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The Parenting Works Cited Page

By Emily Milner

I’m thirty-four weeks pregnant with child number four, and I’ve spent a lot of time in doctor’s offices lately. This means that I have read and reread my doctor’s stash of parenting and baby magazines, mostly out of boredom. When I was expecting my oldest, I devoured these. I mined them for ideas, making mental notes on how to identify and sooth colic, and the proper age to introduce solid foods. I examined the ads carefully too: which products did I need, what would ease my transition from clueless to savvy?

But I went beyond the magazines. I bought my own stash of pregnancy and baby books: the venerable What to Expect series, Your Pregnancy Week by Week, the slightly naughty Girlfriend’s Guide books, a breastfeeding tome entitled So That’s What They’re For. In the course of my parenting I have purchased books on coping with picky eaters, getting my child to sleep, disciplining preschoolers, making your own Super Baby Food, and no less than four books on How To Potty Train.

Sometimes I think I’ve tried to find validation in my shelf of parenting books, as if knowing that I followed this method for sleep or that method for potty training made me a better mother. Like writing a research paper and having a large Works Cited pages: proof I did my parenting homework and was well qualified.

But no book I’ve ever read has really made me feel qualified and knowledgable. I haven’t opened most of the books on my parenting shelf in years. There are a couple I plan to refer to for specific things: the Love and Logic discipline series, or my favorite baby sleep book, Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child. But there’s just too much information for my little brain to process and apply. And ultimately I have to strike out on my own, making choices for my family and owning my decisions. I need to make my own Works Cited page, composed not of Experts, but of life experience.

Part of me is always wondering, though, if that shiny new parenting book will have the magic key that makes everything run smoothly in our home. I have not, for instance, read any book that talks extensively about how to integrate a fourth baby into your family (it’s always “what to do when baby number two comes along.” Possibly three. Do they think we’ve got it all figured out by four, or am I in a rare enough demographic that no one writes articles for us?).

Is there a magic method that fixes everything? How do you feel about parenting books and advice articles? What’s on your parenting Works Cited list?

About Emily Milner

(Poetry Board) graduated from BYU in Comparative Literature, but it was long enough ago that most of what she learned has leaked out. She would like to mention other hobbies or interests, but to be honest she spends most of her free time reading (although she does enjoy attempting yoga). She used to blog at hearingvoices.wordpress.com. For now, though, Segullah is her only blogging home, and it's a good one.

33 thoughts on “The Parenting Works Cited Page”

  1. We have a similar shelf of parenting books — the "What to Expect" series was read and re-read with our first child. Unfortunately, we were totally misled by the advice in parenting magazines and books on getting rid of pacifiers. My poor two year old had enough on her plate when we had our twins, and I think that was her last comfort object…I really wish we had just gone with our own parental instincts on that one. However, it IS nice to just glean little ideas from the vast array of information out there — sometimes that same parental instinct kicks in and you just KNOW when something is going to work out. I do think it is funny that there is apparently no literature out there beyond the third child. I am expecting baby #7, and I have long given up hope on finding an article in the doctor's office magazines on dealing with THAT. ๐Ÿ™‚ The best parenting advice I have received has not even come in the form of verbal or written advice — just by observation of great mothers that surround me. I think love is the key. When we make love our very first "go-to" response, then the spirit can guide us through the rest. Congratulations on having a baby, Emily — what a lucky little one!

  2. My best friend gave me The Baby Book by Sears. I think I read multiple potty training books. By number three, I didn't use the baby books anymore, the rules had changed on what temperature fever merited a call to the doctor, and I'd tried all kinds of things to help them sleep through the night and it finally boiled down to me walking until I nearly fell over.

    I may give my daughters one book just so they know what illnesses are serious or not, but I'm not going to try to confuse them with all the stuff that's out there. Every mom/child is different and I'm not worried anymore that I'm not "parenting right".

  3. I highly recommend "Kid Cooperation" by Elizabeth Pantley for everyday, common sense tips on helping kids through the toddler and younger school years. For big families, I think Mary Ostyn has lots to say in "A Sane Woman's Guide to Raising a Large Family". The other essential one for me is "How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk" just for some very basic communication techniques.

    Best wishes to you with the rest of your pregnancy!

  4. My child rearing years are too far behind me (how I miss my sweet babies), but from the perspective of being on the other side of the experience, a book I recently finished and gave to my daughters-in-law, and will include in every baby gift I give from now, on is
    "Mitten Strings for God". The perspective of that book on what really matters as a mother says it all about parenting skills. All the rest is a far distant second in importance in my world.

