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 scholar.google.com. 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.

Sigh.

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