{Review}: Mamaleh Knows Best by Marjorie Ingalls

Quick Review: a funny book on jewish parenting that encapsulates the values of jewish culture for anyone.

I’ll admit, I mostly wanted to read this book because I’m a Sassy fangirl and Marjorie Ingalls was a Sassy writer.  Jane Pratt was ‘aight but Marjorie was my girl. Then, she grew up and I grew up and I started seeing her name in Tablet, an online Jewish magazine. And I was like, oh my girl is in the TRIBE. Cool.

I read that Tiger mom book, and I read ABOUT that French parenting book but neither resonated with me. I barely read parenting books anyway, and I’m not interested in anything that tells me I’m doing it wrong and I could be doing it better. Nobody has time for that. Mamaleh Knows Best: What Jewish Mothers Do to Raise Successful, Creative, Empathetic, Independent Children seemed more my speed than those other books, and I was curious whether it would jibe with my own upper middle class, conservative Jewish upbringing.

Let’s just get one thing out of the way first: Ingall’s insistence on the phrase “us Jews,” “we Jews,” “Jews are this,” and her willingness to confirm some stereotypes about Jews made me squirm. I guess she is using it as shorthand for Jewish culture and values, but that’s sloppy and dangerous, especially in this age of heightened anti-semitism. A “positive” stereotype is still a stereotype.

I’m  here to tell you that not all Jews are rich, educated, nerdy, nebbishy, neurotic or whatever else you think Jews are. 

Okay, let’s move on.

jewish parenting I will say this: Jewish culture does place a high premium on education, on lovingkindness, on philanthropy,  on humor and on getting up and over on adversity. How can we not? Through history, Jews as a group have been persecuted, exiled, killed en masse and scapegoated. How else would Jews and Jewish culture have survived?

These defining characteristics of our culture form the basis for Jewish parenting, and Ingalls proposes that this style of parenting works well for everyone.  My father is fond of saying that our job is to raise not children, but future adults. Yes, we want our children to grow up to be productive, happy, functional members of society. That starts with instilling a sense  of independence and responsibility from a young age, treating children with respect and assuming their intelligence.

True to type, Ingalls coaches us on Jewish parenting in a tone full of humor and self-deprecation, with stories about her own children that will have readers alternately chuckling and groaning.  And if you were raised Jewish, you might nod your head in recognition and agreement.   Ingalls’ parenting advice is supported by words of wisdom from the Torah and the oral history of the Jews.

All in all, this was a parenting book that made sense to me, and I would recommend it to anyone trying to figure out how to raise kids to be adults they can be proud of.

{I received a copy of this book for review purposes from Blogging for Books. This post contains affiliate links.}