Having recently become a first-time dad, getting any sense out of me has been even more challenging than usual for the team at Applied Influence Group. Through my son’s determination to deprive me of sleep, I’ve found myself searching for answers about how to look after him and get him into this fabled ‘routine’ which I hear other parents talking about. Friends have pushed several baby books under my nose to assist me with my endeavour and as of this moment, I am yet to find an answer.
Then I came across this article by Oliver Burkeman which brought me some comfort. The main messages I took from it, are that you as a parent have all the skills and knowledge instinctively within you to ensure your baby develops just fine and that the strategies proposed by these books only serve to put you under unnecessary stress by setting expectations that your baby may not conform to.
The article went on to say that the so-called experts who write these baby help books can only be going off a handful of first-hand experiences. Sure, they can refer to studies and anecdotal evidence on the subject but none of that can compare to the reality of the emotional freight train of being responsible for your own child and the authors will only have a limited sample size to test against. The article even argues that a lot of the studies used by the books are flawed, ill researched and contradictory. Despite this, the most popular of these new parent help books sell hundreds of thousands of copies throughout the world, which beckons the question, why? Why do so many people, myself included, turn to these books in a hope to solve our parenting woes?
There are plenty of reasons we can analyse but I would like to focus a little bit of light on two huge factors. One way to get someone to trust you is to show them that you are an authority in a certain area they are interested in. You may do this through showing track records, using statistics, displaying certain insignia or referring to third party endorsements. Generally, we are hard wired to respect and trust authority (which may appear in various forms) and so when we see evidence of an authority we tend to be persuaded by it. When we have evidence to suggest that the authority has abused the trust bestowed in it, then we will see it being met with extreme disdain and vitriol, or in some cases, complete denial.
However, authority alone is not going to be solely responsible for selling as many books as they do. The publishers of these baby books are taking advantage of a specific context which the readers will find themselves in; uncertainty. If you can create uncertainty in an individual, we at Applied Influence Group have found that people are much more susceptible to be influenced. The expecting parents or the sleep deprived couple, desperately looking for solutions are a prime market to be influenced into purchasing these books because they are so uncertain about what to expect or do.
We use these books to look for answers to questions we could figure out ourselves so long as we naturally reacted to the baby in front of us and not worry about the tactics a person who we have never met and has no interest in our baby, has written down to make a few quid. So, if you are reading this at four in the morning following another night feed and struggling for answers as to how to stop the little one crying, my recommendation along with Burkeman is to relieve yourself from the stress of false expectations by disregarding the baby books and going with your gut.
Every baffled new parent goes searching for answers in baby manuals. But what they really offer is the reassuring fantasy that life’s most difficult questions have one right answer.