Monday, 11 January 2010

Developing Parental Instincts

I read in the Sunday Times newspaper yesterday about Nick Clegg, (Leader of the UK Liberal Democrat Party) and his tirade on parenting guru Gina Ford. For those of you who haven't read or heard about it, he criticised her rigid approach and compared her book to following an Ikea instruction manual. At one stage, out of exasperation, he decided his own parental instincts were the way forward:
“I will never forget — in the middle of the night, Antonio woke up. Miriam said to me: ‘What does the book say?’ I remember saying to her: ‘Okay, we have got to stop this. I have subcontracted my parental instincts to this book’.”

I think the article could refer to any parenting expert. I didn't ever read Gina Ford but I did read a couple of other parenting books in the first few weeks of my son's life. Like Nick Clegg, there was a particular day when I felt complete despair at those books and decided I didn't need them anymore and that my husband and I were more than capable of making our own parenting decisions with our baby.

The truth is however, for a first child particularly, most educated adults look for a book or two to help them on the path to parenthood, as they would when tackling any new aspect of their lives. Nick Clegg referred to the Gina Ford book as an instruction manual but I think that's sort of what people are looking for. Not literally of course but in the sense that they need some guidance as to how to handle a little human! It's a natural response to put away the book once you feel you've grasped what's needed or learn to trust your own instincts.

Parenting books are fairly recent to society, probably because many of us don't live with or very close to our parents as used to be the case in previous generations. New mothers would do as their mothers did.

Some parents are fervent believers in particular parenting methods because they have worked for them and their children. Some people like to have a rigid schedule to follow and some people don't. Parenting books can be helpful in providing an overview of what you can expect from a baby and there will likely be some tips that work for you and some that don't . The 'shh pat' technique for example never did work very well with our son but one of my mummy friends still uses it with her one-year old now if she wakes up in the night and needs settling.

I'm pleased Nick Clegg feels as a father that he knows best how to deal with his children. I am a firm believer that our own parental instincts are a great lead in parenting but they do take a bit of time to develop or for us to feel that we can trust them. Whether you agree or disagree with Gina Ford's methods, I don't think she deserves to be on the receiving end of such harsh criticism. As someone whose parenting book has sold over a million copies worldwide, she has obviously helped a lot of parents  and her methods have been successful for many.

What do you think about parenting books? How helpful did you find them? Was there a particular book or method that really helped you through some of the more challenging aspects of dealing with a new baby or frustrated toddler?



  1. I think books are nice to read, and have great suggestions but in the end I think you have to trust your own parental instinct for your individual child. I did read some books with my first, and proably pieced together ideas to come up with solutions to difficult situations.

  2. I actually used a Gina Ford book to help our son sleep through the night. But everything else I did from instinct, pretty much - I did buy some parenting magazines too. My mum would always say 'I can't remember' when I asked her for any advice. I think parents should seek help from wherever they need (particularly when it comes to health/education), but at the end of the day it has to be about natural instinct.


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