DisciplineParenting StylesRound Table

Round Table: Where Do You Look for Parenting Advice?

Welcome back to another edition of the Round Table! Recently, we received an inquiry about where we go for parenting advice. Specifically, there was a comment in the first RT post from thegiantpeach:

I have a question – Where do you go for solid parenting advice? Websites, articles or books you would recommend? I come from a family where the children did what the adults told them to or they were punished with the belt, shoe, wooden spoon, or whatever happened to be handy. I disagree with this method wholeheartedly and need some advice on raising confident and happy children who are well-mannered and respectful because they want to be, not because I’ve beat them into submission.

Just to put the answers in context, some people chose to answer the specific question about punishment, and others just gave a list of sources where they sought out parenting advice (other than our own group of bloggers).


Katie Anderson

Where I Go:

I loved Penelope Leach.  I had two of her books but Your Baby and Child was my favorite.  It was very practical and not preachy. Nothing annoys me more than the “advanced” children I seem to hear all about on Facebook and at school functions. Of course, I brought kids up in the 90’s when parents thought that somehow sitting a 18 month old in front of a Baby Einstein video was a good thing to do. Definitely don’t stick your kids in front of a TV all day. It’s important to have a good pediatrician and by good I don’t mean a suck up. Who cares how nice people are, anyway? Haven’t we evolved beyond that?! Make sure your doctor is available, listens, and most importantly does more than stick a Popsicle stick down your kids’ throat A good doctor looks out for development as well as physical health. And believe it or not, I’ve learned a lot about parenting from Toddlers and Tiaras. There is nothing quite like seeing a parent lying to their kid, and seeing just how easily children see through bullshit.

What I Avoid:

I try to never compare my life to anyone else’s. Competitive parenting in no fun and makes a person really tedious to be around.

My Bottom Line:

I believe that consistency is more important than perfection. I think that you owe it to your kids to make them a part of your life but not the center of it.


Kavin Senapathy

Sites and resources I stay far away from:

  • My number one site to avoid is ANYTHING with the name Dr. Sears on it, or anything promoting attachment parenting. In fact, I encourage any new parent to stay as far away from AP as possible. I won’t get into the details here, but the consensus on AP holds several tenets, including exclusive and extended breastfeeding, co-sleeping and sometimes bedsharing, near-constant baby-wearing, and less than 20 hours of childcare per week. I breastfed both of my children for quite awhile and really enjoyed it, but it’s not for everyone nor are the benefits proven to be substantial enough to endure potential associated difficulties. The sheer guilt-inducing and arguably anti-feminist notions of AP would drive many marriages, careers, and senses of autonomy to utter destruction. The benefits touted by proponents imply that without these practices, children are doomed to grow into unattached, emotionally stunted adults. Not to say that those practicing some AP methods are anti-feminist or martyrs in any way. Rather, reading about proper attachment parenting is a dangerously slippery slope of guilt, especially when you’re suffering sleep deprivation and general new parenthood anxiety.
  • I vehemently discourage Natural News for any nutritional advice. The site is notorious for skewing data and touting quackery for sensational click bait.
  • Most importantly, always evaluate a site’s credibility. Try your best to avoid lurking in forums (easier said than done.) Most of the posts in parenting forums are not from experts.

Where I do go:

  • For anything medical—Mayo Clinic’s website, sometimes Web MD, and when in doubt, I email or call my clinic.
  • For general information–I highly recommend the American Academy of Pediatrics site HealthyChildren.org for reliable parenting and development information from prenatal to young adult stages.
  • For sleep information–I am not touting Johnson’s products (in fact I think their lavender-scented bedtime products have an overwhelming and unpleasant odor) but their free customized sleep profile is an excellent tool for parents with kids from newborn to toddler age.