  5. My mom gave me the best parenting advice when she said, "remember that you're entitled to inspiration for your children." I have parenting books that I like, that I refer to for suggestions, but ultimately I think we're best served when we do what feels right for our family (which sometimes differs for each child). And I don't think the parenting books were helpful when my first was a newborn–I devoured them during that sleep deprived stage when he was small, reading while I breast-fed, and I had myself completely wound up thinking I was going to be a terrible mother because I was already doing so many things wrong . . . My husband finally convinced me to stop reading them. (They were eventually helpful when I was back in my regular mind again. :))

    Good luck with the rest of your pregnancy!

  6. I also devoured the What to expect series with my first child as well as the symptom section in Dr.Spock's baby book.
    With my third child I found the Pregnancy calendar on ivillage and enjoyed a week by week explanation of symptoms, what to eat and a picture of what my baby looked like, growing in my womb!
    With four children I found each was different. Potty training was a new experience each time. when you get to the fourth you are already out numbered. Number one knows the deal, two doesn't take it so bad and three gets treated like four is number two if that makes sense.
    My best advise to anyone who is pregnant is What comes around goes around, be wise in how you perceive others parenting skills, everyone is trying their best and no one got an owners manual. What you say about other parents will come back to you.
    Good luck with baby number four!

  7. I have also used parenting books just for general guidance about child development and to get ideas. Before I had my own children I had never babysat or had experience with little ones, so some information was great. When I was pregnant with my first I worked in a library and checked out nearly every book imaginable. I think it was helpful to get some ideas, but since then I've mostly just tried stuff out to see what works and what doesn't for me and my kids.

    I have found The Nursing Mother's Companion to be very helpful in giving me specific advice, since it seems like I forget how to breastfeed in between in each kid. I've also really liked The No-Cry Sleep Solution and the Dr. Sears book for little babies, and the Kids, Parents, and Power Struggles for bigger kids.

  8. I think the What to Expect books are a crock of crap. All of them.

    My favorites:
    Baby 411–not a parenting guide, it's a How-to guide, things like when to call the doctor, what normal pee and poop are like, basic info on caring for children that's presented in a no-nonsense way.

    The Nursing Mother's Companion Guide is invaluable and, if followed, will truly help almost any nursing situation.

  9. I am reading _How to Win Friends and Influence People_ to help in my parenting this summer! ๐Ÿ™‚ I have lots of books too–I don't refer to very many anymore (mostly b/c I have my patterns and routines down now) but I read a lot of those magazines with our first and wished someone would just tell me how to get him to sleep through the night–I switched tactics almost every night and confused the poor boy to no end, I'm sure. (Now my kids all sleep through the night from about two months on so I think we figured it out.) I also read a book on big families that I got from the Provo library. I can't remember the title but it talked about putting your preschoolerS down for a nap so you could sleep (while pregnant) while your elementary age kids were at school. I only had 3 kids at the time but I appreciated the novelty of a book like that.

  10. One phrase I remember (from a What to Expect book?) that really helped me was this: "Children need all the years of childhood in order to develop into adults." (Or something to that effect.) I needed to hear that–I was expecting too much and getting too frustrated with our oldest.

  11. I too read all the books available, though 22 years ago when I started there were not so many. What I wish I'd known then was that neither a book nor my friends had the answers for my specific children, but Heavenly Father always has. My parenting has felt much less frustrating as I have relied more on the Lord for help…

  12. I don't know that there is a magic book, but the best advice I ever got was "start as you mean to go on." Meaning, you need to start doing things the correct way because it's a lot of trouble to try to fix things later. Which could be applied to just about anything from giving kids $10 when they lose their first tooth, to letting your toddler sleep in your bed. It's a lot easier to start off doing things the right way, not the lazy way.

    I have to second the recommendation for "Kid Cooperation". Such a great book! It has helped me so much over the years. I still use the "5-3-1-Go" method just about every day.

    Another favorite is "The Baby Whisperer". I didn't get this until I had baby #4 and it was a lifesaver. I have never been very good with babies and figuring out what they need, but this book was like a translation manual. Tracy Hogg, the author, is kind of strict but I'll tell you what, her advice is pure gold. (Except I had major problems with her breastfeeding advice.)

  13. I also don't care for most parenting books. I feel like most mothers I know who read them spend so much time and energy worrying about doing what the book says. Now, on the other hand, I eat up all the articles I can get that are purely informational… I just don't take my parenting methods from other people (except for, in all fairness, Im sure I draw on my own experiences a lot which can be attributed to my parents.) I think those books have been a factor in contributing to an entire generation of stressed parents and coddled kids.

