When I became a new parent I received a lot of advice. This was, of course, my own fault. I sought out every blog post, book, parent-friend that I could in search of answers to all my parenting questions. I suspect many of the moms in PAMP are quite like me in that respect. I also suspect that, like me, they realize that there is a LOT of conflicting advice out there: You should let your baby cry it out. No, you should never let your baby cry it out if you want a securely attached infant! You should start solids at six months. No, you should not! So what are we to do? Most diplomatic websites and books come to some nice conclusion around the lines of: “You should do whatever you think is right for you & your baby. Everybody is different, every baby is different and there’s no one right way to be a parent.” This is a nice sentiment that I largely agree with, but really, some things must matter. Some ways of parenting must be better than others, right?
I’d like to point out three things that, as far as I can see from the literature, seem to be best practices for parenting (a baby). Since I’m not writing a research paper (what I did in a previous life) I’m not going to site references. Not only does the research seem to support these three practices, but these also ring true to me. Of course, whenever you come down so firmly on an issue there will always be people who disagree. And surely, there are good parents and good children who do not follow this advice but here are the three things that I think are true for any family or infant.
One: No TV or screens of any kind before age 2
This includes educational programming. After age two the jury is out though I suspect even then minimal screen time is best. But there is ample evidence that children under the age of two do worse when exposed to TV (or computers, iPads, iPhones, etc.). In Silicon Valley this is a big deal. I know that we have tons of screens all around our house, but I make sure that they are off when our daughter is around them. I also try to turn off the screens so that *I* am not distracted from engaging fully with her.
Two: Do not use corporal punishment. EVER.
Spanking is lazy parenting and aggression begets agression. Don’t hit your kids and particularly don’t hit your babies. They don’t understand. I recently read an article that 1/3 of children under the age of 1 are spanked regularly. That makes me pretty sad. There are better, more effective ways to discipline, and one of these is positive reinforcement. I’m sure this particular item is controversial, but I am actually shocked that as a society we condone corporal punishment. We would never sit by idly while a husband hit his wife. Why do we accept that parents can hit their children?
Three: Talk to your baby a lot.
Children exposed to more language at a young age perform better on many outcome variables. The more language that our babies hear, the better they will do at school and with friends. Talk and read to your kid to expand their world.
So there you have it: Two things not to do and one thing you should do. That’s all I can see for sure, but of course, there are a lot of other things I’m trying to do as a parent. Overall I want my daughter to know that her father and I love her very much. I also want her to sleep. I haven’t found a surefire way to let her know that she’s loved or to get her to sleep in all my resources, but I’ll let you know if I find one!
I’m a new mom to a wonderful daughter. We live in Menlo Park. In a previous life I was a social psychologist and sometimes I try a research-based approach to parenting. Other times I don’t.
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