With the plethora of authors of parenting books making the rounds on NPR talk shows these days, it’s no wonder some parents have become a little touchy. Some, though, just roll their eyes and say the very use of the word “parent” as a verb is an indication of our generation’s over-the-top attitudes toward child rearing — that it’s treated like a vocation with measurable, almost gradeable, outcomes.
After all, billions —zillions, actually — did it long before we did, often with more offspring, less technology and fewer books. Rather than the cacophony of conflicting “expert” advice, there was guidance from family and those with practical experience and maybe some words from a philosopher or two. Generally speaking though, people were more concerned with making sure their kids survived childhood and could take care of themselves as adults.
It was no panacea, by any stretch, but somehow raising children today seems harder despite the fact that life is easier, thanks to smartphones and instant coffee. It’s probably because we’ve gone and civilized the instincts right out of ourselves!
That’s not to say that we should go Fahrenheit 451 on the parenting section of the bookstore. Not at all! There are many books worth reading, including the ones on this list. They may confirm some of your instincts, or cause you to question others, but they will definitely ask you to look at how our culture influences child rearing and perhaps even consider parenting from a different cultural perspective.
All parents may not want exactly the same things for their children, but most parents want their children to find contentment. Also high on many parents’ lists of hopes and dreams for their children: discipline and the ability to self-regulate; a good work ethic; curiosity and a value of knowledge; empathy and compassion; and, of course, good physical, mental and emotional health. It’s a tall order, but let’s face it, we want the world for our kids.
No book can put you on the fast track to perfect parenting, but these are thoughtful, well researched, engaging reads that are as much cultural studies as they are about raising children. And if they’ve been featured on "The Diane Rehm Show," then they must be worth our time!