Parenting: Are we making it harder than it needs to be?

I was flipping through a parenting magazine the other day and I can across this blurb:

Saying something as seemingly innocuous as “Boys and girls, it’s time for lunch” to a preschool class can set the stage for future gender bias, according to new research. These word choices prompt kids to start to categorize each other- in terms of sex.

It followed with some suggestions like avoiding praises like “Attaboy!” and making sure that mom and dad rotate chores so that kids learn that both males and females cook dinner and take out the trash. The research mentioned was not cited, and a quick Google search of the terms “gender bias and preschool” brought up many different results, but not one that I could really pin point to being the basis of the article. But this really got me thinking:

Are we making parenting too difficult?

Walk into any bookstore, whether it is a big box or a local shop and you will find shelves and shelves devoted to self-help in general and parenting specifically. It seems as if there is a parenting book for every style of parenting. Some books appear to be pretty good while others… not so (Baby)wise. There really is no qualification needed to write a parenting book these days. Back in the 70s and 80s, the sage advice on Parenting came from Dr. Spock (and no, not the pointy-eared, green-blooded Vulcan… that would be Mr. Spock, but I am sure he would have some logical advice on parenting.)

I’ll admit, Zachary Quinto’s Spock is much yummier, but I had to go with classic Nimoy.

Since the dawn of time, parents have been raising children to adulthood and for the most part, they have succeeded. A major difference between then and now, may be that humans lived in close knit groups and all of the parenting advice that you would ever want or need could come from those around you. But what if, as we became more and more mobile, and started to move away from family and started to become more isolated, we also lost the reassurance that we were doing a good job that our tribe could give to us?

Try as you might, it’s really hard to avoid the lure of the parenting books. I don’t know if it’s the fact that they are written by experts in their field or that the books seem to have answers to the perplexing questions that children’s behaviour tends to pose. But parenting books can speak generally, but not specifically to your particular child. In some cases, following the advice hawked by some parenting books may be downright dangerous to an infant or to the breastfeeding relationship.

So what’s a parent to do? Maybe we need to stop relying on other’s advice and start focusing on our own instincts. Maybe take parenting books with a grain of salt but keep in mind that the authors speak of children generally and not about your specific child. Maybe have faith in your ability as a parent. God wouldn’t have given you the gift of a child if He didn’t also give you the gifts and abilities to raise that child to the best of your ability. (And if you do not believe in God, know that you have the ability to raise your child!) Maybe we need to remove ourselves from our self-imposed isolation and reach out to our friends and families. Reach out when things are going well in your life, but reach out especially when things are a bit rough. You might find out that what you are experiencing with your child is the same thing that your sister-in-law or best friend is experiencing with theirs.

So, back to the issue at hand and gender bias. Well, there might be something to it. At the park, the other day, The Bear was really looking for someone to play with. I pointed out a little boy around her age and she turned and said to me “I only like to play with girls, Mama.” Oh well. Preschoolers.

Pax Christi!

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Filed under family, life, mothering, Thursday

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