Lisa Lightner

Weird, but I don’t really seek parenting advice. Not for the day to day stuff. I go with my gut and so far, we’re all ok. For medical stuff, particularly as it pertains to my child with special needs, I search it on Google Scholar. If I’m on fb or twitter and I see parenting articles I evaluate the source–Natural News, roll my eyes and keep going. But most of the stuff is just for fun and harmless, yeah, I’ll read it if it interests me. I don’t do much of “read something online, then put it into practice in my home” kinda stuff, if that makes sense.

 


Deek

Where I go:

I recommend starting with a good developmental psych textbook, preferably one that focuses on infancy. Just knowing what’s going on in your baby and toddler’s head and body goes a long way towards making the best decisions in parenting them.

I swim in the shallow end of Attachment Parenting pool, often called “gentle parenting,” and it’s entirely possible to parent like this without the woo. I favor GP support groups (such as Nurshable). I find that many studies include only developmentally and physically “normal” children and are rarely useful to me on a nuts-and-bolts level, but I can parse through ideas on forums and pick what works for me.

Because I read forums, most of my go-to websites serve up science-based responses to questionable advice. They include science based medicine, Parenting Science, Quackwatch, rationalwiki, etc.

I prefer books when it comes to shaping how I parent. Dr. Spock’s Baby and Childcare and Super Baby Food were helpful when my sons were babies.  As they age, I’m drawn to books that help me reflect on my parenting rather than ones that provide step-by-step plans. When am conscious of how I parent, I make better choices for our needs. Whereas when I apply one-size-fits-all advice, it fits poorly. This month, I’m reading Unconditional Parenting, Punished by Rewards, and Literacy and the Youngest Learner.

Finally, I ask questions of our doctor and therapists. They know the science and they know my kids. It’s the perfect melding.

Sites and resources I stay far away from:

I cringe at anything even distantly connected to Ezzo. (Babywise, gfi.org) because it is thinly cloaked anti-child religious bullshit, that’s raised concerns among severalmedical groups (and evenchurches).

I roll my eyes at pretty much anything promoted by a celebrity. . .and unsupported by people educated in child rearing or development . Think Jenny McCarthy, Alicia Silverstone, etc.

Any site with an inadequate “about me” section or where the writer professes expertise that his or her education does not back is not an option.

Which goes to the other sites I stay away from: sites that deride scientists and studies because they’re sponsored by “big pharma” or “big government” as if homeopathy, non-medical “medicine” and the anti-vaccine movement aren’t also money-driven industries.


Jenny

If I have a medical question that’s not pediatrician-urgent, I usually throw the problem into google with the words “evidence-based” or “skeptical” to see what comes up. If it’s not medical or quantifiable, I usually go to one of my friends with older kids and talk it through with them. For the early years — I sleep-trained using a combination of Healthy Sleep Habits, Healthy Child and the Ferber method (going in every few minutes, and then decreasing the time in between). I find The Emotional Life of a Toddler helpful for understanding toddler brains and 1-2-3 Magic to be a great practical solution. As kids get older, I find it more difficult to find what will work for my kid. You have to think about your kids’ personalities as well as your own. Avoid projecting your own bullshit onto your kids and also be willing to learn from your mistakes.


Cerys

It sounds like what you are looking for is not so much a source for medical advice, as advice on the socio-cultural aspects of parenting. I was raised like you, and I still have a visceral fear response at the sight of a wooden spoon or the sound of a belt. I don’t think that it made me, or the people around me better human beings. The “respect” and obedience that we gave (or didn’t) was entirely structured around avoidance of pain and humiliation, not around a sensible understanding of safe or cooperative behavior. I’d say, avoid any “expert” whose advice gives you that nauseous fear feeling. Also, steer clear of anyone who says that one parenting path will absolutely lead to one developmental outcome (e.g. “Give children choices and they’ll become dithering narcissists.”) Would that human behavior were that straightforward and predictable. It’s just not. When you read advice, ask yourself if the author is measuring a “good” result the same way that you would, and if they are working with a family situation and personalities that seem relevant to your own. Weigh more than one option. And know that no matter what you do, someone will disapprove, so you have to satisfy your own needs and outlook. (Caveat: again, I am not talking about medical issues here.)

