Review: “What to Expect: The Toddler Years”

April 25, 2012 at 1:39 pm , by Alyce Wilson

What to Expect the Toddler YearsWhat to Expect the Toddler Years by Heidi Murkoff
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I received the 1994 edition of this book second-hand, and I’m happy I didn’t pay for it. While “What to Expect While You’re Expecting” is recognized as a valuable book for expectant mothers, I find this sequel to be more alarmist than helpful for parents of toddlers.

While I expect to both agree and disagree with any parenting book, when I’m reading this one, I more often disagree. It’s possible that newer editions have changed the advice given, but in this edition, the authors recommend the Ferber method of teaching children to sleep by themselves. That method has also been called the “cry it out” method, because it depends on allowing the child to cry for longer and longer periods each night in order to teach them to go to sleep. For many reasons, this method has been highly criticized, and without getting into a lengthy discussion, it just feels wrong to me.

In the same way, the book makes assumptions about weaning babies at a year (which is fine when the baby is ready for it but unfair to babies who are slower adapting to solid food). Those who believe in baby-led weaning will find themselves feeling like outsiders while reading this book.

The book is divided by month (12th month, 13th month, et cetera), and each chapter includes FAQs related to concerns from that month. This ends up giving the book an advice column feel and tends to emphasize the negatives. Rather than including a couple paragraphs on “diapering difficulties,” for example, why not call the section “diapering” and deal with both issues related to diapering as well as positive advice for choices that parents might consider (such as cloth diapers versus disposables, for example)?

The result of this endless string of answers for “problems” not only feels haphazard but also conveys the opinion that parenting is troublesome and that this book is a first-aid kit or life raft. Rather than seeing this book as a lifesaver, I found myself frequently frustrated by the advice given, as if I’d been handed a child’s water-wing instead.

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