There seem to be as many philosophies about how to bring up children successfully as there are parents, which fact you tend not to discover until you are a parent yourself. And then you have to hope that your philosophy is reasonably congruent with that of the other parent and/or caregivers in your child’s life. We’ve been lucky in this regard; there are always issues that need to be discussed but Tim and I generally have similar views on child-rearing issues. Most of this we had to figure out as we went along (fortunately there are few things you do that are really critical and can’t be fixed later). I found a couple of books to be really useful in figuring things out, so here’s a quick run-down on which and why.
There are a large number of books on the subject of raising children, each with their own philosophy and assumptions, so it’s interesting trying to figure out the different perspectives they were written from. And the books all have to be written to allow for the old adage of “they’re all different” (when you have two, you find out just how true that is). I’ve found with this second baby I’ve tended not to read the books as avidly as I did with the first, proving I guess the other adage about first-time parents being tense and wanting to do everything perfectly, while more experienced parents relax more and settle for having things be done well enough. When you have two children, well enough really is good enough and that leaves you a little time to try to keep your own sanity as well.
I found three books worth reading and having. First, Penelope Leach’s Your Baby and Child, which is divided into sections according to the age of the child up until the age of five. The book’s philosophy is to be “be kind to and gentle with your baby”; there is lots of material on the child’s point of view and how to interpret reactions and actions. As an added bonus, the photos are great and our son loved looking at them when he was a toddler.
Dr. Spock’s Baby and Child Care is the classic I turn to when I’m not sure about whether the baby needs to go to the doctor for something that looks minor but might not be, or for an issue affecting our seven-year-old who’s “outgrown” the other book. The tone seems to me to be more matter-of-fact although there’s also a lot of psychology in the book; the difference is tone is probably because of the issues dealing with older children and the emphasis on balance within the family.
And for boys from toddler age up, I recommend Steve Biddulph’s Raising Boys. This is a quick read that has ideas on how to cope with the biological differences between boys and girls that affect how many boys behave once they’re past the toddler stage. I’ve recommended this to several people and lots have told me they’ve found it useful with their sons. I’m going to get another one of his books out of the library to read to see whether it has useful stuff to say about raising a daughter.
There are lots of other books I’ve read but wouldn’t necessarily recommend for anything other than getting out of the library, since I read them once and not again. Libby Purves’ How Not to Be a Perfect Mother fits into this category; fun to read once but not a must-have for the parenting library. Edward Christophersen’s Little People: Guidelines for Common Sense Child Rearing was mostly good, though I disagreed with some parts of the book. I read it once, figured out the important bits of the “catch them being good” message (which is useful) and haven’t read it again since. YMMV on any or all of these books of course (what was that about they’re all different? So are the parents…)