Children are human beings, and we don’t always filter the world in foreseeable ways. When my daughter was first walking and running, keeping her out of the road was an important issue. I read some advice that said to show your child roadkill, it would give them a concrete image to associate with the dangers of cars. As it happened a squirrel was squished on our street that day, so while I would not have sought out roadkill, I had one of those “why not try it” moments. Far from being horrified, my daughter was intrigued. She asked to go look at the “flat squirrel” every day for weeks. I’d been trained as a biological anthropologist, so what was supposed to be a warning on the dangers of running into the road turned into lessons on anatomy and the processes of decomposition. I suppose I could point to the fact that she was not, in fact, run over as a toddler as “proof” that the roadkill method worked, but we all know it’s much more complicated than that. Living is messy and doesn’t lend itself to controlled experimental results. There is no expert advice that will guarantee respectful, well-mannered children, but there is advice that could make you and your family miserable. Trust yourself to reject it.


Daisy

I admit I’m not one for researching a lot of parenting styles. I have a framework for the type of parent that I want to be. From there I have developed guidelines.

  1. Do not lie to your child. (Even if that means admitting that you don’t know) Eventually, they will learn that you lied and that you can’t be trusted.
  2. Don’t talk down to or belittle your child. They need to value themselves.
  3. Respect them, it’s how they learn respect.
  4. Be consistent, rules can not be changing all the time or your child finds the world unpredictable.
  5. Explain rules (as best as possible for their age) whenever possible, try to avoid “Because I said so.”
  6. Avoid rewarding bad behaviour through bribery, and never give into temper tantrums.
  7. Remember, sometimes as a parent you may need to step away. It is okay to tell your child they need to to their room while you collect/calm yourself enough to be the parent you want to be.
  8. When all else fails, it’s nap time, possibly for both of you.
  9. Remind them that they are loved and nothing will ever, ever change that.

I admit sometimes these can be harder than they sound. I do leave a little wiggle room in #4, but whenever possible I explain why. (You can play video games a little longer today because it is raining.)


Lou

I like getting little parenting advice snacks so to speak in my Facebook feed. Even if I have no specific questions in mind, these Facebook pages help me think mindfully about my day to day parenting decisions.

Positive Parenting, Toddlers and Beyond. A page managed by moms who admit that they aren’t experts, but who believe in “ forming a deep connection with your child by using positive approaches and strategies that teach the child responsibility and respect and building their self-esteem. “

AHA Parenting The Facebook home of Dr. Laura Markham and ahaparenting.com, another positive parenting advocate with a more mainstream appeal. Her website is an excellent resource.

Elevating Childcare, by Janet Lansbury, ie. Janet Julian, ie. Nancy Drew! Actor turned author, Ms. Lansbury focuses on early childcare amplifying the teachings of Magda Gerber, who coined the term “educarer” to describe a parents role of both caring for and teaching infants.


Steph

Sometimes the best source of advice and support is a person who knows you and has context for your life and situation, even if that person is someone you know only online. I have gained a close group of friends who apply a balanced approach to parenting, leaning towards gentle parenting. I go to them and my own mom when I want advice on how to handle a situation from people who know me and my family. That advice often somes with support and love – two things I can not get enough of.

When faced with a medical situation, I am that mom who often calls the doctor’s office. Even if the nurse just tells me to watch and wait, I feel better involving a health care professional early who can link me with resources quickly if the situation worsens or exceeds my capacity to provide home care. I have seen too many situations go wrong when a parent decides that it is silly or premature to call the office.

I am also a member of an online parenting community that is “woo-free.” If I want to crowd-source medical or parenting advice, I go there. I know I am not going to be told to apply essential oils or garlic.The advice is likely to be accompanied by a dose of reality and sarcasm (which I enjoy).

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Grounded Parents and our community of bloggers as sources of info and advice. If you have a specific question, you can always message me through the site and I would be happy to address it directly or blog on the topic if it’s an area of expertise or experience.

