Act Natural: A Cultural History of Misadventures in Parenting

Act Natural: A Cultural History of Misadventures in Parenting

by Jennifer Traig


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From a distinctive, inimitable voice, a wickedly funny and fascinating romp through the strange and often contradictory history of Western parenting

Why do we read our kids fairy tales about homicidal stepparents? How did helicopter parenting develop if it used to be perfectly socially acceptable to abandon your children? Why do we encourage our babies to crawl if crawling won’t help them learn to walk?

These are just some of the questions that came to Jennifer Traig when—exhausted, frazzled, and at sea after the birth of her two children—she began to interrogate the traditional parenting advice she’d been conditioned to accept at face value. The result is Act Natural, hilarious and deft dissection of the history of Western parenting, written with the signature biting wit and deep insights Traig has become known for.

Moving from ancient Rome to Puritan New England to the Dr. Spock craze of mid-century America, Traig cheerfully explores historic and present-day parenting techniques ranging from the misguided, to the nonsensical, to the truly horrifying. Be it childbirth, breastfeeding, or the ways in which we teach children how to sleep, walk, eat, and talk, she leaves no stone unturned in her quest for answers: Have our techniques actually evolved into something better? Or are we still just scrambling in the dark?

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062469809
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 01/08/2019
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 381,664
Product dimensions: 9.10(w) x 6.10(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

Jennifer Traig is the author of Devil in the Details  and Well Enough Alone, and the editor of The Autobiographer’s Handbook  and Don’t Forget to Write. She holds a PhD in English from Brandeis, and lives with her family in Michigan.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Act Natural xi

1 Look Busy On Outsourcing 1

2 The Second Coming On Childbirth 43

3 You're Doing It Wrong Advice Manuals Through the Ages 81

4 Nasty, Brutish, and Short The First Three Years 107

5 Tooth and Nail Feeding and Fighting 131

6 All the World's a Stage Acting Your Age 157

7 I Know You Are but What Am I? Sibling Conflict 179

8 Kids Today On Discipline 201

9 Use Your Words Children's Books 225

10 Lullaby and Good Night Sleep 265

Afterword: Second Nature 285

Acknowledgments 291

Notes 292

Index 325

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