Feelings on parenting advice

I was a bit surprised that parenting posts came up popular in our recent poll.  Maybe I shouldn’t have been ‘cuz I kind of like our parenting posts.  But that’s not true of all parenting advice out there in the world.  In fact, I tend to actively dislike a lot it.  And not just the, “they’re (not) doing it the way I do it” kind of dislike– something even more general than that.

I cogitated really hard on what I like and dislike.

I realized that I do like tips and tricks.  I love varied answers to parenting questions that people have (especially when some of the answers note that something worked for one kid but not another, especially those that try to make connections about why).  I think of them as potential tools in a parenting toolbox.  Some will work for just the right job, some jobs can be fixed with different tools, and some tools are just useless for any job.

Essentially, I like when people say, “here’s a bunch of things we’ve tried that worked for us, YMMV.”  I like seeing lots of variety because different things do work for different children– even having just two kids, I see that one size does not fit all.

I don’t like it when they say, “Here’s the one true way and if you don’t do it this way you’re doing it wrong and you’re a horrible mother (it’s always mother) and you’re scarring your children for life.”  I hate it when they say, “here’s a problem you didn’t even think of that you’re causing by not doing the (sometimes horrible) thing we recommend.”

So I don’t like most parenting books because they’re selling the One True Way with a side-order of mommy guilt.  But I do like being able to google a question and finding a forum that provides lots of recommendations from when someone else asked the same question about hir own kid.

Do you like parenting advice?  What kind?



50 Responses to “Feelings on parenting advice”

  1. TheologyAndGeometry Says:

    I just started reading “How to Talk so your Kids Will Listen and Listen so your Kids Will Talk” and so far I really like it. Similar to what you wrote, it I like it because it acknowledges that not all the suggestions will work for all kids at all times. I also like that it acknowledges BOTH the kids’ and parents’ feelings as being legitimate and important.

  2. monsterzero Says:

    When you watch lots of Fox News and can’t stop parroting their talking points, it causes your children to become emotionally distant and/or move far away.

  3. xykademiqz Says:

    The following is not necessarily confined to parenting blogs. I definitely don’t like anyone proselytizing “The One True Way”. But I also don’t care much for the opposite end of the spectrum — I call it “The Noncommittal” — where the writer bends over backwards to present every bit of conflicting information they could find (leaving no stone unturned, entertaining every possible facet, sometimes faultily giving equal weight to opposite but not equally valid approaches), but never actually letting you know what specifically worked for them/where they stand/what they believe/what they like. [Sadly, much of today’s journalism is rife with these noncommittal false equivalencies under the guise of objectivity and in the name of presenting two sides to every story at all cost, even when one side is pure idiocy.]

    Not sure where I was going with this, I suppose I was going to say that I agree with you, and that I, too, like my advice to be “This worked for me, or worked for me in these limited circumstances but not in these other ones. Btw, there are some other things that worked for people I know well.” Basically, I like people stating their opinions/experiences/preferences, while keeping an open mind to the experiences of others. (With the caveat that an open mind doesn’t necessarily mean “an indiscriminately open mind, willing to entertain any idea, no matter how bonkers.”)

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      False equivalencies suck, but I do like it when people go into all of the minutia of anything. That’s something I forgot to mention– I like evidence-based information as well.

      The two kinds of parenting books I like are 1. the kind based on actual studies that cites the studies and makes it clear what the limitations of the studies are and 2. the kind that feels like the summarized version of an online forum— so at least you know that what’s being recommended worked for some set of people even if it’s never been put in a double-blind randomized controlled trial. (Not to be confused with the “this worked for one person and is the One True Way” kind of advice.) So I like both the evidence-based Diaper Free Before Three and the forum-based “The Diaper Free Baby”. The former gave me permission to try early pottying, while the latter was the system we actually used.

  4. SP Says:

    “here’s a bunch of things we’ve tried that worked for us, YMMV.”
    That is the best, even for non-parenting advice.

    I’m not parent, but I like the parenting posts. There are really not of blogs that I would classify as sane and rational parenting approaches. Not that lifestyle blogs are bad, but they seem to focus on being aesthetically pleasing and pinterest-y. (Then again, I don’t read many/any parenting blogs – just blogs that I follow that eventually turn to parenting topics)

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      A big problem with parenting blogs is that the kids get bigger and become their own people (not that they’re not their own people as infants, but there is some anonymity that comes just by dint of being an infant) that talking about parenting from one’s own perspective becomes invasive and intrusive to the kids. On top of that, parents only have their own individual parenting experiences and kids and parents are so different across families.

      I guess for a successful parenting blog you’d need a child psychologist running it, and even then… many (but not all!) of the kids I’ve known who have a child psychologist parent are a bit messed up, I think partly because what works coming from a clinical psychologist is not what you want to hear from your mom/dad.

