I’ve read a lot of parenting books. Partly because I am the sort of person who likes to do her research, partly because I’ve spent a lot of the last five years on bedrest, growing babies, and I haven’t had that much else to do. (Ok, fine — I didn’t read that much when I was sitting in the hospital waiting for Pancake and Sausage to arrive. I watched the first three seasons of Dexter on Netflix instead. Lots to be learned there, too.)
But no matter how much I’ve read, I can honestly say the first book I ever picked up on my Mommy journey remains, for me, the first, last, and really most profound WORD on parenting ever penned:
Wendy Mogel’s The Blessing Of A Skinned Knee.
Now, by way of full disclosure, this book comes with a subtitle that might put some people off — its full title is The Blessing of A Skinned Knee: Using Jewish Teachings to Raise Self-Reliant Children.
Don’t be put off. This book isn’t about being Jewish, or trying to pitch you on converting to Judiasm. (In case you’re not aware, Jews don’t proselytize outside the faith.) It’s actually not even remotely religious. Wendy Mogel is a psychologist in LA who started to notice that the kids in her practice seemed stunted and paralyzed by what had been years of well-meaning but over-coddling behaviors on the parts of their parents. This dovetailed with her renewing an interest in her Jewish roots, and beginning to study Judaism seriously — and that’s when she started to see that Jewish teachings, in large part, promoted independence and resilience that she was not seeing among her client base.
You can get her larger point, in broad strokes, from the title alone:
A kid who falls down, and learns to get back up, is gonna be way better off in life than the kid who is never allowed the freedom to stumble or fall. The kid who can bounce back will face challenges confidently, and strive to overcome them — the kid who never learns that skill will shrink from any obstacle, no matter how minor, that ever comes his way.
This, by the way, dovetails nicely with all sorts of research being reported in recent months, proving something I think we’d all figured out by now, anyway: this “every kid gets a trophy just for participating” movement meant to instill self-esteem is total crap.
The self-esteem movement, in my humble opinion, breeds people like the parents at my kids’ preschool this week who apparently didn’t volunteer to participate in the shoe drive not because they just chose not to — which I don’t judge — but because, according to them, the school made it too hard to participate by emailing the sign-up forms as doc attachments which parents had to click to download, print, fill out, and return to school.
Umm, you people made babies. Sure, the making them ain’t that hard, but you do, supposedly, get them fed and dressed and to and from school and doctor appointments. Many of you hold down real jobs. Clicking a doc attachment was too hard? What?!?
But don’t take it from me.
Take it from Wendy Mogel. She is wonderful and amazing, spot-on brilliant, and actually funny as hell. You can get a great sense of all that in the speech she gave at the URJ last year, on the occasion of her publishing another book, The Blessing of a B Minus. It’s wonderful stuff. Enjoy.