Can You Pass The Good Mother Test?Sierra Black
British pundit Oliver James has written a splashy new parenting book called “How Not to F*** Them Up”.
If you’re the kind of parent who keeps a “therapy jar” to help pay for the damage you’re sure you’re somehow causing to your child’s developing mind, this is the book for you. In addition to a book, he provides a helpful quiz so you can rate your own performance.
After the incendiary title, James uses loads of scientific research to back up his claims, James lays out what a good mother should do during the first three years of her child’s life.
Instead of encouraging women to know themselves through their own creative tools, though, he’s urging moms to identify themselves with one of several ‘types’ he’s identified through reviews of scientific research and (I love this) interviewing moms on the Internet. Are you a hugger? An organizer? What’s your mom-type? Is there one for “Thinks She’s Smarter Than Some Dude When It Comes To Raising Her Kids”? That would be my type.
This reminds me of the personality quizzes my friends were into back in college, when we were young and foolish and imagined that you could tell a lot about a person by answering a multiple choice quiz and assigning them a category. Grow up.
As the Times review points out, reading this book can make a mom feel pretty bad about herself. Which is the opposite of the author’s stated intention.
Here are James’ seven points of good motherhood.
- Avoid daycare. James’ cites piles of research indicating that daycare for the under 3 set is bad for kids’ social development.
- Don’t leave your kids for long periods. This means no cry-it-out, and no vacations alone while the kid plays at grandma’s.
- Avoid “time outs”. Like Alfie Kohn and other progressive parenting experts, James’ advocates a gentle approach to discipline that avoids punishment in favor of reason and redirection.
- Avoid stress during pregnancy. Maternal stress, James argues, can damage children long past birth. Surely, reading this book won’t contribute to any expecting mom’s stress levels.
- Don’t blame the kids. Kids under 3 are extremely malleable. Don’t assume that their genes, or their willful intentions or whatever are causing them to misbehave. Probably they really don’t know better.
- Don’t expect good manners. Kids tune into apologies, thank yous, and the like around preschool age. Don’t worry if your toddler is an appalling brat who won’t say he’s sorry.
- Go ahead and spoil them. Give them the hug or the food or the nap they clearly need and they’ll be their charming selves again quickly. James’ believes there’s no such thing as too much snuggling.
- Don’t let them snack on sweets. Spoil them with love, not sugar, to preserve their long-term health.
How do you fare?
Photo: book jacket