Welcome to Is My Kid the Asshole?, a newsletter from science and parenting journalist Melinda Wenner Moyer, which you can read more about here. If you like it, please subscribe and/or share this post with someone else who would too.
Ok, so, this is an extra special newsletter day. Because TODAY IS PUB DAY! My book How to Raise Kids Who Aren’t Assholes is out today, and I am quite giddy, and also I couldn’t talk about anything else if I tried, so I’m going to tell you a bit about the book and why I really hope you buy it and tell everyone you know to buy it, too.
Let’s rewind to 2018. It feels like forever ago, but believe me, you remember it: Donald Trump was halfway through his presidency, Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed to the Supreme Court, we were all still reeling from the gazillion horrific #metoo allegations that had surfaced the year before. I began worrying more and more about my kids, who were growing up in a world that felt defined by despicable behavior. I’d also seen some harrowing data illustrating that bullying and hate crimes were on the rise. In 2016 and 2017, for instance, the Human Rights Campaign surveyed more than 50,000 American thirteen- to-eighteen-year-olds, and 79 percent of them said they thought school bullying incidents had recently gotten worse. Soon after the 2016 election, teachers across the country reported to the Southern Poverty Law Center that students were yelling things like “Build a Wall” in their lunchrooms and that boys telling girls in the hallways that they would “grab them by the pussy.” One white student even put a noose around a Black student’s neck.
The more I thought about my kids in the context of all of this horror, the more I realized: What I wanted more than anything else was to make sure my kids grew up to be the antithesis of Donald Trump. (And Brett Kavanaugh. And Harvey Weinstein. And Jeffrey Epstein. And…. ok I’ll stop.) I wanted my kids to grow into compassionate, respectful adults who fought injustice rather than contributing to it. And when I talked to other parents, I discovered that many felt the same way.
But I also knew that I and other parents weren’t entirely sure how to do this. So I started digging into the research on how children develop traits like compassion, generosity, resilience, honesty, anti-sexism and anti-racism. And I discovered that there was tons of compelling science on these questions, that much of it was counterintuitive and surprising, and that very little of it had been translated into simple and actionable advice for parents.
Ultimately, I felt compelled to close this gap: To write a book that would give parents the tools to collectively raise a generation of good humans. And it’s funny, because I never, ever thought I would write a parenting book. When friends encouraged me to (since I was Slate’s parenting columnist), I always scoffed. Who was I to tell other parents what to do? I’m no parenting expert. I’m constantly fumbling as a mom, and yes, my kids often act like assholes. But I knew that as a science journalist, I had the skills and expertise to find, assess and digest difficult research and then translate it into actionable advice. So ultimately, I felt like it was my duty to take this book on — because if I could help even just a few parents, by giving them evidence-based information that would make it easier for them to raise wonderful kids, then in some small way I was helping to build a better world. So I said OK, yes: This is my book.
Today, nearly three years later, it’s out. You can buy it right now! (If you want a signed copy, you can get one by ordering the book through Split Rock Books, my local bookstore.) Or borrow it from your local library! Or purchase the audiobook (which I recorded myself)! I really hope you will do one of these things, and that you’ll tell your friends about it, too. Because, after all, the book will only make a difference if enough people hear about it and read it.
If you’re wondering if the book is actually any good (this is a valid concern), I can offer you this: Publisher’s Weekly gave the book a Starred and Boxed review, which it reserves for its favorite new books, saying that “this delightful mix of strategy and humor shouldn’t be missed.” The New York Times, The Atlantic (up later today) and Parents magazine have also run excerpts of the book. And it received advance praise from Emily Oster, Adam Grant, Peggy Orenstein, Carla Naumburg, Madeline Levine, and Mark McConville.
If you’re wondering what you can do to support my book beyond buying it and recommending it to friends, here are a few ideas:
Recommend it to parenting groups.
Ask your local bookstore to stock my book and/or host an event.
Ask your local library to carry my book.
Attend my virtual launch event TONIGHT with Emily Oster!
Thanks to everyone who has supported me along the way — you know who you are, and I am so very grateful.