Resources I love:

I love anything by Elizabeth Pantley related to sleep, disclipline and potty training. Her website and books are awesome and helpful.

How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk – Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish

When researching the medical evidence related to a condition or fact checking advice or internet memes, I rely on:

Cochrane Reviews

Google Scholar

PubMed

Sources I avoid:

Most sites containing the words: Natural Parenting or Attachment Parenting. Basically anything on www.quackwatch.org listed as a nonrecommended source of health advice, anything from a Chiropractor (Chiro’s should not administer parenting or pediatric health advice), and essentially any person who suggests one of the above in response to a question.


Mary

I’m fairly new to parenting, so a lot of the blogs I check out have more of a focus on babies/toddlers. Back when I had time to research the endless amounts of baby stuff, I read through HelloBee a lot. There are a lot of articles on games and toys for toddlers, decoration ideas and crafts, book/toy/product reviews, recipes, and children going through Early Intervention. Some of the authors are religious, and some of them have unscientific viewpoints or advice, but I think it’s important that I don’t just read skeptic-sanitized blogs, but rather that I rely on my own reasoning abilities to parse out fact from fiction. And with regards to religion and spirituality, it is nice to read secular blogs, but I don’t want to ignore a good post just because someone adds some reference to God to it.

Also, throughout my pregnancy and even now that I have a young toddler, I receive weekly emails from BabyCenter. I enjoy reading about upcoming milestones, getting advice for a current stage that my child is in, or getting ideas for what games I can play with my daughter.

Other than that, I don’t have specific blogs that I seek out, but I am always looking for quick recipes, interesting lunchbox ideas for toddlers, arts and crafts, and toddler activities. For example, I used this idea for an indoor sensory bin recently, and even though I had to clean up a lot of beans afterwards, my daughter had a lot of fun.

Specifically with regards to punishment, I was raised in a household where my parents spanked me with a wooden spoon. Later, I asked my mom why she used a spoon, and she told me that she had read that if you use an object, like a spoon, instead of your hand, then your child learns to fear the object instead of the parent. Of course, being on the receiving end of that, I feared both, but I understand that my mom tried to raise me the best way that she could, and when I was a child, spankings were still considered an acceptable form of discipline. I do not believe in spanking children, however, and I’m going to seek out alternatives for how to deal with bad behavior once my child is at an appropriate age. I believe in “gentle parenting” philosophy, from what I’ve read, and I plan to read more on that in the future.


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Mary Brock is a scientist who works on drugs you've hopefully never heard of. She enjoys cooking to Blue Grass music, messing with her cats, and hosting the Boston Skeptics' Book Club. She was born in the South but loves living in New England (despite the lack of chocolate chip pizza). Mary does not use Twitter and don't even try to follow her, because she is always looking over her shoulder.

16 Comments

  1. July 7, 2014 at 3:43 pm —

    For medical stuff, I like my pediatrician and we have a good rapport, so I call her. And of course the AAP has good info as well as the Mayo Clinic for search out symptoms for stuff like roseola and hand,foot, & mouth disease.

    I like the Pantley books a lot. The “No Cry” series with sleep, discipline helped me a lot.

    I did find some of the Dr. Sears stuff useful – especially his Nighttime Parenting book and the Fussy Baby book. Realizing that some of my expectations were unreasonable and getting some baby calming techniques really saved my sanity. I thought something was super wrong with my baby until I read those. (The Happiest Baby on the Block by Karp didn’t really resonate or work for me, but I know a lot of people who really like him.)

    I found so much support at my local La Leche League meetings. We have an awesome group of moms I met and have been friends with for years. I found so much acceptance and support and empathy from them. For me, the in person support and mother-to-mother sharing of lots of different ideas helped me to find what worked for us (which has been different for each kid.)

    Online, I liked Kellymom and Infant Risk for breastfeeding info. And AHA parenting has some helpful stuff.
    I threw away the gifted copies of Babywise because it kind of creeped me out. I don’t think the author likes children very much. And I didn’t love the “What to Expect….” series as it seemed alarmist about a lot of stuff.

