What was the first thing my partner and I did after finding out I was pregnant? Well, we hugged. And then immediately zipped over to Barnes and Noble, where we sat in a section of the store we didn’t know existed: “Parenting and Children.”
We stayed there for more than an hour, thumbing through books, looking at pictures and searching for information about how to be pregnant. That wasn’t our last trip to the bookstore in the name of getting all things birth, baby and kid right. Eventually, we added Dr. Google to the mix.
Sometimes the books were helpful, sometimes they were just a pain. Eventually, we each found the way we were most comfortable as parents and now we just Google the more advanced parenting topics like “lice” and “Rice Krispy Treats.”
In other words, we went with our guts, which is what Ada Calhoun, a founding editor here at Babble, says we parents should be doing in her excellent, fun-to-read new book, Instinctive Parenting: Trusting Ourselves to Raise Good Kids. Calhoun argues that with all the conflicting “expert” advice (Cry it out! No, co-sleep!), we parents are just driving ourselves nuts. As long as you love your kids, whatever you think is best probably is.
Whew. That’s a relief, right?
Well, even the non-advice parenting advice is met with contradictions. NurtureShock co-author Po Bronson (read his Babble interview here) argues that some of our instincts may not be the best way to raise kids. Sometimes, the experts really do know better than mom. The two authors were on the NPR show Tell Me More yesterday.
Bronson argued that, sure, parents should listen to their instincts, which tell us to protect our kids. Problem is, those instincts aren’t telling us how to protect our kids. And that’s where the experts come in.
What about conflicting expert advice? He argues there really isn’t any. Sure, there are fads, which we can ignore. But real scientific studies on what’s best have been reproduced again and again by other scientists.
So maybe your gut tells you praising your child will make them better students/dancers/givers. But the studies show, in the long run, praising wrecks motivation.
But here’s what needs to also be said: some experts are, indeed, experts. Others? Well, they’re kind of self-appointed gurus who have widened the scope of their expertise to include personal opinion. So many sleep experts (and pediatricians and mothers-in-law and so on) are guilty of espousing a philosophy rather than guiding others in proven ways — a pet peeve of mine when reading about baby sleep.
Me? I like my gut mixed in with the real science. That thing with the praise? I’ve known about those studies for a long time. So I try to hold back. But sometimes the dirty shirt actually gets inside the hamper and before I can think about how destructive I’m being I blurt out, “good job!”
If that makes me a bad parent, well …
What about you? Gut or science? Tradition or rebellion? How do you figure out what’s best for your kids?