My name is danah boyd and I'm a Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research, a Research Assistant Professor in Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University, and a Fellow at Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society. Buzzwords in my world include: privacy, context, youth culture, social media, big data. I use this blog to express random thoughts about whatever I'm thinking.

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Parentology: The first parenting book I actually liked

As a researcher and parent, I quickly learned that I have no patience for parenting books. When I got pregnant, I started trying to read parenting books and I threw more than my fair share of them across the room. I either get angry at the presentation of the science or annoyed at the dryness of the writing. Worse, the prescriptions make me furious because anyone who tells you that there’s a formula to parenting is lying. My hatred of parenting books was really disappointing because I didn’t want to have to do a literature review whenever I wanted to know what research said about XYZ. I actually want to understand what the science says about key issues of child development, childrearing, and parenting. But I can’t stomach the tone of what I normally encounter.

So when I learned that Dalton Conley was writing a book on parenting, my eyebrows went up. I’ve always been a huge fan of his self-deprecating autobiographical book Honky because it does such a fantastic job of showcasing research on race and class. This made me wonder what he was going to do with a book on parenting.

Conley did not disappoint. His new book Parentology is the first parenting book that I’ve read that I actually enjoyed and am actively recommending to others. Conley’s willingness to detail his own failings, neuroses, and foolish logic (and to smack himself upside the head with research data in the process) showcases the trials and tribulations of parenting. Even experts make a mess of everything, but watching them do so so spectacularly lets us all off the hook. If you read this book, you will learn a lot about parenting, even if it doesn’t present the material in a how-to fashion. Instead, this book highlights the chaos that ensues when you try to implement science on the ground. Needless to say, hilarity ensues.

If you need some comedy relief, pick up this book. It’s a fantastic traversal of contemporary research presented in a fashion that will have you rolling on the floor laughing. Lesson #1: If you buy your children pet guinea pigs to increase their exposure to allergens, make sure that they’re unable to mate.

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2 comments to Parentology: The first parenting book I actually liked

  • Mary

    Thanks for the recommendation! The biggest breakthrough on becoming a parent is realizing that our own parents had no idea of what to do! My son is 5 years old and I bribe him to behave when going to the doctor’s office. Very simple, if he behaves and controls his tears, he gets to pick a small toy at the store afterwards. Nothing fancy, less than $10. Some people frown on me for it, some doctors thank me for making their lives easier. It is the only time he gets to pick what he really wants (and I think that is more valuable to him than the toy itself). My visits to the doctor are (almost) stress free. I think about it like a bribing fee I pay on top of the deductibles. Everyone happy.

  • morganya

    Thank you – I’ve been similarly frustrated! The one exception I’ve discovered is the book What’s Going On In There?, which summarizes lots of studies on babies and children up to 5 in a pretty accessible, non-condescending way.

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