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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
- Don’t talk down to or belittle your child. They need to value themselves.
- Respect them, it’s how they learn respect.
- Be consistent, rules can not be changing all the time or your child finds the world unpredictable.
- Explain rules (as best as possible for their age) whenever possible, try to avoid “Because I said so.”
- Avoid rewarding bad behaviour through bribery, and never give into temper tantrums.
- 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.
- When all else fails, it’s nap time, possibly for both of you.
- 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.)
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. “
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.
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:
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.
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.