Signing up to be a parent is like signing up for a class that never ends. The desire to raise our kids to the best of our abilities forces us to become permanent pupils in the school of parenting.
For many of us, that means seeking advice from the parenting aisle of the bookstore. There’s a wealth of information to be found there—but also some topics that can result in more anxiety than peace.
Don’t buy every book at once
To limit the overwhelm, Gail bell of Parenting Power says the key is to first limit your intake of information. “Know your purpose. What’s the challenge in your home,” she says. “What are you trying to change?”
While parents can certainly pick up books simply because they look interesting, narrowing one’s focus can prevent information overload and anxiety caused by conflicting advice.
Focus on the problem at hand
Although a book might present a whole bunch of solutions to different issues, Bell suggests parents avoid implementing a book’s worth of changes at once. Making one change at a time is way less overwhelming for you and your kids. Plus, it doesn’t result in guilt from feeling like you have to overhaul your whole parenting style.
“Pick one thing and say, ‘This is really my biggest itch,’” says Bell. “If you make a change in that one area—let’s say bedtime—and you’re clear and consistent on that, over time that consistency usually flows into more areas of your life.”
An author herself, Bell suggests book-loving parents choose books that are broken down into easily digestible sections, which also helps when you want to reference again later.
Engage your village, too
While some parents study parenting books like they’re taking the SATs, others find answers by doing what we all did in high school—asking our friends. Bell says sometimes people really are the best resource and fully endorses talking about your problems with your spouse or trusted friends. Or, if a problem is really testing you, a counselor or parenting coach can be a good source of advice.
Remember you can’t find everything in books
Bell says it’s more important to simply be parents than to worry about mastering certain “techniques.” So come to terms with not knowing everything.
“We are as a society overwhelmed with information,” she says. “The most important thing we can do with our kids is be with them eye-to-eye, face-to-face.”
Books can help, but there’s no final exam in parenting—and it’s perfectly OK to learn on the job.