Will You be Reading Mayim Bialik’s New Book?

I told myself I wasn’t going to do it, but I can’t help myself. I’m not very good at keeping my thoughts to myself. Clearly. So, here I go.

Mayim Bialik is the latest celebrity to write a parenting book. Some of you might know her from the show, The Big Bang Theory. Not me. I’ve never watched the show. But, I do know who she is. She’s Blossom! I watched her in the nineties when she wore big hats and had flowers on her head. She had a fast talking best friend and a goofy brother. Anyway, it appears she has just joined the ranks of celebrity parenting experts with her book, Beyond the Sling: A Real Life Guide to Raising Confident, Loving Children the Attachment Parenting Way.

Her book is an attachment parenting guide. I won’t get into the whole Attachment Parenting debate. It would be way too long. I’d probably end up writing a book by the time I was finished. And ultimately, I don’t really care what philosophy people use in parenting their children as long as it works for them and their children are cared for. I’m all about doing what works. But, I do want to comment about a few things that bother me about the book.

If you read the articles and media surrounding the promotion of her book, there’s a focus on her degree and its contribution to the material in her book. She has a doctorate in neuroscience. Everything I’ve read mentions it. And I have to say I’m impressed. Earning a Ph.D. in neuroscience is not a small feat. Neuroscience is tough. I took a few classes during my graduate career and it was one of the times people actually cried openly during a final exam.  There’s no doubt she is an extremely intelligent woman.

Here’s where I have a problem: A degree in neuroscience is not related to parenting. Parenting is relational and neuroscience simply is not. Neuroscience is focused primarily on the brain. It looks at how the brain functions and how the brain is organized. Most students majoring in neuroscience spend their time in labs or examining rats, other primates, and dolphins. The focus is not on relationships. Relationships aren’t measured in a lab.

Mayim Bialik asserting that her Ph.D in neuroscience has contributed to her research on attachment parenting is like me asserting my Ph.D in clinical psychology has provided me with the tools to be an expert on neuroscience. It just seems like false advertising. Am I the only one who gets bothered by these kind of things?

Second, I rarely read celebrity accounts of parenting. I am the least star struck person on the planet, but it’s more than that. I just can’t relate. They live in an entirely different world than I do.  I don’t know of any celebrities who don’t have nannies, housecleaners, gardeners, and a wealth of resources at their disposal that I just don’t have access to. I always find myself getting angry and irritated when they complain about how hard they have it so I avoid the unnecessary aggravation. And she admits that her husband is the stay-at-home parent, which means I would probably relate more to him than her.

So, the verdict is in for me. I won’t be reading Mayim Bialik’s new book. How about you? Will you be adding it to your reading list?

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42 Responses to Will You be Reading Mayim Bialik’s New Book?

  1. Joe Lawrence says:

    Woah!

  2. Rach says:

    Nope. I agree with everything you wrote.

    I read a parenting piece she wrote a couple of years back and it was so very different from the way I parent I couldn’t wrap my mind around it. You’re right, parent in the way that works best for you, and since I can pretty much guarantee that *her* way isn’t *my* way, I’ll pass.

    My “me time” is quite limited these days and I’d rather it be spent reading something I would find a bit more useful or entertaining. :o)

  3. Kat says:

    Though I’m with you I won’t be buying the book as I don’t agree with how she parents, for me that is but I met and have spoken with her at a conference for The Holistic Moms Network. She’s actually a very religious Jewish mom who doesn’t have a single nanny and homeschools her kids who watch no TV and are being raised Vegans.

    We had a moment when she admitted she used to judge those that didn’t nurse but then met people who couldn’t and totally changed her views. She ended up being very interesting. She’s also very thrifty.

    So though I don’t parent fthe same way as her I can safely say she’s not your typical mommy in Hollywood which was refreshing.

    • Mommy Psychologist says:

      Thanks, Kat. Glad to hear that she’s not your typical celebrity mama. That’s what I get for stereotyping:)

  4. Emily Marguerite says:

    Neuroscience has a lot to do with parenting techniques. Some of the most compelling research against letting babies cry it out, for example, has to do with neuroplasticity and the way that exposure to prolonged periods of stress (in the form of separation and crying) can alter the way that the brain deals with stress later in life.
    If you are looking for a fascinating read, try The Science of Parenting by Margot Sunderland. She’s a psychologist :)

    • Mommy Psychologist says:

      Thanks, Emily. I’ve read some of Sunderland’s work:) I’m pretty sure she has a book about the use of telling stories as a therapeutic tool in working with children. I remember using parts of it during my trauma work in graduate school. I’ll check out the Science of Parenting.

