Developing Parenting Knowledge: Doing The "Right Thing" and Schools of Thought

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Re: Developing Parenting Knowledge: Doing The "Right Thing" and Schools of Thought

Postby Vay » 09 Jun 2012, 19:17

Thanks for all your input guys. Here's something someone linked to in the "parenting resources" thread which seems very helpful:

The Parenting Science News Feed

Infant sleep problems: A guide for the science-minded parent

Gentle infant sleep training: Programs for children 6 months and up
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Re: Developing Parenting Knowledge: Doing The "Right Thing" and Schools of Thought

Postby Petrichor » 11 Jun 2012, 14:37

On the question of getting a baby to sleep, I've found that babies are frustratingly individual creatures and that what works for one won't for another. So I don't believe that one single good method exists. Where babies are particularly hyper and needy, the letting-them-cry-it out method won't work. Let's not forget failing to comfort a crying baby for hours on end would been seen as evidence of neglect were the parents feckless in other ways. And yet some 'experts', especially the parents of babies who go to sleep easily, would advocate this method and imply that the babies are 'spoiled' because they need comfort to go to sleep. Hell, I need comfort to go to sleep!

Let's be clear I'm not talking about going in to briefly comfort a baby every five minutes until they eventually go to sleep after an hour, I'm talking about the people who believe that infants must conform to some standard of 'good' behaviour.

The thing is, for all the books and experts and anxiety that parents of young children go through, nearly every baby grows into a normal adult. Unless the parents are doing something to actively reinforce dysfunctional behaviour, babies won't grow up into adults who need to be rocked or cuddled to sleep, they will learn to not get frustrated and throw tantrums, they will learn to speak and interact with others normally and in short do everything that you or I can do.

There are many parenting methods out there and lots of people swear by one or other of them in particular, but what they forget is that whatever problem has apparently been alleviated by the application of a particular piece of advice, would most likely have gone away on its own anyway. Children are all different and they develop at different rates. They walk, talk, become potty trained and so on anyway, as long as they're in a normal, loving environment. Where children lag others in certain things they will almost certainly catch up in the end.

I was reading of the latest method for weaning a while ago, which advises parents to give their 6 month old babies lumps of cooked food for them to eat by hand, rather than feeding them pureed gloop from a spoon. The idea (I think) is that human babies used to learn to eat this way - which isn't actually true as far as I know - and that this helps their jaw muscles develop so they can speak better, or earlier or something like that. I thought, wonderful! At last we have a method for helping babies to learn to speak, because none of them ever learned that before.

In short, relax. Do what you have to to make your life easier and think long term.
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Re: Developing Parenting Knowledge: Doing The "Right Thing" and Schools of Thought

Postby Teddoman » 12 Jun 2012, 23:27

housecat wrote:When he had these kind of problems--frustration with a toy--he couldn't just deal with it well because he didn't know how. I taught him specifically and exactly what to do. We practiced this when he WASN'T frustrated. I talked to him about that time yesterday when he was upset and he cried and threw his toy. I told him that if it happened again he sould STOP, PUT THE TOY DOWN, TAKE HIS HANDS OFF OF IT, AND COME ASK ME FOR HELP. Then we practiced this three or for times. Then later, when we were doing something else entirely, I said, "Kitten, show me what you need to do if you get mad at your toys." And we practiced again. Later, when he was getting frustrated with a toy again, I said, "Kitten. What are you supposed to do when this happens?" That was all it took. He knew what to do.

At first, my reaction was that this is a great idea once my son is a little older to recall things. It's tough to talk to him about different time frames at the moment. I can't ask him about his time at day care because it's over. I think he still mainly exists in the present. That said, at one point he was having trouble napping or waking up early, so we started a routine of telling him what to do when he's in the bedroom: "lay down, don't talk, close your eyes, and if you wake up, just go back to sleep, mommy and daddy will come get you when it's time to wake up". And this surprisingly seems to produce decent results. So maybe he is ready for your idea after all. I would love if he could self-regulate in that situation. I read somewhere that if you keep it short and simple, kids have the ability to recall short phrases to help them remember what to do in those moments, so it sounds like an example of this same concept in action. Will definitely give this one a shot!

