It would be great if someone could tell you how exactly the decisions you are making as a parent will affect your children. Will feeding your baby formula instead of breastmilk ruin them for life? Will sending your baby to daycare mean they will never bond with you and hate you when they grow up? Will potty training your toddler too early or too late condemn them to a lifetime of control and bladder issues? Who knows?! Well, no one, really. But some people do try and find out, which is great for parents like me who wants to know why certain recommendations are there, what the research says about various parenting strategies and decisions, and whether evidence and data really can tell you how best to raise your child. If you are anything like me, and want to read parenting books about what the academic literature says about various facets of parenting, these are the books for you. (Note: I’ve recommended some of these before, in this post: 10 parenting books that made me feel less incompetent than other parenting books.)
Expecting Better by Emily Oster
Oster is an economist and what she is trained to do is examine data. In this book, she looks at various recommendations and myths surrounding pregnancy to see if the data actually backs up the recommendations. Ever wondered about whether it’s safe to drink even a little bit of alcohol during pregnancy? What about at the different stages of the pregnancy? Do you really have to follow all the rules about what to eat? This book will tell you. I also really like Oster’s writing style — informative and clear and with a wry sense of humour that peeps through.
Cribsheet by Emily Oster
Okay, you’re not pregnant anymore, you actually have the kid. This crying, screaming mess that you’re supposed to keep alive… How do you do it without fucking them up forever? What does the data say? Oster returns with Cribsheet, another evidence-based examination of parenting guidelines, recommendations, and decisions from the newborn to preschool years. I loved this book.
The Scientist in the Crib by Alison Gopnik, Andrew N. Meltzoff, and Patricia K. Kuhl
Gopnik has written quite a few books about children’s learning and development, and this book comes from the field of cognitive science. The authors talk about how children and babies learn, and how parents are inadvertently teaching their babies. The title comes from their argument that babies are basically little scientists as they learn and explore the world around them.
Brain Rules for Baby by John Medina
This is a good science-based book about the small child’s brain, and Medina includes various practical tips about how to raise your small children to become decent, functional adults, based on what science currently tells us about the developing brain.
The Emotional Life of the Toddler by Alicia F. Lieberman
I think I need to read this book again. You know how sometimes raising a toddler sucks? Because they’re whiny and annoying and unreasonable and irrational and they say one thing but mean another, or they say one thing and then immediately change their minds, or they have a meltdown because you did EXACTLY AS THEY ASKED? This book basically explains why. Something about how in the course of becoming a functional adult human being, you need to go through a developmental phase of being an irrational, demanding, unreasonable little so-and-so. Highly recommend this one to frustrated parents of toddlers everywhere.