  2. July 7, 2014 at 3:44 pm —

    Oh, and the “Wonder Weeks”! Super helpful and interesting. My kid would be doing something weird, and that would make me feel better.

    • July 7, 2014 at 8:00 pm —

      I *almost* read Babywise before I had my baby, but then one of my friends told me about the author and I was diverted. Also, once I had a baby, I realized just how much scheduling was not going to work for me, because we did things like feeding on demand. I second what you said about realizing that my expectations were unreasonable, and that I should do what I felt was right and what worked versus what my planning-brain wanted to do.

      I also liked the Wonder Weeks!

      • July 8, 2014 at 1:14 pm —

        Are you telling me that there are groups recommending that you don’t feed your baby when they are hungry? Please, please tell me i am misunderstanding.

        • July 8, 2014 at 1:53 pm —

          You are not misunderstanding at all! Some authors are big into arbitrary schedules, even for babies a few weeks old.

          • July 8, 2014 at 6:18 pm

            I can not even begin to imagine how parents would think this sounds safe for their baby.

  3. July 7, 2014 at 6:39 pm —

    I really love “How to Talk So Your Kids Will Listen, and Listen so Your Kids Will Talk.”

    I also came from a family which emphasized obedience and used spanking, and “How To Talk” helped me see another way. I couldn’t really have imagined how else parenting could work, without that book.

    I also really like the “Happiest Baby on the Block” and “Happiest Toddler On the Block” books by Dr. Harvey Karp. I feel like they’re a good toddler and baby version of the same kind of advice about connecting with your kids, compromising, and staying flexible that “How To Talk” introduced me to for older kids. Also with lots of very specific advice, not just general principles.

    For child development in general, I strongly recommend the books of Drs. Linda Acredolo and Susan Goodwyn: “Baby Hearts,” “Baby Minds,” and “Baby Signs” (my kids both signed well before they could talk. My 18 month old can use about 10 words and about 30 signs.) Also “What’s Going on in There?” by Lise Eliot.

    Reading parenting books has become a “thing” for me. I’ve got reviews for a bunch more on my “Goodreads” page:
    http://www.goodreads.com/user/show/31829587-mary-messall

    As far as websites, “Love, Joy, Feminism” is written by a woman who was raised by a very large, very religious family who punished anything less than cheerful, instant obedience with spankings. She is trying to raise her kids differently, and her blog is what made me start questioning the methods my parents used, and is what started me down the path of reading a million parenting books, seeking another way:

    My Thoughts on Raising Children

    • July 7, 2014 at 7:54 pm —

      Thanks for the ideas!

      I read “Happiest Baby on the Block” although the 5 S technique never worked for me. In fact, what I found was that babywearing was the only thing that would make my daughter stop crying, when she was at that inconsolable age.

      • July 8, 2014 at 10:42 am —

        It’s the overall attitude that I really like. Do your best to meet your baby’s needs. They’re not trying to manipulate you; you won’t spoil them. But on the other hand, don’t be too hard on yourself. No parent is perfect. This stuff is hard.

        I got to a point with my poor sleepers where I felt likr “Ferberizing” was the only option to preserve everyone’s mental health, though I hated it. Both Pantley and Karp emphasize “no cry” methods, but I felt judged by Pantley, whereas I felt like Dr. Karp at least understood how desperate I felt.

        I had mixed results from the 5-S methods, but it is at least something specific one can try, which might help! Baby wearing is a good one too!

