Sources of parenting info are important
How do you make your decisions about parenting? By listening to the opinions of others? Following your instincts? Reading about the art and science of parenting?
All of these can be good ways, provided you use both your mind and your heart to evaluate what you hear and make your own decisions. This means you don’t follow advice that doesn’t feel right to you, that isn’t supported by good science or doesn’t stand up to critical analysis.
For decades, we have listened to self-proclaimed parenting experts who have told us that as long as we control our children’s behavior, we’re doing a good job. Columnist John Rosemond, for example, routinely tells parents to keep punishing undesirable behavior till it stops, completely dismissing the emotions, needs and motivations that underlie the behavior. Only in extremely rare cases, such as when punishment doesn’t “extinguish” the behavior, does he recommend therapy. He also believes “the ends justify the means,” recommending in many situations that parents lie to their children.
In one situation, a young boy who did not have anything physically wrong with him, according to his doctor, would scratch his arms till they bled and later pick off the scabs and show his bleeding arms to his mother. Mr. Rosemond told the mother to tell her son two lies: that a fictitious doctor had said this kind of scratching was caused by not getting enough sleep, and that the boy should be sent to his darkened bedroom right after dinner every night for two weeks and for an hour during the day any time he scratched his arms.
Both Rosemond and the mother were delighted when this approach resulted in the boy discontinuing the scratching behavior. They did not care in the least that they had learned NOTHING about what caused this abnormal behavior, nor did they consider whatever was disturbing the boy had now been driven underground, where it would probably fester and finally erupt in even more destructive ways.
So whatever drove the scratching was not discovered or resolved, but the boy probably learned to hate or at least mistrust and resent doctors because he knew he wasn’t tired or ready to sleep after dinner and most likely had a miserable time waiting to get sleepy. The way the mother dealt with the situation did nothing to improve their relationship, and when the boy finds out his mother lied to him about “the doctor,” his ability to trust will be damaged, especially his ability to trust and respect HER. Plus he would’ve learned to hate bedtime and that it’s OK to take the easy way out and lie if you are bothered by someone else’s behavior.
I don’t disagree with everything Mr. Rosemond says, but I strongly disagree with much of it. As another example, in a recent column he held up as role models teachers who humiliate their students or hit them with a yardstick to correct posture or the position of one’s hands while typing.
Parenting is the most important and challenging job in the world, yet we do nothing to prepare our citizens for it. Inexplicably, parents are expected to “just know” what to do. While some learning must necessarily be acquired “on the job,” much knowledge and many skills can be gained before having children. Preparation and ongoing learning are needed to raise a child to become a caring, confident, competent, non-addicted, non-violent, moral and responsible adult.
I recommend the organization “Parenting for a Caring World” as a good, research-based source of information and support for parents. Its website, www.ListenToYourBaby.com, offers relevant research findings from neuroscience, psychology, anthropology and other fields. Parenting questions about infants and young children are welcome on its Facebook page.
Parenting for a Caring World also reviews parenting books and websites and offers sessions with a parenting consultant who has a master’s degree in parenting education, holistic human development and counseling. It also sells T-shirts with an image of a mother comforting her baby and the slogan, “All Babies, Always Comforted.”
Full disclosure: I am the founder and director of Parenting for a Caring World. I am a dedicated and experienced parenting consultant and child advocate. I welcome your interest, questions, concerns and feedback.
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