Parenting advice

Lots of parents tell me that they get confused with all of the parenting advice they receive. It’s a fair statement. From the moment you announce that you are having a baby, everyone has advice for you.

The tricky part about that advice is that it is based on the givers’ own experiences of being parented and having their own kids, or something they read in a magazine once, or something that someone told them.

I tell parents that the only advice I consider is that from people who have a PhD in child psychology or mental health or neurobiology.

Nothing less.

That’s because people who have trained for that long and that hard to gain a PhD only talk about the research. They talk about the studies done over long periods of time with many people. They talk about leading edge research in brain development. They have done their own research, which is a massive undertaking, and something to be completely respected. They don’t talk about how a friend of theirs had a son who…

If you think about it, you would get someone qualified to advise you on your house extension, your car maintenance, or plumbing problems. Why don’t we do the same for the care of our kids? Just because I’m the daughter of an electrician, it doesn’t mean I know how to rewire a house.

As a parent I also listen to my own intuition and what feels right for me. I choose care, nurture, guidance and education over being harsh and punitive any day. My eldest son was a very fractious baby and slept very poorly. Everyone (even nurses) told me  that he was being manipulative, that I should do controlled crying, that I should just let him cry and not attend to his needs. But intuitively that sounded wrong to me, babies aren’t manipulative, they are completely dependent upon their parents to help organise their world, so I completely ignored the advice. A year later when I started my Masters degree I learnt that letting babies cry in distress can cause changes to the brain, and from an attachment theory perspective my attending to his needs was exactly what I should have been doing. The regret I would have suffered if I had not followed my intuition.

And when you read the articles and books written by people with a PhD you find that pretty much they all say they same thing. There is a lot of consistency out there in the upper echelons of parenting advice.

So who do I go to for advice?

Dr Laura Markham from Aha! Parenting

Dr Darci L. Walker from Core Parenting

Dr Louise Porter author of the book “Children are people too”

Dr Justin Coulson from Ask Dr Justin

And if you are interested in the science of parenting, the facts based on the research rather than folk lore, there is a great website called Parenting Science written by Dr Gwen Dewar.

There are many theorists and researchers who inform my practice working with families and children but for parenting advice the above sources are it for me.  I do enjoy Janet Lansbury’s kind and gentle approach to child rearing on her website Elevating Childcare. Janet does not have a PhD but she trained under Dr Magda Gerber, and is recognised as an authority on Dr Gerber’s work.

Sure I read parenting blogs, particularly those that talk about their experiences of parenting in heartfelt ways but I am rarely influenced by them and I would never seek advice from them.

All of the parenting groups that I facilitate are based on over forty years of research. Almost every parent who comes to the Triple P groups that I facilitate talks about his or her feelings of isolation and judgement as a parent. They feel judged by strangers and sometimes make decisions they are not happy about to avoid embarassment. They also feel criticised by the people closest to them – the ones who are supposed to be providing encouragement and support – their family and friends. When parents go to groups like Triple P or Circle of Security they gain confidence in who they are as parents and in their skills.

Lisa Nichols who is a brilliant communicator and who created the Motivating The Teen Spirit organisation in the USA which is changing the lives of teens and their parents, says…

“To stop people from judging you, you need to reserve all judgement of yourself.” She says that when people start judging her, she tells them to back-off as she is busy enough judging herself for her “looks, mocha skin, full lips, round hips, kinky hair, where I was raised, lack of funds we had, everything”.

She says   “Stop beating yourself up!”

“If you stop judging yourself, you will model how you want to be treated.”

Ms Nichols recommends getting as much information as you can about parenting from high quality sources because “when you know better, you do better“.

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Narelle Smith

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