Attach This

Denise Herrick Borchert

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.

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15 comments for “Attach This

  1. February 1, 2011 at 10:06 am

    i just want to know what her bestie, six, has to say about all of this.

  2. February 1, 2011 at 10:08 am

    I can’t imagine how one would potty-train a child WITHOUT bargaining and bribery. All FOUR of my kids would still be crapping their pants. (Instead of just one of them.)

  3. February 1, 2011 at 10:22 am

    You know, all kidding aside, I think her first mistake was saying “AP” anywhere in her post. Hey, if that’s what works for her, great. But people have this real stick up their asses about AP and now that she’s proclaimed it from the mountain tops, no one will ever listen to her again. And I practiced AP. But I never told parents that they did stuff that sucked. And I do teach my kids manners. And we use positive behavior support and gentle discipline but even my NON VERBAL,Severely autistic kid knows how to sign, “Thank you.” When he receives something.

  4. DMCostorf
    February 1, 2011 at 11:13 am

    I enjoy her work on “The Big Bang Theory” where she plays an aloof character which acts as the perfect girlfriend to another character…

    Motherhood is hard, dirty work. I need to know that there are others out there dealing like me (like L&K, like SRMM, like you MIAM). As for the celebs (and this means you “dr.” Phil) that judge and make you feel less than…I don’t care…They have “staff” or they have the money to pay for a nanny. I don’t and I am doing the best that I can. And my 12 year old still wants to hug me…so I must be doing ok…:)

  5. wendy
    February 1, 2011 at 11:34 am

    Without bribery, I’m pretty sure my 10yo would be driving my car to his bank heists while I’m locked in the dog kennel.

  6. Erica Snipes
    February 1, 2011 at 12:25 pm

    Moms I listen to and think have a good sense of perspective and great advice: Mom in a Million, Start Raving Mad Mommy, and Kate & Lydia, and on occasion, Michelle Duggar. Moms I don’t give a hoot about: Tiger Mommy (or whatever her name is), Kate plus 8, and now, Blossom. Ugh.

    Thanks for the post! 🙂

  7. amy
    February 1, 2011 at 12:41 pm

    I realized that I parent they way I parent. I read bloggers like you, and Ohmommy and the list keeps getting bigger because of …well other bloggers. I just wish someone would invent the “easy” button sometimes cuz I have no idea how my mom stayed sane with 6 of us.OY.
    BTW another great post.

  8. February 1, 2011 at 1:21 pm

    Blossom can totally bite me too. Ugh. Celebrities, even “conservative jewish” ones with a PhD, should not tell any of us how to parent.

  9. February 1, 2011 at 3:25 pm

    Yesterday I blogged about how I was having trouble with a screaming toddler and one of my friends mentioned she was part of an online community of “unconditional parenting” who doesn’t believe in punishment for children. No time outs, no bribing, no yelling. But I STILL don’t know exactly what that means you DO do. I should ask her but I’m afraid I won’t be able to do it without sounding all judgey and rude. Even the extremely calm gentle parenting advocates I know use versions of time out when their kids need to be redirected from bad behavior.

  10. February 1, 2011 at 4:18 pm

    Maybe she hires a Nanny to do all that?

    That is really the only option. Because without any form of reinforcement of positive behavior and “reversal” of negative behavior, I feel certain that all children would turn out like Miley Cyrus.

  11. February 1, 2011 at 4:44 pm

    I don’t know. Sure she might have had a bit of a judgmental tone, but she wasn’t going all “this is the best thing you can do for your children and if you don’t do it you are a horrible mother.” I really think she was just stating what she does with her family and that it works for HER family.

    And with the not forcing of manners, I’m with ya on that … to a point. I totally think it’s appropriate to remind a child to say thank you for a present or to share nicely. However, once a child reaches a certain age, that gets a bit ridiculous. There was a time when my step-mother gave me a gift, and before I could say “Oh wow! Cool! Thank you!” my dad chimed in with a “What do you say?” Totally inappropriate.

    And I’m with Law Momma. I’m sure she hires a nanny to do all the “dos” that she sure didn’t mention she does.

  12. February 2, 2011 at 1:05 am

    Wow, what a loony. I really, really, really don’t get the no please and no thank you teaching. YOU ARE TEACHING YOUR CHILD A SOCIAL LANGUAGE THAT WILL ENABLE THEM TO FUNCTION AS HUMAN IN A CIVILIZED SOCIETY.

    I can only imagine that her children will grow up as wild as that Jodie Foster character in the movie Nell.

    Blossom: “Would you like a Quinoa or raw Spelt for breakfast?”

    Blossom’s kid: “Chicopaaaaaaay”

    Blossom: “What? I don’t understand you.”

    Blossom’s kid: [more urgent this time and with a look in his eyes that says “I can’t believe you still haven’t taught me how to speak you nut but please for the love of god give me a pop tart] “Chicopaaaaaaaaaay!”

  13. February 2, 2011 at 3:21 am

    Gah. That gentle discipline crap gets on my nerves.

    It’s gentle DISCIPLINE, not gentle NO-discipline. Duh. I don’t hit my kids or call them names, but I sure do insist that they use good manners and all kinds of other stuff.

    But that wasn’t your point. The point is, we don’t need to be talking about all that foolishness, and why the hell are we all arguing about it? So silly. But it never ever stops.

    There are lots and lots of right ways to raise kids.

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