  14. I should clarify that my oldest is only 3, so I can't say that books on handling situations with older children might not be helpful in the future… I can speak only for the baby books.

  15. Since I'm currently expecting our first child we're building up on our little parenting collection but so far I have gained two opinions.

    1) What to Expect is scary.

    2) Anything by the mothers behind Baby Bargains is gold when it comes to products and the latest news on health standards (this includes the Baby 411, and Toddler 411 I'm sure there's more I just can't remember them).

    Other than that I honestly found pregnancy magazines to be odd since they seemed to ooze of commercialism. "Don't buy THAT because it'll cause SIDS. Instead buy THIS super duper expensive stroller because it has prettier fabric!"

    But I mostly go to my mom and friends for advice on anything parenting.

  16. I had a funny experience when I was expecting #5. I was sitting in the Dr's office reading a parenting magazine about spacing children and which option was best. Less than 2 years, 2-4 years, or over 4 years. I burst out laughing when I realized I had experienced each "option." I realized then and there that there wasn't much for my family in the magazines anymore!

  17. There are so many books out there and some are better than others (I liked Happiest Kid on the Block). But also agree with @Cindy!

    I was making myself crazy reading and rereading parenting books and magazines and blogs (as well as grilling anyone I could corner) trying to find the answers to my parenting questions and problems. Finally, when I was reading my scriptures one night, a verse hit me like a ton of bricks (Mosiah 4:9)

    "Believe in God; believe that he is, and that he created all things, both in heaven and in earth; believe that he has all wisdom, and all power, both in heaven and in earth; believe that man doth not comprehend all the things which the Lord can comprehend."

    I put the books away and got on my knees. I found that some of the answers I was seeking would come to my mind during the day. And for the other problems, I could finally feel peace and patience to wait for the time when my kid would grow out of the agonizing stage we were in.

    For me, it took me humbling myself enough to go to the Lord with my problems instead of trying to research my way out of them (and only rely on myself).

  18. I read everything I could get my hands on while pregnant with my first, and only skimmed bits of "What to Expect" with my second pregnancy.

    The best books on parenting I've found – because they deal with families, not children or parents in isolation – is anything by Steve Biddulph, in particular "Raising Boys", "Manhood" and "The Secret of Happy Children". He's a fellow Aussie, and is very down to earth which is what I appreciate most.

    I'm hoping that when it comes to seeing how I've done with my children, Heavenly Father will see the crumpled pages, smudges and happy memories, remember the time I spent on my knees/in prayer, and file them all under "She tried her best", even if there are no accompanying or substantiating texts to go with it.

  19. I agree with using prayer as a primary resource. But I have personally found answers to my prayers in some parenting books. There are a lot of sub-par books out there, but I found some great ones.

    On Dicipline:

    1-2-3 Magic by Thomas Phelan
    Make Children Mind So You Won't Lose Yours by Kevin Leman

    I don't know where I would be if I hadn't found these books. The advice they give is compatible to the guidelines found in the scriptures.

    Another gem I found is a book that is currently out of print, but you can still find it used "101 Alternatives to Spanking." It is a list of good suggestions to help better understand how children think and to help manage them better. It has some great suggestions.

    Th book was written by someone who really understands children. One of the best things

  20. #20 Great I sound like an idiot. I meant to say, "These books were written by people who really understand children.

    I apologize for cluttering up the comments site.

  21. I'm coming to this a bit late but just want to second Sharon's endorsement of Mitten Strings for God–it's one of my favorite little mothering books, more like Gift From the Sea than a parenting manual. I like to give this book as a baby gift, as well.

    I have several shelves' worth of parenting books that I bought when my oldest was a baby. I subscribed to both Parents magazine and Parenting magazine for years. By the time I got to my fourth baby, I had no time to read those parenting books anymore. But every time I look at my parenting books I remember those intense, rapturous, uncertain, heady, exhausting years of early motherhood, and I feel fondness for those books and what they represent.

    Best of luck over the next few weeks, Emily! I'll be thinking of you.

  22. I loved reading this post and all the comments! I also found "The Baby Whisperer" by Tracy Hogg very helpful when I brought home my first little newborn. Since then I have read many other parenting books but one of my all time favorites is "Mommy Guilt". It reminded me to let go of my useless fight for perfection and enjoy my 4 beautiful children more.

  23. I devoured the parenting section at the library. All those wise, confident voices quickly took up residence in my head, telling me what I, and my new baby, "should" be doing.

    But then my starter baby started breaking an odd selection of their tidy rules. He got his very own diagnosis at age three and a half. I remember standing in my previous favorite library aisle, silently shouting, "You people have NO IDEA what we're dealing with here!"