914 wrote:I was the best parent until i became one. Then everything got thrown in my face and i realized holy crap, parenting IS hard. Id rather be at work at a regular job than be a stay at home parent! Heck, i prefer mopping the floors and scrubbing the toilets to disciplining my toddlers.

I totally agree. At work, even annoying coworkers are rational adults. Kids are amazing, but yes, it is way harder than anything I have ever had to do work-wise.

914 wrote:They say if your first is an easy baby, dont be too smug because payback is a bitch. My second was payback times ten during infancy, but now is an awesome almost two year old.

We are getting hit with payback bigtime. Not only is #2 a terrible sleeper, but #1 is starting to have issues too!

914 wrote:We just learned to parent as we went along. There is so much info nowadays I find it too overwhelming sometimes. Attachment parenting, cio, helicopter parents, french parenting, liberals, bullying, tiger parents, therapy, paraphrasing emotions, etc. too much info is not always good nor easy.

I agree, it's quite overwhelming. Because a lot of it is commercially driven, there's a lot of noise out there. And the fact is that pediatrics, and parenting, are fairly immaturely understood sciences or arts relative to other fields of knowledge. If you've read any books that talk about the state of parenting science even 30-40 years ago, you'll hear some pretty horrible stories which makes you realize the experts are only a few feet in front of the parents, even today.

Petrichor wrote:The thing is, for all the books and experts and anxiety that parents of young children go through, nearly every baby grows into a normal adult. Unless the parents are doing something to actively reinforce dysfunctional behaviour, babies won't grow up into adults who need to be rocked or cuddled to sleep, they will learn to not get frustrated and throw tantrums, they will learn to speak and interact with others normally and in short do everything that you or I can do.

There are many parenting methods out there and lots of people swear by one or other of them in particular, but what they forget is that whatever problem has apparently been alleviated by the application of a particular piece of advice, would most likely have gone away on its own anyway.

What you said does a good job of distilling the anxiety and frustration that all these parenting methods create for young parents, particularly first time parents. So parents may overestimate the impact of what happens at the infant stage to what will really affect the child over the course of his life.

As to the main thrust of your point that kids will develop fine no matter what you do in the early phase, I guess it comes down to how much leeway you give parents before they are deemed to be "doing something to actively reinforce dysfunctional behaviour". Because I'm sure most of these schools of thought would say that not following their method is basically "actively reinforce dysfunctional behaviour". For example, Weissbluth would probably say not following sleep cues and helping your child onto a sleep schedule using a consistent soothing method is "actively reinforc[ing] dysfunctional behaviour" that may result in a teen or adult who has bad sleep patterns.

But anyway, I guess this also comes back to one of my original points which is that parenting is a one off experiment and is not double blind, placebo controlled, and randomized. So as you point out Petrichor, on the one hand it's easy to make incorrect causal inferences and assume the method is what worked rather than the baby simply developing into a different phase or it being due to the baby's particular propensity to fit a certain method. And likewise, it's also very difficult to ascertain if something specific you are doing is actually causing your child to develop along a different path than most kids. There's simply no way to know.

In some ways, parenting is much more challenging than the many questions in this world which are easily reducible to double blind, placebo controlled, randomized studies. A lot of parenting, by the nature of the beast, is well-intentioned trial-and-error guesswork.
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Re: Developing Parenting Knowledge: Doing The "Right Thing" and Schools of Thought

Postby Jive Turkey » 13 Jun 2012, 00:26

Our boy slept in the same bed with us from birth to about age 3. At age 5, he still wakes up in the middle of the night and slips into our bed 3 or 4 times a week. We're not bothered by it, and he certainly doesn't seem to be developing any of the "problems" that children who sleep with their parents supposedly develop. But mention that our kid sleeps with us to people back in the US and jaws drop to the floor in disbelief.

