Book Notes: Paranoid Parenting (Part 4)

I’m mostly writing notes to evaluate Furedi’s arguments and add my own thoughts. If you’re interested, you can check out Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

Chapter 4: Parenting on Demand

Chapter 4 starts with a complaint about some of the hallmarks of attachment parenting (feeding on demand, cosleeping, baby wearing, and avoiding “crying it out”) – but quickly morphs into something else entirely. The bulk of the chapter deals with what Furedi perceives as new roles of parents: parents as “full-time lovers” of their children, parents as therapists and healers, and parents as teachers. In each of these roles, Furedi explains how the definition of parenting has changed in recent years. Yes, parents have always been expected to love their children, but love has been redefined into emotional attentiveness, seen especially in play and separate from caring for a child’s physical needs. Furedi speaks of the role of parents in developing a child’s “emotional intelligence” and disparages the modern trend for constant attentiveness to a child’s emotional state, which he sees as complicating a child’s feelings. He also talks about a new role of parents in “supporting a child’s learning”, looking at how much time the average parent spends helping their children with homework (which Furedi purports is more time than the official guidelines suggest children should be spending on homework.)

This chapter was difficult for me to read and analyze. Furedi’s initial complaints about attachment parenting and his later complaints about new roles of parents seem disconnected – the only similarity between attachment parenting and the other complaints is the idea that a parent should be constantly attentive to a child’s needs. At the same time, I see a distinct difference between feeding “on demand” (a philosophy that I very much espouse-although I tend to call it “per infant hunger/fullness cues”) and spending large amounts of energy trying to decode your preschooler’s emotions. Telling parents to feed their infants when they are hungry is different than telling parents that they must always be on alert lest they emotionally damage their child.

Another difficulty for me was Furedi’s discussion of parents as teachers. I was homeschooled. My parents were my teachers. I intend to homeschool my own children. I feel strongly that parents ARE teachers, regardless of whether they take on that mantle or not. That said, I have my doubts about the homework little ones are sent home with – and about how much time parents are spending doing it. What on earth are kids doing in school all day that they need to be doing 5-10 hours of homework at home on top of it? I think I spent ten hours a week doing school, period. By the time I was in third grade, I needed only minimal direction from my mom. She certainly wasn’t spending 10 hours a week helping me with schoolwork (and remember, she was my only teacher.) I think parents should be teachers, are teachers. But I wonder if maybe parents and school systems are getting a little too caught up on “schoolwork” and “learning activities” (possibly at the expense of actual learning – and to the stress of parents everywhere.)

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