I have stated before that I do not like parenting books or websites. At this point in my parenting career, my main form of outside advice comes from Rants from Mommyland where Kate and Lydia regale me with their tales of diabolical toddlers and purging all the shit that accumulates in your house when you’re not looking. I trust their advice for two simple reasons: They have three kids apiece all of whom are alive and Kate has these thigh-high boots that are so awesome that the mere act of wearing them makes her an authority on anything at all. She even wore them on tv recently. I can’t believe the hosts of the show didn’t immediately drop to their knees an bow down to the Supreme Wonder of the Boots. I also like stark. raving. mad. mommy. because she has FOUR kids, COWBOY boots, and writes posts with advice on how to take kids to eat in restaurants.
So, yeah, if there’s not a large dollop of humor and legit practical ideas behind parenting advice, I’m not interested. Which is why it’s so damn bizarre that I read a recent TODAYMoms blog post on attachment parenting by Mayim Bialik. I get all eye-rolly whenever I hear the subject of attachment parenting raised, not because I think it’s a bad idea but because I’ve found that people announce that they’re attachment parents the same way college girls announce that they’re Tri Delts and then step back and expect you to look impressed. I usually just change the subject whenever parenting “styles” come up in conversations because I have almost no patience with people who subscribe to doctrine when it comes to raising children since children are individuals and don’t generally like to conform to the strictures of any parenting book, no matter how hard we might wish it. Particularly if the book is called “This Is The Most Awesome Kid Ever”.
Added to my skepticism about parenting dogmas is my pronounced apathy about how anyone else is raising their kids. Until you’re in my space, annoying me, I simply do not care if you’re a free-range parent, helicopter parent, attachment parent, tiger mother, or a graduate of Barnum and Bailey’s Clown College with aspirations of raising the next Bozo. That’s your business, not mine.
But, nevertheless, I read Bialik’s blog post out of what I can only call idle curiosity. I’m not a fan of Bialik’s work in the sitcom Blossom because I never saw it. I know she has a PhD is neuroscience which sounds very cool and I know she had to explain to the folks at What Not To Wear that, as a Conservative Jew, she doesn’t wear pants, which tells me that TLC has some learning of its own to do. Other than that, nothing about Mayim Bialik registers on my radar screen. She may be a lovely person with delightful children. I really have no way of knowing.
Her take on parenting is pretty much standard crunchy mom stuff: natural birth, extended breastfeeding, family bed, organic food, yadda, yadda, yadda. Then she got to her section on discipline and proceeded to mystify me. She says she practices gentle discipline and goes on to describe it as this:
That means we don’t hit our children or punish them. We have a lot of boundaries and expectations of our children, and we are by no means permissive parents. We do not use timeouts, we do not bargain (“If you clean your room, I’ll give you a cookie”) and we do not force manners on our children (“Say thank you!” and “Say please!” have never escaped my lips).
What the…? This is a laundry list of what she doesn’t do but not a single detail about what she does do. It’s possibly the least helpful thing I’ve ever read about the art and science of parenting, and I’m someone who used to read a moms message board daily – women there would cut a bitch for letting a baby cry for more than 72 seconds while they finished going to the bathroom. I ran away when I realized that I was pretty sure that there was a whole cadre of women who felt that wiping was optional if doing so meant a baby fussed for a minute. I do NOT want to hang out with ladies in soggy underwear who have lost all sense of self. Bor. Ing. And possibly smelly. But back to Bialik. What is this mysterious “gentle discipline” and how does it work? Or is it like the CIA of parenting and if Bialik told us she’d have to kill us and that’s why she didn’t elaborate.
The other thing about this paragraph is the implied judgment. By listing out common forms of behavior modification that many parents use to great acclaim, Bialik seems to be telling us that while those methods are ok, they’re not particularly enlightened.
You know what, Blossom? Bite me. And since I know you won’t “force manners” on me, I’ll say it again. Bite. Me.
How the hell do you teach a kid manners without reminding them to be polite? I mean, really. My child’s enthusiasm for life usually overtakes his memory of trivialities like “please and thank you” and without me to rein him in and remind him to acknowledge the kindnesses of people around him, he would would never utter the magic phrases. Sure, I lead by example with manners but examples only work when kid is playing attention and three year olds are not really known for their strict focus on detail.
Furthermore, what is wrong with saying “Ask nicely to share your sister’s crayons” or “Tell your friend thank you for inviting you to his birthday party”? It’s not like we’re holding them over a vat of boiling oil until they scream “please” to our satisfaction. We’re reminding people who are inexperienced at life what the rules of interpersonal engagement are. It’s fine.
I’d actually be curious to spend a day with Bialik’s kids without her around. Just to see if they’re really as polite and laid back as she says. But until I can get some verification that her methods of child-rearing are working, I’ll set her advice aside and keep laughing at Rants from Mommyland and stark. raving. mad. mommy. instead.