BOOKS: Dad survival manuals

“Well,” sighed Every Parent Ever looking at their child, “it’s not as if they come with a manual is it?” Of course, that’s not quite the case, bookshops heave with books seeking to poke parents in the right direction, here are two recent examples...


Stuff Every Dad Should Know by Brett Cohen (Quirk)

Any soon-to-be father looking at Brett Cohen’s pocket-size, 150 page book might be dancing in relieved circles until they notice it doesn’t promise to cover everything. It’s a light selection of pointers, everything from changing a nappy (or diaper, the author’s American) to broaching the subject of masturbation (fear not, the author doesn’t suggest these two happen concurrently). 

Working its way from Baby Stuff to Teen Stuff it’s a predictably scattershot affair, and is ultimately hamstrung by its need to be brief and simple. “How do we keep the family happy during long car journeys, Brett?” we might ask. On page 100 he tells us, it involves games, music and putting on a DVD. “Thanks Brett, we’d thought of those, any other tips?” “Erm… I have a recipe for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches?” 

Luckily, there are a few valid, instructive ideas (such as how to hit a fair balance of attention between siblings) that go some way towards salvaging what could, otherwise have been a disposable read. Ultimately though, it is what it is, an extremely slender book on an impossibly complex subject. 

(PS The page of “Five Great Jokes That Will Make Your Child Giggle” must be avoided. “Q: Why was the baby ant confused? A: Because all of its uncles were ants!”… Anyone telling that joke to their kid needs to be reported to Social Services).


What Every Parent Needs to Know by Toby Young and Miranda Thomas (Viking)

Brevity is certainly not a problem shared by this book. Seeking to tutor parents in the way of the UK’s new primary school curriculum, Young and Thomas guide us through the various subjects covered in years one to five. They give the reader a grounding in the subject, recommend useful homework discussions, list research resources and suggest additional games and exercises to help your child’s understanding. They also give advice on how to process school reports (how many ways can “must try harder” be interpreted? Perhaps that was just me…)

It’s tiring just reading it.

Unquestionably well-researched, thought out and with a clear and helpful aim, What Every Parent Needs to Know may well be What Every Parent Needs to Buy if they want to monitor and help their child’s education. If your child won’t play along, threaten to drop the book on their toes, it’s an understandably stout affair.*

* This is a joke. Dropping books on children’s toes isn’t nice. Still, if you must do it then go for the Brett Cohen volume, it won’t hurt and may pass a minute or two on a long car journey.



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