  5. becca Says:

    I like the kind of parenting advice the reaffirms my preconceptions and strongly hints that my preferred methods will produce an uberkind who will grow up to be the first person to win a World Cup and Nobel Prize.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:


      I don’t actually prefer that, unless there’s a lot of good scientific research behind it, and then it’s sort of relief. (Also I don’t care about soccer…)

  6. chacha1 Says:

    Being a non-parent, I read your parenting posts because I’m interested in *you,* not because I care about child-rearing tips. :-) Heck, I don’t even read PET-care blogs or articles, and I do have pets. … Sometimes the discussions are interesting, like the “what happened when I was a kid” stuff that I can participate in because I definitely was a kid, once, a long time ago.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Awww shucks. We have an unfinished (mostly unstarted) post on that topic too… “Talking about ourselves vs. general posts” which gets into that question about personality-driven vs. informational posts. Or it will if we ever get around to writing it.

  7. anandar Says:

    In addition to appreciating parenting tools and tips, I also really appreciate any kind of parenting writing written by someone who I generally admire or like, that describes their attempts to parent in a way that is consistent with their values. It doesn’t have to be directly applicable to me and my family– we may not have the same values, or the same dilemmas–but I’m occasionally inspired or reminded to take a step back from my own parenting and thing about alternative ways of being or doing things. For instance, I love reading about interest-led homeschooling even though I have no intention of homeschooling my kids. But I’m pretty disciplined about NOT reading parenting posts of people I actively disagree with or just plain don’t like, and I am generous about reading in an “implied” YMMV even if it is not explicitly stated– because most grounded and likeable people in real life do acknowledge that people are indeed different.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Absolutely about the implied YMMV. People who aren’t YMMV tend to be pretty upfront about their my way or you’re a horrible person and your children are to be pitied.

  8. Donna Freedman Says:

    I always loved the “tips and tricks” advice — but only when it was given, as you note, with a “here’s something that worked for me/my friend” vs. “you’re doing it wrong.”
    When I give advice it’s usually as “an old parenting tip I heard…” or “a tried-and-true parenting trick.” Usually it’s stuff like “rub baby oil on the Band-Aid and let it soak through for a while, then it will peel right off.”
    I don’t do the high-octane stuff like baby-wearing or co-sleeping, though. Those seem to me to be intensely personal decisions — and besides, I have no experience with them and thus no real advice to offer.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      We’ve done the high-octane stuff, but when it’s been the easiest thing to do. Our basic parenting philosophy is to do what’s easiest (with the caveat that easy does not include dangerous).

      • Tree of Knowledge Says:

        We have a similar parenting philosophy (do the easiest thing that works and doesn’t cause harm), in part because of your parenting posts and recommended readings. I mean, I’m pretty sure we would have come to this style on our own, but seeing it work for someone else made it easy to cut through all of the BS and just go, nope.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        It definitely helped us to “get permission” to do what seemed right by seeing that other people had done what we’re doing (or in many cases, that there’s either a scientific base behind what we’re doing or there’s no scientific base around the status quo!) It’s been very freeing to know that we can follow our instincts and there’s nothing majorly wrong with doing that because other people have done it and it’s been fine.

        Glad that we can help to cut through BS!

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      wait, WHAT? Why did nobody tell me about the band-aid thing? I’m a grown-ass adult and I’ll use that trick on myself!

      • Cloud Says:

        Here’s another one that blew my mind recently: take some baby powder to the beach and rub it on before you leave. Sand falls away! The fact that I now finally have something to do with all the baby powder I got in shower gifts and the like is a bonus.

      • Rented life Says:

        Wait the baby powder thing works? I saw that and thought yeah right.

  9. Kellen Says:

    I don’t have kids and I still like the parenting posts. It’s just interesting to hear about all the decisions that go into raising a child, and to think about which ones will actually make a difference and what that difference might be. I used to feel pretty pro-public-school but since reading your posts, and remembering how even in a good public school, I spent a lot of time bored and disengaged, I’m rethinking those thoughts.

  10. middle_class Says:

    What is YMMV? I’m drawing a blank on many things today!

  11. OMDG Says:

    I like your parenting advice because we share many of the same values, and you have a kid who’s a few years older than mine, so I can see what we may be in for in the future. I especially like your advice on gifted kids and school selection because it is pragmatic, not snotty, and I’m not sitting there thinking (eye roll) she thinks HER kid is gifted because of XYZ (another eye roll). Oh! And your post on fun iPad games for toddlers was fun too.

    Same with your financial advice. The advice is really down to earth and easy to understand. It rings true with some of the stuff my financial services background parents tried to teach me, but is more straightforward to understand and apply for someone with my constraints (time to do research, income bracket). My only wish is that I were as close to paying off my mortgage as you guys are!

  12. plainandsimplepress Says:

    Well… Now that my kid is grown and (long!) gone out of the house, parenting advice presumably comes under the heading of “redundant.” But it’s always interesting to contemplate how other people live their lives. Never stops being interesting. The way you choose to bring up you children reflects your values and so paints a kind of portrait of yourself. Always an interesting portrait. ;-)

    vh @ Funny about Money (when is WP going to let us sign in the way WE want to?)

  13. Rented life Says:

    Do what’s easiest. That’s been the best parenting advice. It’s something we often come back to when we get caught up with what others think we should do or what milestones they think LO should be at. After a little worry and stress, we look at each other and are like “wait, why do we care? What we do works for us and we aren’t asking anyone else to do it.” That said it’d be nice if we knew someone in real life that followed some of the same things as us so that we didn’t feel so alien.

