Troll Parenting Books

Let’s be open and honest and forthright, my friends:

Most of the parenting books and articles that get printed these days are clickbait. Yes, even the paper ones.

The last “big” example of this was the horrible Tiger Mom debacle. That book, with its questionable-yet-endlessly-debatable parenting ‘technique,’ spawned an uncounted number of forum posts, fiery Facebook denunciations, and lots and lots of clicks to the websites of the newspapers and magazines that wrote about it. I’m not going to link to it because, frankly, we all have Google or Bing or whatever funky search engine you prefer.

The newest “controversial” parenting book is being touted in the Wall Street Journal, which has, over the years, abandoned any pretense of being an actual newspaper in search of advertising revenue. The “news” of this new book that’s being printed amounts to a very underwhelming advertisement for the book (I don’t think most of the people commenting on the article and video even realized that a book was being talked about) and probably a lovely boost to advertising revenue for the WSJ. The people were foaming at the mouth in indignation at the article, I’m sure the people at the newspaper were quite pleased. I doubt the author is pleased yet, as the Twitter account for the book only currently has 248 followers. If you really want to give them your click, just search for “parentspeak.”

“Parentspeak”– the word alone should tell you everything you need to know about this parenting book. It’s total nonsense, a complete troll. The author isn’t a renowned parenting expert, just yet another writer with a decade of parenting under her belt and a need to drive more cash into her pocket. And, of course, the “right” liberal qualifications–has written for NPR and HuffPo, wrote a memoir about sex, and had a failed pilot at ABC.Her husband is one of the original Geico cavemen (that this is the first of his acting gigs that he mentions pretty much sums up his career so far. I wish him more luck in the future.)

This new book basically says that all parent and child interactions are tainted by “control.” Parents are trying to control their children when they talk to them, and that’s BAD. She’s so bold as to attack the lauded term “good job!” Yes, even telling your child that they did a good job is insincere because we’re really subtly trying to control their behavior. The author somewhat confusingly follows this up with advising parents to use emotional guilt-tripping instead (I will paraphrase to avoid clicking the darn thing again, but this is VERY close to the original quote, I kid you not. “When you didn’t tell Sally ‘thank you’ for her gift, I was afraid you were making her feel bad.” Great. How about I go cut my wrists in the bathroom, Mom, since I am such a failure at emotional intelligence?)

Okay, you want to know the secret formula all these writers have? I am going to tell you, as long as you promise NEVER to use the formula yourself even if you do desperately want money and fame. It’s not worth it, trust me. Okay, here it is:

Go to Search for the general words in the topic you’re interested in, say “effects of emotional neglect on child development.” Click on one of the top two or three search results. They’re guaranteed to have some hoary old tropes from the 1930s to 1960s in there somewhere. Grab the most fantastical and ridiculous “scientific” study done in that time period, then start looking for data to back up that proposition. You don’t have to actually DO any research, trust me. If you have spawned a human being, you automatically get a pass on being a parenting writer. No one is going to come to your house and ask questions UNLESS you DO become famous, and then you can bully and bribe your kids into giving nice pat answers (ipads work well here, or vacations to Walt Disney World) and have someone stage your house for the photoshoot.  A quick trip to one of the thousands of makeup and hair experts in LA is called for as well, but she probably already covered that part.

There, you have it. Get someone to get you some coverage in one of the big media outlets like the WSJ or the Washington Post, maybe even The Atlantic if you’re lucky enough or have good enough friends. Set up a website and a Twitter account (no matter how neglected.) And sit back and hope and pray and cross your fingers really hard that the sparks fly, the comments are vituperative, and the AP picks up the story.

And that bloggers like me respond with outrage and talk about your “technique” and actually try to discuss its “merits.” Which . . . is a bit more than these books deserve. They all need to be firmly boxed up into their category: clickbait parenting trolling. That’s all they are, and they’ll disappear quickly, only to reappear in the media promotion of the author’s next book, wherein the writers will “revisit” the children and their novel parenting technique to see if they turned out to be porn starlets or heroin junkies or Washington DC interns, all of which may just be salacious enough to sell the new book.

Too bad I can’t make myself write one of the darn things. I don’t have the right pedigree, alas, and I don’t have 22 kids or something that would make a more conservative viewpoint salable from a publisher’s point of view. The question becomes “Are you really that shameless?” Sadly, the answer from a terrifically huge number of people is “Yes.” Which is why the next book is guaranteed to come out really soon after this book’s publicity push either withers on the vine or blossoms into a toxic jungle of comments, forum posts, and vicious arguments between people who otherwise are nice, ordinary, simple folks who would give you their spare change if you were a dollar short in the grocery checkout line.



