From Amy Chua's Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother to Pamela Druckerman's Bringing up Bébé to Mayim Bialik's Beyond the Sling, a spit-up-like effluvium of books has been released on today's parents, informing them that the best way to ensure their children's success in life is to drag them to music lessons, drag them to adult cocktail parties, or drag them around in an elaborate baby wrap. Despite their contradictory advice, these books have all gotten one thing right: no matter how you do it, some aspect of parenting is bound to be a drag.

For many of us, the biggest drag may be the parenting advice itself. The oddest and most unnoticed feature of these parenting books is that they are all written by relatively inexperienced parents. All of the current parenting bestsellers are authored by people who have small-to-medium sized families—and almost none are authored by people who have actually raised children to adulthood. This is not a problem if readers merely want advice on how to make a 12-year-old practice the flute or how to make a 2-year-old stop eating deer feces, but it falls a bit short for those searching for proven ways to make children into caring and competent adults.

The sort of person I wouldn't mind hearing parenting advice from would be more like Glückel of Hameln, the 17th-century Yiddish writer and mother of fourteen whose memoirs recount her experiences as an international businesswoman and helicopter mom. While revisiting her work recently, I found myself wishing she had expressed her thoughts in handy bullet points:

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About the Author

Dara Horn is the award-winning author of three novels. Her fourth novel, A Guide for the Perplexed, will be published by W.W. Norton & Company in 2013.


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