    I do like nurshable because I like her story telling writing style and it just presents what worked for her and gives me something to think about without feeling like she’s say “all must do this.”

    One exception: immunizations. I hate reading people’s advice on that unless it’s get your kids the shots.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I’m pretty used to feeling alien where we live. That said, it has always felt pretty cool when we’ve visited cities where people do more of the things we do (even if that’s just because there are more people!)


  14. crazy grad mama Says:

    I have a deep hatred of One True Way parenting advice, although I get equally mad when someone trying to be so “inclusive” that they say it’s OK to not vaccinate your kids. I also dislike sappy “why can’t we all just get along?” motherhood (they’re always about moms) posts. Maybe I’m just grumpy. However, I did go back and reread your daycare posts when we were going through the daycare selection process, and added a few questions to our list that I wouldn’t otherwise have thought of.

  15. jlp Says:

    I like your parenting posts because outlier kid experiences are (by definition!) rare. So it’s nice to see a sample of how other people are handling the situation.

  16. Rosa Says:

    I like it when people do scientific experiments on babies and kids. Like I loved the series “The Baby Human” with all its restagings of classic child development experiments (visual cliff! Scale mistakes! When do babies learn their heads are taller than their eyes?).

    And I like people talking about their personal experiences of parenting. And apparently I love academic and science parents, because my favorite parenting blogs are you, Blue Milk, and Bad Mom Good Mom.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      “The Baby Human” is so much fun to watch. Endless amusement of babies looking surprised!

      • Rosa Says:

        we rewatched a couple years ago with the kids who were babies the first time we watched, and the 7 and 8 year olds were SO proud of themselves. “That baby doesn’t even know how big it is! I know how big I am!” Yes, dears, you are totally smarter than infants. GO YOU! It’s like when the grownups beat the kids at kickball or capture the flag and get super happy.

  17. Leigh Says:

    I think I enjoy your parenting posts (sometimes) even though I don’t want kids because you sound like the parents I wish I had when I was younger / I feel like I can relate to how you felt as children and thus how you want to change the experience for your children. I was super bored in public school, but my parents didn’t really know how to make that better, for example. My mom is also somewhat type A, but stayed home, and that definitely affected our childhood. Just because I don’t want my own kids, doesn’t mean I don’t have some idea about my values around how I would raise children, and I enjoy your posts considering things around that.

  18. eemusings Says:

    No kids at this stage but I don’t mind the parenting posts! Big fan of the Doing Adult Life type posts on balance/juggling.

  19. Leah Says:

    So late to the party . . . but I hear you on the ymmv posts. I far prefer those. We’re having issues with bedtime taking 2-3 hours (ugh), and there are so many frustrating websites/articles out there. So little research out there.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I’ve heard that some people have had luck with this clock that you can get that shows a moon when it’s sleepy-time and a sun when it’s time to get up.

      With us though, we just ended up with lengthier and lengthier bedtime routines (I think we’ve got a post on this somewhere in the archives) and just accepting that.

      • Leah Says:

        Our little one is not quite a year yet, so I don’t think the clock is the thing for her yet. We are cosleeping, which helps nights go well, but it’s the getting to sleep that’s the issue. I’ve been pretty successful at reducing night nursing and getting her to sleep through the night (and she is great at sleeping in!). Haven’t yet decided what to do with nap and bed time — we are trying different rituals and patterns. But anytime we travel, it’s all messed up, and we’re doing a good chunk of traveling this next month. Worst is that she doesn’t sleep in the car. Anyway, this is all rambling at this point.

        The hard part about bed time is that she is really tired but resists sleep. On the bright side, I do get 1-2 miles of walking in a night (with her in the ergo — weight training bonus!) because that’s the best way to get her down.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        At under a year everything sleep/routine changes every 3 months anyway! (Or more frequently)… got no advice for that other than whatever works (well, not say, vodka, but whatever works within reason).

  20. Revanche Says:

    I like when people say, “here’s a bunch of things we’ve tried that worked for us, YMMV.”

    Pretty much this. The only parenting advice I’ll listen to is if it includes that YMMV message.

    Advice that really bothered me before/after LB was born: “you have to let hir sleep on hir own and cry it out after a month or ze will NEVER sleep right.”

    That’s actually harmful and I’m really glad that even though I didn’t go out of my way to find parenting advice, I knew better than to listen to that.

    Your parenting posts tend to be helpful in a “another perspective” way and also helpful in the “well crap I didn’t even think about that. We should think about that.” Also it’s a great reminder that doing the easiest (safe) things is totally fine. Not much is permanent at this age even if it feels like it’ll last forever (like today’s fights over naps feel like a month ago’s fights over naps and guess what, it’ll be fine).

  21. Pamela Li Says:

    I don’t like parenting advice based on opinion, even from an “expert”.
    I do “like” advice based on scientific findings. Hack, I even wrote a book on parenting advice based on that. My feelings are if research shows that something can cause brain cell damage, it will happen when I “like” it or not. My preference doesn’t matter in this case. I do what’s right for my kid.

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