    Of course I read (am reading) books about my child's condition as they become available. But never again with the same trusting confidence.

  24. I definitely relied on books when I started out, especially to try to understand what was 'normal' and what wasn't when it came to health issues. I also made it a practice to skim through parenting magazines (while in the bathroom…ahem) to keep up on any of the latest research, again mostly related to health. I've also read several books (or at least skimmed them) since then, particularly LDS parenting books to get ideas about keeping a good spiritual family foundation.

    I agree with the notion, though, that too many 'shoulds' from too many sources can just clutter the mind and spirit. I love the feelings expressed about relying on inspiration. When I read (or have read), I do it to do my part to learn but then seek the Spirit to call whatever might be right in our situation to remembrance.

    One practical book I like is The Parenting Breakthrough by Merrilee Boyack. I especially like her breakdown of chores that children can learn to do at different ages. I have never followed anything like that strictly, but it did give me a nice overview of the kinds of skills I want to help my kids learn as they grow.

    In some ways, I think I have found the most useful parenting books have not been parenting books at all, but rather books that have helped me better understand agency and the Atonement. The more I have understood God's mercy for me as a person, and the power of exercising agency in the process of improving line upon line, the more 'in stride' I have been able to take the process of 'growing into motherhood' (which I'm still doing, now with three tweens!)

    You are in my thoughts and prayers, Emily!

  25. The Girlfriends Guide to Pregnancy is hilarious! My SIl and I make jokes from it all the time.

    The Parenting Breakthrough is probably my favorite parenting book, since it is practical and is about helping your children become functioning adults.

    Love and Logic is fabulous! I also have a book, which I can't remember the title of, which is specific about raising confident girls. Very informative.

  26. Ana of the Nine Kids . . .

    โ€œChildren need all the years of childhood in order to develop into adults.โ€ (Or something to that effect.

    Thanks for that fresh perspective. I am also struggling a little bit with my oldest this summer.

    This is my love letter to you, Ana. I love to read every one of your posts and appreciate your experience and wisdom. Your thoughts are staying with me and helping me with my 5 little ones. Thanks!

  27. There is definitely no magic book. I'm convinced that when people love a book and swear by it, it's because they had the happy accident of having a child whose personality fits with that particular book's prescriptions.

    I think the best thing is to read widely and not take any particular book too seriously. This is hard to do with your first baby (the not taking it seriously part – how are you supposed to know what to highlight and what to dismiss? Only life can teach you that.).

    The "What to Expcect" books gave me way too much guilt. "Healthy Sleep Habits" is too disorganized to be very useful. The La Leche League breastfeeding book only has one answer to every problem: more breastfeeding (not very helpful). The book I refer to most is the APA book on growth and development that they give you for free in the hospital!

  28. I am of the opinion cited already that parents are entitled to inspiration when it comes to their kids and should follow it. A few parenting books here and there can be helpful to avoid some of the pitfalls, but I don't think there's any one gold standard. I have read a couple of books that have been helpful to me now that my kids are getting a little older: "Boys Adrift" by Dr. Leonard Sax and "The Idle Parent" by Tom Hodgkinson. the first appeals to my scienterrific need for hard research and data and the second one has some great ideas, but I don't consider the entire book to be gospel. I would recommend both.

  29. Always enjoy your writing! I still enjoy checking a few parenting books (I've gleaned bits from Healthy Sleep Habits, Baby Whisperer & Happiest Baby on the Block) to remind myself of the tools I can pull out in a given moment. However, I really believe that love is the key especially as children age. When we struggle to feel the love, we need to take things off our plate so that we can feel it & express it. Loving & giving adequate time can solve most struggles in my experience.

  30. Books I love; Happiest Baby on the Block and Parenting Breakthrough (by Sister Merilee Boyack)

    Worst advice ever (hope this doesn't count as a threadjack–just thought it applied to this post):

    Don't bother teaching your kids to make their beds, parenting isn't about the details.

    Baloney. Someone told my mother that when I was a preschooler and not only do I have very poorly developed "attention to detail" skills when it comes to cleaning my house, but I'm 36 and I still can't seem to make my bed every day. My latest attempt to make my bed involves bribing myself and my four children with one peanut M&M every morning we make our beds this summer.

  31. I love this idea of a Works Cited page.

    I'm glad I had my parenting books, we moved so much when my kids were little that I never formed that cohort of peers to bounce parenting ideas with.

    My teens throw me for a loop sometimes, but I'm glad in my 40s I'm also confident enough to take actions without preapproval from a book. I still read some for new ideas, but at this point I've mostly heard it all before.


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