Before bed last night, I said to my husband, “You have to read this parenting book.” I pointed to my Kindle. He rolled his eyes.
I said, “No, really. There are creative solutions in here to some of the most annoying things we’re dealing with right now. Like the backpacks on the floor, like the name calling, like table manners.” (My husband is very particular about training our children to be able to eat like human beings as opposed to scavengers. I, on the other hand, prefer to eat standing up over the sink to avoid sweeping and mopping the floor.)
“Come on. When’s the last time you read a parenting book?” I nudged.
“Hey! I read What to Expect and that book for dads with the striped shirt on the cover,” he replied defensively.
“That was 12 years ago,” I said.
Which is the leaping off point to why Get the Behavior You Want…Without Being the Parent You Hate (Demos Health) by Dr. Deborah Gilboa is such a worthwhile read. Neither my husband nor I, co-parenting for almost 12 years, have turned to parenting books for advice recently. Sure, books on sleep and eating habits used to pile high on my nightstand while I was pregnant and parenting an infant or toddler, but those started to dwindle and disappear as my children and brood grew. When I am not sobbing into my hands or pulling out my hair, I get most of my quick tips on the go from other moms, whose kids are school age like mine, or better yet, older.
I picked up Gilboa’s book because I’m already familiar with some of her techniques and advice from watching her popular “Ask Doctor G” video series on YouTube where she addresses topics I tend to gripe about and ones you don’t often see experts address. My favorite “Ask Doctor G” videos? “Teach Kids to Wash and Flush Every Time;” “Stop Backseat Bickering;” and “Who Else Wants Kids Who Aren’t Racist?”
Not only does “Doc G” tackle problems we’re dealing with in our own family (our kids are 6, 8, and 11), but her creative solutions also are reasonably simple to execute and often really funny… and laughter is what I need most during my most aggravating parenting moments. (For backseat bickering, for instance, Gilboa suggests pulling over to the side of the road and start making out with your partner until your kids decide to deal with the issue they’re fighting about.)
While Gilboa brings her signature blend of humor to her new book, she also offers serious, real-world advice with quick, concrete ways to help parents use everyday opportunities to create respectful, responsible, and resilient children—without screaming, nagging, guilt, or guesswork. The book is laid out in chapters that are truly bite-sized chunks so you don’t have to (and probably won’t) read the book from cover to cover in just one sitting.
I interviewed Gilboa who, in addition to being a physician and parenting expert, is a Jewish mom to four boys and married to an Israeli. I asked her how, if at all, her Judaism has played a role in her creation of the “3R’s of parenting” and whether she thinks her book will go over well in Israel, where parenting styles tend to leans towards indulgent, and where, as we know from Start-Up Nation, cultural attitudes encourage a certain “questioning of authority” rather than blind respect.
JM: I very much related to your character blend of firmness and compassion in approaching tough situations with school aged kids and tweens. I wonder, though, who is your audience? Is it only American parents? What about Israelis? What about the French?!?
Doc G: My audience is any parent who needs a few new tricks. Each child is different, and what works with one of our kids, or works for one parent, or works at one age, may require a new solution for someone else or at a different time. If my analytics can be believed, I have almost as many Israeli readers as I do Americans or Brits. Only a few dozen or so French though…
JM: How would you say, if at all, being a Jewish mom, has impacted your own parenting style and your approach to guiding other parents?
Doc G: Much of my parenting is informed by one central tenet of Judaism: What you do is more important than how you feel or what you believe. Faith in Judaism is totally overshadowed by acts, and I believe that this is a truism for life. To me, that means that taking out the garbage is what matters, not enjoying the experience or believing that it matters. Behaving kindly to a sibling is what’s important, even if you don’t feel loving towards that person, and even if you honestly believe that sibling is a space alien brought into your home solely to make your life miserable.
JM: I have a good friend here in Israel who made Aliyah more than 25 years ago and told me she noticed she spoke to her children differently when they visited America compared to how she spoke to them here. Here, she said, she and they might bark at each other and it was an accepted form of communication between them. There, she was more soft-spoken. She made requests of them instead of orders.
What role do you think culture plays in parenting?
Doc G: Culture influences parenting on every level! What we want for our kids, from our kids, from ourselves, and what we believe about our roles… all of this is impacted. Every time we’re in Israel I see the differences, and value them. Israelis (my husband included) show their kids a fantastic blend of practicality and abundant love. I admire and aspire to that.
JM: I live on a small kibbutz and we often speak here of “parenting in community?” There are benefits (lots of folks to keep an eye on your kids) and disadvantages (lots of folks with eyes on your parenting choices). What do you have to say about parenting in front of an audience?
Doc G: As it happens, I live in a significantly Jewish neighborhood in urban Pittsburgh that many people call a moshav. I both love and fear the consequences of being in a place where most people know me and my kids and feel comfortable commenting to any of us about what they see. Try adding writing a parenting book to THAT! The truth is, though, that people judge. It’s human nature. And they will judge from next door or from one FB update they read from across the world. At least, if they know you and your kids, they are more likely to genuinely care about your children, and feel accountable to you for how they express their opinions. It must help a little to know that, whatever they say today, they’re likely to see you on the playground or in the makolet tomorrow.
JM: Last question. Does any of it really matter? Isn’t it possible we do our very best parenting job and our kids still end up messed up and hating us? Then what?
Doc G: Yes, and those parents who totally ignore their kids could end up with a Nobel Prize winner. There are no guarantees that all of our efforts will positively impact all of the choices our kids make. But intentionally parenting and loving our kids is what we can control, and doing our best is the best we can do for our kids. We love these kids more than anything, why not give them our best and see what happens?