fatherhood. Theo thinks it should be given out to all expectant couples by the NHS.)
Robin Barker: Baby Love
-Non-prescriptive, down-to-earth and often wryly humorous guide to a baby's first year.
Elizabeth Pantley: The No Cry Sleep Solution
-Lots of good ideas on helping improve baby sleep difficulties.
Dr Christopher Green: Toddler Taming
-Funny and reassuring advice on dealing with the pecadilloes of the 1-4 age-group.
Lawrence J Cohen: Playful Parenting
-Fun ways to connect emotionally with your offspring and light-heartedly smooth the rough-edges of your relationship.
Adele Faber & Elaine Mazlich: How To Talk So Your Kids Will Listen
-Fostering heartfelt and effective communication with your sometimes reluctant progeny.

It's still early days - after all, Rosie's only just turned one - but pick'n'mix progressive is the way I want to go.

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