        • July 8, 2014 at 10:47 am —

          The non-judgy part of Happiest Baby was a big selling point for me too. I hate the parent-shaming that occurs with some parenting books (“if you don’t follow this to a T, you are a terrible parent,” type thing). We never ended up using all 5 of the Ses in there. . .Swaddling, shushing and gently shaking calmed the babies down and that was good enough for me. 🙂

  4. July 7, 2014 at 11:02 pm —

    My son is internationally (transracially) adopted. He has autism, sensory processing disorder and possibly ADHD (not officially diagnosed, but suggested by a few of his therapists). Not surprisingly, a lot of traditional parenting books and websites do not meet my particular information and advice needs. I have found a hugely supportive online family of people who “get it”. I am part of a FB group for parents of children adopted from Ethiopia. Even more vital to my sanity is a group of local moms (close to 200 in my city) who have children with autism, often co morbid with other disorders. This is a closed group of moms who get it 100%. We can vent, ask for advice and share the tiny, late milestones that we celebrate with our kids. There are a few parents with some “woo ideas”. I try to post science based articles about homeopathy, vaccine safety and against things like hyperbaric treatment, chelation, and bleach enemas (yes, really). No one in my group has done anything like the last three, and all are horrified that such things exist, but the first two come up occasionally. There are many sets of eyes on the internet looking for articles and studies relevant to our situations, and posting them on our board, far more than I could find on my own. Raising a child with ASD is an intensive parenting experience, and getting advice from moms who are right there in the trenches is extremely valuable to me!

    • July 8, 2014 at 10:52 am —

      I couldn’t agree more with this. . .We seem to be hurtling toward an SPD or autism diagnosis with one of my 19 month olds (he’s developmentally delayed because of some medical conditions, so more like 12-15 months). It’s good to know support is out there if that’s where we end up–the parenting groups I belong to on FB for families with children with the same medical problems have been imperfect but more helpful than guides for me. . .I just throw up my hands at so many of the prescriptive techniques offered in parenting guides because I know they would spectacularly fail with my guy.

    • July 9, 2014 at 9:21 am —

      My older son was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome when he was 5. I don’t know if it’s connected, but none of the child-rearing advice I read or got from well-meaning “experts” was worth a damn. (Nor for my other child.) FWIW, everyone in my family is “non-standard,” and my son’s personality reminds me of my Dad, one of my brothers, and an aunt. Basically, I went with my gut, with my heart, and with what works. And simply ignored all of the “bad parent” looks I got.

      The worst advice I got was advice supposedly for “handling” autistic kids, virtually all of which seemed to assume they weren’t human and had no emotions. (Not true! ASD people have _lots_ of emotions. They just don’t know how to express or handle them.)

      One thing I found with my AS son: you have to _not_ respond with your natural (emotional) response, because those “natural” responses assume you’re dealing with a neurotypical. You have to consciously figure out what is going on with him, recognizing that he isn’t neurotypical, and then figure out what will be the most effective response. Every time.

      One of my defeats was that my gut told me my kids needed structure (regular bed-times, regular meals, etc.) more than most kids, but their mother has alway actively hated structure of any kind.

  5. July 8, 2014 at 10:43 am —

    Thanks so much for answering my question! There is so much great information here. I’ve bookmarked the links I wasn’t already familiar with and ordered a few of the books from Amazon.

    I also wanted to say how much I love this website. I came over here from The Skeptical OB (the posts about MANA Stats) but I’ve stayed around and gone back and read every post. I used to be a daily Mommyish reader but they seem to be falling down a woo-filled rabbit hole lately so I’m glad I found a new place to read.

  6. July 9, 2014 at 3:48 pm —

    I’m such a scheduled OCD (true) brain, that I had to at least do “guiding” of my babies at a few weeks old. I would wake them without fail after 2-3 hours of daytime sleep for nursing and a bit of activity. That way they got lots of daytime calories, and slowly learned to sleep longer stretches at night. By the time they were 4 months old, they were ready for sleep training/scheduling. Not to say that this would work or be healthy/safe for all babies, but it’s worth a shot for parents who like predictability and adult time 🙂

  7. July 12, 2014 at 1:44 pm —

    Only one of my three kids was “neurotypical” so I definitely felt like I was blazing a trail. And because I had twins, one of whom is my typical kid, I had a much easier time dealing with the myriad of developmental issues because I had a perfect peer model and never felt like I was overreacting or that I was doing something wrong. I know this sounds nuts but I’m ever so glad that I have my special needs kids because they really do keep me grounded.

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