March 8, 2012

Brigid Schulte’s suggestion [“What’s so bad about American parents?” Outlook, March 4] that we focus on raising happy, well-adjusted kids makes all the sense in the world, as does her observation that shelves of parenting books don’t seem to improve outcomes for either parents or their children.  

As she noted, however, books are not the only factor unique to U.S. parenting that drives this stress. We also have uniquely un-family-friendly policies. We are alone among our Western counterparts in having no national law giving parents paid time off to bond with new babies, and in considering the public responsibility for children’s care and education to begin only when children turn 5. Add to that astronomically high rates of child poverty, and it’s no wonder we feel perpetually inadequate in caring for our children.  

If a mother lies awake at night debating whether to pay the month’s rent or buy her child’s asthma medication or nutritious dinners, or if she’s wondering how she can afford decent child care, how can she have the energy to set and maintain limits, or teach patience, as French parents do? A few key laws on our books might help thin the shelves of our bookstores’ self-help sections.  

Elaine Weiss, Silver Spring

The writer is the national coordinator of the Campaign for a Broader Bolder Approach to Education

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