Book Review: The Paranoid Parents Guide

“I am a parent, therefore I worry.”

Or maybe it should be “I worry, therefore I am a good parent.”

Either way, we parents tend to worry a lot.  I can really attest to that because I am not a worrier.  I never have been one to fret about things much.  But then I had kids, and while maybe I’m not the champion parent worrier, I have definitely learned what it means to worry.  Because I do worry about my children, and I worry about them a lot.  I worry about what they eat (or don’t eat), I worry about school, I worry if they have good friends, I worry about their safety, I worry that I’m somehow not doing enough for them in any number of areas, I just worry.  The list could get really, really long if I actually sat down and wrote it down.

But am I really worrying about the right things?  Are you?

In Christie Barnes’ book The Paranoid Parents Guide she really peels away the layers and gets right to the heart of what we should really be worrying about as parents. And what’s more, the actions we should take to prevent our worries from becoming realities.

Now, we all know that worry is based in fear. So where is all of this parental fear coming from? Barnes says that it comes from several sources, most notably our nightly newscasts. Whenever there is a kidnapping—the kind where a perfect stranger snatches a child—it is broadcast over and over again until we feel like it is a daily occurrence, that children are getting kidnapped at alarmingly high rates and that we must protect our children from this danger at all costs. There is a reason we all know the names Kyron Horman, Elizabeth Smart, and Polly Klaas.

Barnes writes that kidnapping is the number one worry amongst parents. I admit to being worried about it and teaching my children about “stranger danger” and insisting they hold my hand or stay very near to me in public places because I am afraid someone might steal them. Yes. I worry about kidnapping.

But should I be worrying about it? Barnes says no. Even though the kidnapping statistics seem extremely large, the truth is that stereotypical kidnappings (the stranger involved ones we worry so much about) account for only 115 kidnappings a year. So it is highly unlikely that my child is going to be snatched up by a sinister stranger while I am inspecting melons in the grocery store.

So what should I be worrying about? Car accidents, for starters. Automobile accidents are the leading killer of children in all age groups, and most of these deaths could have been prevented by simply making sure our children are buckled in correctly and paying attention to car seat safety guidelines. I think maybe because we drive on a daily basis, we stop being afraid of it. Nothing usually happens, so we become just a little less vigilant about the things we really should be worrying about. Just yesterday, I saw what was most certainly a first or second grade girl sitting in the front seat of a car without any sort of booster seat. The law in my state says that children must remain in boosters until the age of 8, and I’m pretty certain that most cars have heavy warnings to not seat young children in the front due to the dangers of being killed by airbags. I’m sure her parents didn’t think it was any big deal to just let her ride in the front seat sans booster the few blocks to the school.  However, anything could happen on that short ride and it could have been prevented.

Barnes goes on to debunk many other top parental worries and help us learn how to prioritize and do something about our fears as parents. The last half of the book is spent discussing the top dangers for each age group and what we can do to prevent them from coming to pass.

Now, you may say, “I could just look all of this stuff up online whenever I’m worried about something, couldn’t I?” and yes, I suppose you could. But Barnes has sifted through statistic after statistic and report after report and has determined what is real and what is sensationalism. She has put it all into one easy reference guide that can be a go-to source just as easily as Google could, and it has more concise and reliable information. I highly recommend this book for any parent that has ever worried about raising children and all that entails. Which is all of us.

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Wow, I am the first to leave a comment? Unbelievable! My biggest worry is, I confess…my children being abducted and/or molested. My next worries include bullying and them having low self-esteem. But if you get me going, I'm sure I'd have a rip-roaring list in a few minutes. Maybe the book would be good for me….


Most definitely, I fear my kids being molested. Mostly because this happened to two of my family members and I have seen first hand how even one incident like that can greatly affect your life.


I believe my biggest worry was, when as teenagers, my children might make really poor decisions that could potentially ruin their lives. But they didn't, for that I'm grateful.


I also have very strict "stranger danger" rules. Loosing my girls is certainly at the top of my list…and I won't detail all of the reasons why. I am a marvelous worrier…but each crazy worry comes with an action plan 😉


kidnapping is high on my list! My oldest walks 3 blocks home from school (he's in second grade) and we live in a nice quiet little town…but if he's ever late my stomach is in knots. A neighbor once picked up his grandson and my son from school and then ran an errand before coming home! I was in full blown panic mode and burst into tears when I saw them coming down the street. Our neighbor felt really bad and apologized but it took awhile before I felt normal again.


I think my biggest worry is that my children might make choices that will have severe consequences. I am one of those people who doesn't want to dwell on all of the negativity in the world, but know I have to find a balance in helping my children make choices in the real world.


I think I worry most about what is going to sneak up on me. I don't worry about kidnapping too much, but more like- did I teach them enough to face the world? To protect themselves from bullies, molesters, to stand up when they need to? Or are they going to find themselves in situations where they have no clue and end up getting hurt, lost, afraid? Spiritually more than physically even.

The Atomic Mom

It's so interesting you posted this today. I just read an article and posted it on my facebook about the top five things parents do worry about and the top five things they should worry about. The author said helmets and seatbelts acutally keep kids safer than anything else. Very interesting. 🙂

Kristin, Scott, Emily and Eric

I worry about something tragic happening to my children. Car accidents mostly. Cancer, Leukemia, Pertussis….you name it. It really scares me. I feel like Marlin on Finding Nemo…i just want them to STAY HOME with me forever! But ya just can't… (sigh)


I worry about accidents like drowning, falling and breaking their necks, or getting hit by a car in a parking lot. I also worry about molestation, though not by a random stranger–probably because I think it's more common than people talk about and it would damage my kids for life. I also worry about their social well-being: making good friends and not being bullied or picked on.


