Wait. Before you glance at the titles (and find your favorite book there), here me clearly: I am NOT saying these books have nothing to offer. I am NOT saying you are a bad parent if you like these books.
I am saying that I do not recommend them to new parents because they are filled with misguided absolutes that could potentially lead new parents to veer away from their hearts (and to stumble further from their children’s hearts too).
Instead of providing extensive commentary, I’m going to primarily let the books speak for themselves.
On Becoming Babywise by Gary Ezzo and Robert Bucknam (2001, Parent-Wise Solutions, Inc.)
Oh, Babywise – how do I summarize you? According to the back cover, the book is an “exciting infant management plan” (a phrase that leaves a bad taste in my mouth).
The book is probably most well-known for advocating parent-directed feeding: a 24-hour strategy that revolves around the premise that the baby must conform to the parent’s schedule from infancy.
In regards to sleep, the authors instruct new parents to: “Vow to avoid…intentionally nursing a baby to sleep, rocking a baby to sleep, or sleeping with your baby” because these practices “do not offer any healthy advantages.”
Also on the topic of sleep, the authors give this [incorrect] advice: “crying for 15-20 minutes is not going to hurt your baby physically or emotionally.” At nighttime, “crying bouts average between five and thirty-five minutes.” THIRTY-FIVE minutes! They conclude one chapter by saying, “Getting your baby to sleep through the night is not the final goal of parenting – but we believe it does represent a right beginning.” Ug. [I’m gagging].
They also discourage too much attention, “…constantly holding a baby during every fussy time is easily overdone.” They go on to say, “If you want a fussy baby, never let him cry, and hold, rock, and feed him as soon as he starts to fuss.” [For the record, the exact opposite has been true for both of my babies.]
The authors also imply that babywearing is silly (and “should not replace the crib“), that most babies should wean at 6-12 months, and that it is the parent’s “responsibility” to fully vaccinate each of their children.
The thing that disturbs me most about this book is the fact that the authors prey on a new parent’s fears and fail to give an objective view of the issues. This phrase – taken from the book – is cooed in many different ways throughout the text, “Surely you desire what’s best for your baby. Every good parent does.”
Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Ted Tripp (1995, Shepherd Press)
The title sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? Getting to the heart of the matter. Dealing with heart issues. Etc. I like much of what Tripp has to say, but his “child-rearing” strategies are extremely hard-handed.
Consider this sample dialogue between a father and his son –
- FATHER: Do you remember what God says Daddy must do to you if you disobey?
- SON: Spank me?
- FATHER: That’s right. I must spank you. If I don’t, then I would be disobeying God. You and I would both be wrong. That would not be good for you or me, would it?”
He later states, “God has commanded the use of the rod in discipline and correction of children.” He goes on to say, “If you fail to spank, you fail to take God’s word seriously. You are saying that you do not believe the Bible…you are saying that you do not love your child enough to do the painful things that God has called you to.” He goes on to give 8 steps on “the How of Spanking.” The sixth step is to “Remove his drawers so that the spanking is not lost in the padding of his pants.” Regarding the smallest of children, he notes that, “Rebellion can be something as simple as a small child struggling against a diaper change or stiffening his body when you want him to sit on your lap.” He explains that when it comes to spanking, “you need to trust God and obey God.”
Here’s the thing. I DO believe the Bible, but I don’t believe that God commands spanking [context, please]. Nor do I think that a baby resisting a diaper change deserves to be punished!
“Don’t Make Me Count to Three!” by Ginger Plowman (2003, Shepherd Press)
This book comes on the heels of Shepherding a Child’s Heart. Clearly, the author is a huge Tripp fan and this book is essentially the same as his book – but in new packaging.
Before I share quotes from the text, I must point out that the cover of the book troubles me [click on the image to see a larger view]. A little girl is crossing her arms stubbornly. The mother is leaning over her with a spoon and a bottle of laxative…as if she is going to administer it to her daughter if she refuses to comply. [That image alone causes me to question the contents of the book].
Like Tripp, Plowman offers spanking as the premier and sole discipline strategy for babies and children. She writes, “To say, ‘I don’t believe in spanking’ is to say that God’s ordained methods for child training are wrong. It is to reject God’s word. It is to say you are wiser than God himself.” When asked how old a child should be to be spanked, she states, “I’ve had moms ask me when it is okay to slap their baby’s hand for disobeying and touching something that is off-limits. The answer should be obvious. When they disobey and touch something that is off limits. If they are old enough to disobey, then they are old enough to be trained to obey.” She advises parents to, “use an instrument with a little flex so that it stings without bruising.”
[Truly – it hurts my heart to even write these quotes out].
She is also big into the whole “instant obedience” thing, which states that children should only be given a “command” one time and they should obey immediately when it is issued.
I could write much more about these books (and perhaps someday I will), but this post is already long. I’d like to hear from you…
Have you read any or all of these three books? What parenting books would you NOT recommend?