  5. Mary says:

    Using the same logic about parenting… you can’t know exactly what their situation is and “doing what works” correctly for them it based on their experiences.

    So you don’t know exactly what her studies were like. You don’t know what her reseach was in specifically day to day. She might use her degree daily in her parenting. Just because it is about brain doesn’t mean it doesn’t relate to parenting.

    I have a degree in Art. I do not work in Art but I DO use things I learned in school about and relating to art EVERYDAY in my work and daily life. Just because I don’t work in the “field” doesn’t mean I didn’t learn great information that I can then utilize it other situations. Know what I mean?

    I can’t even being to assume to know how her studies impact her daily life. Neither should you.

    • Mommy Psychologist says:

      Thanks, Mary. Thanks, Emily. These are all valid points. However, much of the press on the book repeatedly refers to her degree as being specifically related to parenting and that is not the case.

  6. Amber says:

    Although I don’t have a degree in anything, much less a PhD in Neuroscience, I’ve found that everything I learn about brain development and neuroplasticity informs the way I parent. I believe that the solid science we have about the way the brain develops, works, and changes supports attachment parenting.

    • Mommy Psychologist says:

      Thanks for your comment, Amber. I plan to write a post on attachment parenting at a later date.

  7. JT says:

    I read that her thesis was on the hormonal bond between breastfeeding Moms and infants, so I am not sure how that doesn’t relate to parenting? Basic anthropology tells you that sleeping with your children is how most mammals do it, including most civilizations outside the US. So while you might not agree with her parenting style I think science would be on her side.

    • Mommy Psychologist says:

      Thanks for your comments, JT. I never actually have said anything about her parenting style. In fact, I made sure to mention that I did not want to get into the attachment parenting debate. My critique was in regard to her degree and how it was used in the promotion of her book. Her dissertation for her doctorate was entitled “Hypothalamic regulation in relation to maladaptive, obsessive-compulsive, affiliative, and satiety behaviors in Prader-Willi syndrome.” You can look it up on the dissertation abstracts for UCLA if you would like to investigate further. This is very specific research that is focused on Obsessive Compulsive disorders in a group of teenagers. It’s not related to parenting.

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  9. Erin says:

    I agree with you. Her degree is irrelevent, and her children are young. The jury will be out for many years about the end result of her family’s choices. It’s not a good idea to present yourself as a model for something when the subjects of the experiment are still too young to contribute much to the conversation. Books already exist on the topic.

    • Mommy Psychologist says:

      Thanks for your comments, Erin. I don’t mind people having different views on parenting, but I am just so opposed to misrepresenting yourself.

  10. Maria says:

    This is NOT intended to be snarky, but has she studied how circumcision affects a baby’s brain? Haven’t read the book, doubt I will. She seems to be majorly over the top as far as AP goes, but from what I understand, she is not the enlightened no cut-have a brit shalom type of jew. So really. How does cutting her baby’s genitals affect their development?

    • Maria says:

      Never mind, I don’t know how to say that, where it won’t just come off nasty & anti-semitic. I was just really shocked when I heard that tidbit, since she’s otherwise almost “too crunchy” even for me, LOL.

  11. Amanda says:

    Hi Heather,
    You do raise a good point that Mayim’s dissertation was focused solely on Prader-Willi, not parenting. I do agree that her PhD is heavily touted in relation to the book. It’s easy to think neuroscience PhD=expert on everything. Aside from this, I would love to know how you feel about Attachment Parenting from a psychologist’s point of view.

    • Mommy Psychologist says:

      Thanks, Amanda. Love this question and I do have lots of ideas. In fact, I think that rather than answer this question here, I’m gonna post on it tonight. Stay tuned and check back.

  12. Emily Marguerite says:

    Having read the book, I can tell you she does address this quite thoroughly. She talks quite a bit early on in the book about how her degree has helped shape the ways she parents. But I guess if you’ve already decided not to read the book, you’re not going to find that out.