So my 2 1/2 year old son is currently terrified of the appliances downstairs. This is just a development from being earlier terrified of robots. Machines are fascinating but also scary. Fine. These things happen. 

So I am sick in bed with a nasty cold and the baby is talking to me about the terrors of the dishwasher.

“The dishwasher isn’t going to eat you,” I tell him. “Dishwashers only wash dishes. They don’t do anything elee.”

“They wash dishes?”

“That’s all they do. They only do one thing. Dishwashers wash dishes. Clothes washers wash clothes. Dryers dry clothes. The stove and the microwave cook food. The tea kettle makes hot water for tea. The toaster makes toast.”

I stop and realize how ridiculous this must sound to anyone who isn’t acculturated to Western Civilization 2017. Seriously, we have an entire machine just to heat water up enough for tea? To mix our bread dough? To toast bread??

No wonder he doesn’t believe me that these machines don’t have some larger more sinister purpose.

In the annals of the strange and weird . . .

Have you ever heard the phrase “your mouth is writing checks your body can’t cash?”

Yeah, something like that happens to me when my brain is telling me what exercises and sports we should be doing. My brain, for reasons entirely unknown to me, seems to think that I should be an athlete. I can’t even SPELL athlete without spell check to remind me how it goes.

But here we are, in the post-Christmas just-turned-2017 haze, and my brain is trying to entice me back into athletic endeavors. I hesitate to use the term “New Year resolution” when I refer to this phenomenon, because I have a much more practical and important reason for getting more exercise this year than just the turning over of the secular calendar.

Because, of course, my thyroid lobe removal of November revealed a small area of cancerous cells hidden inside the stupid lumpy thing, and I am now officially a cancer patient. Which is faintly ridiculous, as this cancer is a hypochondriac’s dream: it will most likely allow me to die of a heart attack or a stroke or by getting run over by feral hogs long before it kills me, but in the meantime it will allow me to obsess legitimately over every swollen lymph node, wobble in my vocal cords, or other weird symptom that I can find.

So, this brings me back to the “checks I can’t cash” part: I’d like very much not to “cash in my chips,” so to speak, until the last possible moment, and definitely not until all my kids are grown. So I need to lose some weight, pronto, and, more importantly, I need to get myself in better cardiovascular shape.

Which leads my delusional brain to suggest all sorts of schemes for getting fit. It loves to linger over couch-to-5k running plans, although my knees are rivaling Kellogg’s Rice Krispies for snap, crackle, and pop these days. Then it reminds me that I do own a very nice bicycle, so why don’t we start road racing? Road racing? Leaving aside the fact that the mental images boggle the mind, I don’t own a road racing bike at all. I own mountain bikes or hybrids with big knobbly tires. Where are these ideas coming from?

Of course, this is the same mind that has dreamed up a million impossible schemes that I have actually been able to pull off. Maybe I shouldn’t dismiss it out of hand. I have always dreamed longingly of being able to bike for long distances– my favorite Outward Bound trip to dream of in high school was the one where they biked down the Pacific coast. I didn’t have a bicycle from the ages of 12-18, mind you, nor was I in any sort of shape to bike that far every day, but my brain was already displaying its amazing ability to ignore reality in pursuit of its goals.

So, here I am. With goals. My brain actually came up with a reasonable goal, when it wasn’t saying “Hey, let’s go on a bike trip from Amsterdam down to Provence despite the fact that I don’t have A) the money, or B) the fitness level, or even C) a passport.” My immediate goal is to lose 10% of my weight by the time summer vacation comes around. Which is a pretty reasonable goal, given the length of time between now and then and some fine-tuning of my thyroid hormone levels by my endocrinologist.

The rest, well, exercise is never my thing. It’s especially not my thing considering that I seem to feel all sorts of nerve pain that most people don’t feel, for reasons still not understood. You should see my dental visits, they’re a laugh. Why, yes, doc, I still feel that. But anyway, exertion brings on pain, which is something I try to avoid. BUT . . ..

I really do want to live to be an old grandmother with a horde of grandchildren whom I can spoil completely and teach bad habits like staying up all night playing video games and drinking too much Coca Cola. Okay, maybe just one Coca Cola and the rest as tea or something, but definitely I want to be able to be there for them. Everyone needs an eccentric grandmother who doesn’t give a fig for convention. So, it seems that a steady diet of pain and discomfort and exertion is in the cards for me.

Thanks a lot, brain. Maybe you could have actually gotten me to exercise BEFORE it was going to be such a huge pain in the . . . ear?