I worry about their friends, or kids being mean to them at school, or that they will get molested..the list could go on and on. I just heard a scary news story last night (the stranger danger kind) and I haven't been able to stop thinking about it. So, yeah….


Holy Cow! My first comment on your blog, Lara! Are you impressed?! 🙂 I finally gave up trying to access my old google account, signed up for another e-mail, and voila! Why didn't I think of doing that sooner?!


Oh geez, I worry about anything and everything when it comes to my kids, and most likely about all the wrong things. One book that really helped me be less worried was Protecting the Gift (Gavin debecker). But I really should read this one too. It's weird too when I get all caught up in particularly my 15 year old's 15 year oldness. It's like the next day it turns out that she's happy as a clam and already forgot that I had totally ruined her life. Meanwhile I've lost an entire night's sleep to worrying!

K kid

Honestly, I don't worry that much about kidnapping. I do worry about my kids clamming up and not sharing things with me any more, getting exposed to pornography or molested, getting bullied and so forth. But I probably worry the most about things that involve my failure, such as whether they are watching too much TV, doing too few or too many extra-curricular activities, eating right, learning to work, etc., etc.


My biggest worry is that my kids will stop breathing! I know it sounds silly, but I have two with asthma and another who gets brochitis every year. Sometimes I even wake up in the middle of the night just to make sure they are breathing. And if they get sick, they sleep in my bed so I can keep track of their breathing – which turned out to be luckly one time because our son really did have something wrong with his breathing and I had to take him to the ER at 3am. Then there's getting hit by a car. That is such a worry of mine because I, my mother, my grandmother, and my great-grandmother have all been hit by cars. Most because the cars jumped curbs, mine because the girl was on her cell phone.


they will remember all the times I raise my voice, and not the times I sing, dance and play with them.

Annette Lyon

Sounds fascinating.

My worries morph as my kids grow. For example, w/ #2, it used to be what she wasn't eating. Then it was her safety (the whole kidnapping thing). Then it was whether she'd be able to make friends at a new school. Then whether she'd ever like to read (because I know literacy stats affect your life in huge ways).

Now she's in junior high. So I worry about puberty, social pressure, grades (even more than before–they're going to matter for REAL soon), and now spiritual things are high on the list.


Oh … this book was written for ME … I am just giggling to myself, the chronic worrier. I have to admit to worrying about kidnapping. But, honestly, I worry more about sexual assaults on my kids. It seems to happen to so many people, I work hard to try to keep them safe from that danger. I try to teach them about no-touch zones and that they have to say "NO" if anyone, even someone they know and trust, tries to do anything inappropriate. I check the registries often and personally know several on the list. Anyhow, maybe I've watched too much Oprah, but the fact is that it has happened to kids I know, and it breaks my heart.


My biggest worry is that one of my children will hurt/kill themselves or a sibling. There, I said it. I think the reason we don't worry so much about driving is b/c we have a sense of control over that since we are actually doing the driving–wait until your kids drive, you won't feel so blase about it. Feeling in control goes a long way towards obliterating worry.


What worries me the most is that I will miss something in how I teach my children. I worry that I will not arm them well enough to deal with the world they will face.


My worry is that they will be exposed to bad things and not know how to deal with it even though as a family we talk about all kinds of situations.


I worry that I am too hard on my kids and that by being that way they are going to think I don't love them.

Man, it's hard to stay this stuff out loud.

Braden Bell

I am so paranoid that I don't even dare speak aloud my paranoia for fear that it will somehow be more likely to happen. Generally, though, my biggest fear probably has to do with my kids making choices that will make them unhappy.


I worry about drunk drivers. I worry about morality choices.

It is tough to be so responsible for every little thing about your babies for so long, and then all of a sudden you need to let them live in the world.


Pedophiles/child molesters.

But, kidnapping is actually my #2.
#3, them getting hit by a car.

I could go on & on…i'm a worrier.


I worry about them when I'm not there to control things. Like at school, church, if they get lost from my sight.

My Kindergartener had a test before school started and she was alone with a male teacher that I didn't know for 20 minutes. I could peek in through the window but it FREAKED me out thinking she was alone with a strange man in a closed room. I could feel my heart beating out of my chest. I guess that probably comes from the news; I'm sure the probability of getting molested by a teacher is less than my brain imagines.

If only I could be with them, or watching them via SpyCam at all times. Alas.


Wow, this is turning into true confessions!! LOL I worry about a lot of things but top worries for my oldest right now (she's in 8th grade) are social pressures, bullying and exclusion, her using poor judgement in different situations, and getting hit by a car as she rides her bike home from school (less than a mile). My biggest worry for my youngest (6th) is her grades (she hates reading and doesn't like school). And I worry about what they'll remember about our family when they get older. Did we have enough fun? Make enough good memories? Or will they remember me yelling all the time??

Great review! Thanks so much for being on the tour.


There are so many things I fear in this huge world for my tiny children. My daughters in school now so even more worries there, will she get good grades, will her teachers keep her safe like I do? I'm a mess everytime she's out of my site. What will she learn on the bus will the kids spoil her santa beliefs? I could go on and on from huge fears to the tiny ones its just part of being a parent. 🙂 thanks for the chance


Oh, I NEED this book! I think I worry more than most parents. My biggest fear is SIDS. Even though my son is 2, I still worry that he could die in the night. And then there is my baby. Every time she sleeps through the night I worry that she is dead. I am a little ridiculous like that. I am sure as my kids get older my fears will change, though.


Probably more eternal things. I worry about ME doing something to them. I saw a kid once at Primary's and the dad had run him over {accidently}… I'd just die.