    • Mommy Psychologist says:

      Thanks for your comment. I’ve read through her dissertation because I like to do my research. It’s easy to find in the Dissertation Abstracts. Her research is focused on examining the Hypothalamic Pituitary Gland Axis (HPA axis) and how teenagers with Prader Willi Syndrome react when presented with certain stimuli categorized as stressful. Prader Willi syndrome is a very rare genetic disorder which means only a small percentage of the population has it. In addition, the symptoms of Prader Willi are not those that are typical for most children (i.e., cognitive disorders, fine and gross motor skill delays), but the most typical and problematic system is excessive hunger. These children eat ALL the time and can’t be satisfied. My point in addressing this more specifically is to show that this is what her research focused on. It shows that she is an extremely smart individual, but I’m disappointed at the way she describes how her degree “shapes the way she parents.” Unless her children suffer from Prader Willi and have this specific genetic defect, it’s unclear to me how she can make this connection.

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  14. Diane says:

    Bruce Perry’s book “The boy who was raised as a dog” points out how closely related neuroscience and child rearing is. Based on advances in neuroscience over the past 20 years or so, Dr. Perry states that children are not born resilient, but become that way. The brain science he discusses in this book is fascinating!

    • Mommy Psychologist says:

      Thanks, Diane. I’m familiar with Bruce Perry’s work. He works with traumatized and maltreated youth. My area of specialization is actually in trauma. We see very real changes in the brain chemistry and make up when children are severely abused. Be careful to draw conclusions between his work with trauma and parenting styles. His work has a very specific focus looking at what we call “trauma brain” in the field. His work is often misinterpreted.

  15. Suzanne says:

    What you say in your bio is truth. Motherhood is hard… and it is made all the harder when we judge one another. Isn’t the whole point really for all the judging to stop? To just stop. Attachment parenting or not, SAHM or career woman… PhD or no PhD…

    I talk about that in the post you left me your site’s url in. (http://mymommymanual.com/attachment-parenting-feminist-crutch/) I hope it was clear to you that though I nurse and baby wear… I do not label/limit myself an “being an AP mom”. Others may see me this way but I am not one for labels. And though I see the need for people to group things, ideas and beliefs with labels, in parenting, I am more of a woman trusting her intuition to guide. I value women sharing their stories/experiences and to this end I support the idea behind the book you are discussing though I’ve not read it nor did I have plans to. I value research as well. In the end, I take in the many things the outside world/experts/etc have to say about parenting through my head and then — I let my heart do the leading.

    Let’s stop trying to fit things and people and motherhood in any sort of neat and tiny box. Let’s support ourselves and each other in tuning in and trusting our intuition to guide as we each make our way down the path of motherhood— one full of growth, challenges, joys and learning.

    • Mommy Psychologist says:

      Thanks for your comments, Suzanne. I couldn’t agree more. I also nursed for an extended period of time which is pretty consistent with AP parenting, although I wouldn’t call myself an AP parent either. Thanks again for stopping by.

  16. melissa says:

    “A degree in neuroscience is not related to parenting.” I completely disagree with this statement. Parenting has to do with relationships, relationships have to do with psychology, and all types of psychology (behavioral, cognitive, etc.) are directly related to brain functions and what happens in our brains on the chemical, physical, and hormonal levels given certain stimuli and experiences (some of what the neuroscience field would address). Brain functions and how it responds to outside stimuli would definitely be valuable information when parenting, for example, the changes that occur in the brain when a newborn is given “skin on skin” time with its mother in the minutes after birth. While I will not be reading her book, I don’t think her claiming that her degree in neuroscience contributed to her research on attachment parenting is false advertising at all. Sounds like reasonable fact to me.

    • Mommy Psychologist says:

      Thanks for your comments, Melissa. I probably should have been a bit more specific. Bialik’s degree in neuroscience was focused on looking at the changes in the HPA axis in regards to stressful responses. She examined this response in a select group of teenagers diagnosed with Prader Willi Syndrome. Prader Willi Syndrome is a genetic disorder which has many different cognitive deficits and impairments. In addition, the most difficult symptom is an insatiable hunger that results in chronic obesity. I have read her dissertation which is the culmination of her work in graduate school and that’s why I believe she misrepresents her neuroscience degree in relation to parenting.

  17. Mary says:

    I also have a PhD in clinical psych and work mostly with kids. I really enjoyed the book and thought that Bialik’s phD in neuroscience was very relevant. She made a very strong case for how her academic background has informed her parenting choices, esp. during infancy. My graduate program was very cognitive behavioral; however, as a parent, I have found the philosophy behind AP to make perfect sense. I just read your post on AP, and I like how you discuss using a variety of parenting “tools,” and that you feel the name “AP” sort of suggests that any other parenting style is not attachment oriented. Interesting post!

