Ditch the Books!

Okay, I’ll admit it.  I LOVE books.  As I was studying children’s literature in my 20s working towards a degree in Early Childhood and Special Education, I fell in love with the story and its power to reach children.  Soon after, I began a journey into my own self-awareness, finding that the non-fiction arena is wildly full of anything under the sun for self-development.  This discovery naturally led to the 6 foot tall stack of pregnancy, baby, and child development books that were consumed prior to the birth of our first son.

Fast forward a few decades, and here I am begging clients to “ditch the book(s)”.  Don’t get me wrong, the parenting books are not evil.  In fact, some are quite good. And yes, I am writing one as well. But here’s the deal.  At some point in our adult lives we begin to believe that if we buy the book, the action of “buying” will alone actually do the hard work of parenting.  And the hard work of parenting is making the changes required by our ever-changing child, family, and world to provide the relationship and support to the young human being counting on us.  The belief that if the book sits on a shelf, albeit in a prominent place, its knowledge is consumed and then applied automatically is ludicrous.  And this, this is why I beg you to first, “ditch the book”.  Never has osmosis worked for we humans and the books we own.  It is simply not good enough to own the book, not even the print version.  Better yet, its placement in your home does not make it effective either.  Just because it resides on your bedside table for 6 months does not mean you have, therefore, been studying its principles or applying the techniques it teaches during that time.

Think of it like this.  Remember when you were in high school or college and the professor recommended that to be successful in the course, you should commit to the formula of, for every 1 hour spent in the classroom one should spend 4 hours outside of the class reading, doing assignments, and studying.  What would it look like to apply this illustration to parenting books and the actionable hard work of parenting?  If we make the assumption, that the book you’ve selected is philosophically sound and an overall good-fit for your parenting style, family dynamics, and child’s needs then we could say that for every hour of reading you would spend four more engaged in the art of parenting.  Working through some of the techniques, applying the suggestions, and developing your personal parenting style that works for your family.  But, is that what happens when we buy books?  Very often, not. If the book makes it off the shelf and is read, it is rarely processed between the people who are rearing the children.

And let’s face it, if the whole team isn’t on board with the changes then the changes won’t last long.  But, even if the book is read, and then processed among caregivers and/or parents, it is the next step where the magic happens.  How many of us make it to that final step of actionable steps of change?  These steps can often be simple but are not easy to make.  These steps can be the difference between a thriving family and the one that is merely surviving.  This is where the growth happens.  So, until you are ready to DO THE WORK, there is really no reason to BUY THE BOOK.  In my practice, it often takes a few sessions for parents to SEE that work needs to be done and identify what that wok could do if the commitment is made to do it.

I still LOVE books.  I still READ books.  It is one of my favorite things to do.  However, one of the most frequent questions I receive in a session is “What book should I read?”.  Now, do you see what I’m talking about?  I often ask clients to send me a picture of their “stack”.  That’s what I call the grouping of books they own that are centered around children, teens, parenting, education and behavior. Then after seeing the “stack”, I will ask a few questions.  What change did you make in your family due to reading this “stack”?  When do you see one of these books show up in your daily family life?  How do you process a book prior to moving forward with action?  These questions rarely get answered with anything other than blank stares because most of the books have not even been read, yet they are asking me to recommend another to add to the group.  And if they by chance were read, they were rarely processed among community.

Do you want to know when I see books having impact on parenting and the process of raising children?  It is clear, that when we actively engage in each age and stage we become more intentional in our parenting.  From that intentionality grows the desire to change for the betterment of our family.  It is this desire to change that is the cue that a book might be in order.  At that point, the book is devoured, dog eared, and used.  It is applied and becomes an agent of change.  Yes, books can be the catalyst of SHIFT.  Shift occurs when we SEE both where we are and where we want to be clearly.  Shift is our goal.   So, before you buy the book, spend some time gathering your thoughts.  As yourself where the pain points are in your family life and parenting right now.  Decide with all adults involved in the day to day workings of your world what type of commitment is willing to be made to affect this.  Identify realistic, measurable goals.  From there, develop a list of action items to move through on a workable timeline.  This is the point in the process where a related and reliable book might be helpful!  When it is hard to know the steps to work through or the strategies to try it is both appreciate and recommended to seek out trusted resources.  But do you see the difference on the timing of the purchase?  Herein lies the point.  The book and certainly help, but not until the process is ready.