A parent’s-eye view of recent scientific research into “the job you can never quit,” with a lot of winking.
Today’s young parents have been deprived and blessed at the same time. A few decades ago, the road to parenting success was illuminated by a few trusted sources—Dr. Spock, What to Expect When You’re Expecting, etc.—and the hard-earned wisdom passed down through generations. In the Internet age, the advice available to parents is an embarrassment of riches. Conley (Elsewhere, U.S.A.: How We Got from the Company Man, Family Dinners, and the Affluent Society to the Home Office, BlackBerry Moms, and Economic Anxiety, 2009, etc.) delivers a parenting guide to help sort out the good science from the bad, the harebrained schemes from the evidence-based parenting strategies. The author has the bona fides in the two areas that matter: He’s a father, and he’s also a dual-doctorate scientist and chair of the Children and Youth Section of the American Sociological Association. The book as a whole comes across a bit unevenly, however; a chapter dedicated to exploring cultural views of choosing baby names veers into the ridiculous when Conley reveals that they named their first child “E” and their second child “Yo” and then took them on CNN to discuss it. When a travel bottle of shampoo fell into the toilet and got stuck, Conley attempted to bribe his kid with money to fish it out for him; when the child refused, he switched to declaring her spoiled, which did the trick. There are passages offering good advice, such as defusing conflict by offering choices, but it can be hard to tell when Conley’s being serious, which diminishes the author’s better points.
Will appeal to parents whose idea of comedy hews closer to Arrested Development than Leave It to Beaver—but do you want parenting advice from the Bluth family?