    • Mommy Psychologist says:

      Thanks, Mary. There’s lots of us mommy psychologists out there:)

      Have you read her dissertation, though? I have read parts of the book where she talks about her academic background and this is where I think it is misleading. Her dissertation was on the HPA response in a select group of teenagers with Prader Willi Syndrome. This is very, specific and discrete research. That is the biggest issue that I have. I just always get a bit miffed when I feel like science is misrepresented.

      • Mary says:

        I know. I didn’t get the sense she was trying to say that her dissertation gave her expertise per se. I thought she was referring more to her coursework. I know there are some extreme zealots in the AP camp, but taken within reason, I can’t help but agree with most of it during the very early years. I hate to hear about people sleep training 12 week old babies, and it happens all the time. Those night wakings at that age are so developmentally normal. That’s just one example where I think AP (or whatever you want to call it!) makes sense.

        • Mommy Psychologist says:

          A-ha- got it. Yes, during early infancy it really does make so much sense. Sleep training at 12 weeks? It hurt my heart a little just to read that:(

  18. Mrs. N. says:

    I love how AP proponents like to pretend their style of parenting is so “scientific.” Repeating that lie does not make it true, even if it is done by people with the title “doctor.” (Andrew Wakefield and Mehmet Oz are doctors, too!)

    I’d love to know how many parents who talk about “the research” actually know what studies they are referencing, let alone whether they are good studies, representative of the preponderance of the evidence, or accurately interpreted by their ideologically-motivated “experts”. I have… and it’s really FAR more nuanced with many tradeoffs and confounders than any attachment parent would dare to admit. (For example, there are many studies showing that extinction sleep training is the most effective for curbing sleeping disorders and many of the studies Dr. Sears uses as “evidence” for the harms of crying were not remotely applicable to everyday parenting situations.)

    I agree with Dr. Amy. How about attachment parents stop bragging about the wisdom of their parenting choices until they’ve grown and we can judge the results???

    • Mommy Psychologist says:

      Thanks, Mrs. N. The idea that the average crying that infants engage in would result in brain damage if not immediately attended to is insulting to the children and babies who suffer actual real trauma. In some of the “research” that AP advocates provide, they make references to the trauma brain that results from extended crying. I would like to point out that in order to create what we call in the field a “trauma brain” a child must suffer repeated, extensive, and intensive abuse over a considerable period of time. This is when the brain can become altered due to prolonged release of cortisol. And even when this horrific abuse occurs, sometimes the children still don’t develop a trauma brain because the brain has such a high degree of plasticity. I completely agree with you on your views about mothering. The best piece of advice I got was “just when you think you’ve got a routine down and now what you’re doing-everything will change.” This has certainly been true for me.

  19. E19 says:

    I’ve been researching attachment parenting and have been looking for other perspectives to have a balanced view before making my own decisions as a parent.

    I was disappointed by your flippant and quick dismissals of Mayim Bialik’s book (assuming her “celebrity lifestyle” for example) and attachment parenting issues in general. In your responses to some comments you have given thoughtful replies though.

    I would be more interested in your perspective if you applied the thoughtfulness in your comments to your actual threads on the issue.

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  21. Wonderer says:

    I read your blog with interest and I wondered if perhaps our view of neuroscience in parenting difffers? From my understanding of neuroscience, research has developed an understanding of how the brain is mapped and develops. Having an awareness of the research available allows a parent to make more evidence based parenting choices. From all the neuroscience based research I have read (I am not a neuroscientist but a biologist and am very tired while posting this so understand I am struggling with recall and coherent expression! Motherhood eh?!) it would seem that responsive parenting, being in the moment and calm has a positive affect on how the brain develops If the child feels stressed, has negative emotions that are not supported, then from what I gleamed, this can affect how the brain is mapped for later life. As an adult, it was once thought that once our brain was mapped our behaviours, personality were fixed. Recent research has blown this premise out of the water! Exciting times in neuroscience and probably why so many people are now so interested in this subject now. For instance there are journals relating to the increase of grey matter in adults after they have followed mindfulness programs? In my opinion this research is crucial because I have focused what I know on supporting my children to stay mindful of their own thoughts, processes. If we support intrinsic motivation in children, then this support mindfulness. In contrast using extrinsic motivation (behavioural based – rewards, coercive praise, punishments) then we are surely training them, and their brain to develop in a less mindful way, rather more thought based?

  22. Mercedes says:

    The function of a marriage counselor is to aid the couple to understand each other better.

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