I have an Australian colleague whose sons slept with her and her husband until they were ten. One has a PhD and teaches in a US university. The other is in some sort of special forces unit, and he has done a couple of tours in Afghanistan. I'm pretty sure that sleeping with mommy and daddy didn't mess him up.
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Re: Developing Parenting Knowledge: Doing The "Right Thing" and Schools of Thought

Postby Petrichor » 13 Jun 2012, 05:15

Teddoman wrote:
As to the main thrust of your point that kids will develop fine no matter what you do in the early phase, I guess it comes down to how much leeway you give parents before they are deemed to be "doing something to actively reinforce dysfunctional behaviour". Because I'm sure most of these schools of thought would say that not following their method is basically "actively reinforce dysfunctional behaviour". For example, Weissbluth would probably say not following sleep cues and helping your child onto a sleep schedule using a consistent soothing method is "actively reinforc[ing] dysfunctional behaviour" that may result in a teen or adult who has bad sleep patterns.


Yes, Weissbluth probably would say that. He/she has a lot of books to sell. But the question you have to ask yourself is, are parents the world over using Weissbluth's methods? Then the next question is, do adults the world over have bad sleep patterns? You could also ask yourself, what's a bad sleep pattern anyway? Recently evidence has come to light that implies that the 'natural' pattern for human sleep is to sleep for four hours, wake for an hour, then sleep for another four hours, and that it is only the invention of cheap artificial light that allows us to stay up in the evenings.

When I say 'actively reinforce dysfinctional behaviour' I mean it in an extreme sense, not within the normal range of parental reactions to children's behaviour.

Teddoman wrote:But anyway, I guess this also comes back to one of my original points which is that parenting is a one off experiment and is not double blind, placebo controlled, and randomized. So as you point out Petrichor, on the one hand it's easy to make incorrect causal inferences and assume the method is what worked rather than the baby simply developing into a different phase or it being due to the baby's particular propensity to fit a certain method. And likewise, it's also very difficult to ascertain if something specific you are doing is actually causing your child to develop along a different path than most kids. There's simply no way to know.

In some ways, parenting is much more challenging than the many questions in this world which are easily reducible to double blind, placebo controlled, randomized studies. A lot of parenting, by the nature of the beast, is well-intentioned trial-and-error guesswork.


I think as long as you're a loving parent your child is very unlikely to develop along a different path to most kids. People discount the influence of genetics. You're finding out now how different siblings can be from one another despite the fact that they are raised much the same. Even something as affecting and terrible as child abuse doesn't cause a significant proportion of those children to turn into abusive parents. It's very unlikely that parental decisions over such small things as whether a child should cosleep or not are going to have a large influence long term.
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Re: Developing Parenting Knowledge: Doing The "Right Thing" and Schools of Thought

Postby Teddoman » 13 Jun 2012, 07:47

Jive Turkey wrote:Our boy slept in the same bed with us from birth to about age 3. At age 5, he still wakes up in the middle of the night and slips into our bed 3 or 4 times a week. We're not bothered by it, and he certainly doesn't seem to be developing any of the "problems" that children who sleep with their parents supposedly develop. But mention that our kid sleeps with us to people back in the US and jaws drop to the floor in disbelief.

I have an Australian colleague whose sons slept with her and her husband until they were ten. One has a PhD and teaches in a US university. The other is in some sort of special forces unit, and he has done a couple of tours in Afghanistan. I'm pretty sure that sleeping with mommy and daddy didn't mess him up.

Welcome to Housecat and Jive Turkey, our resident co-sleeping families.

JT maybe you know more people going the separate sleeping route. In my neighborhood, there are a lot of attachment parents (who often co-sleep). It's actually tough to bring my son to the occassional playdate, even though he's already 2, because many of the moms are still breast feeding, and I seem to missed the forumosa thread on how a father is supposed to behave when multiple mommies whip out the boob during playdates. I'm all good with that, don't get me wrong, but I waver between being afraid they'll think I'm a lech if I look to being afraid they'll think I disapprove if I don't look. :doh: Sometimes it's just easier not to show up.

Petrichor wrote:
Teddoman wrote:
As to the main thrust of your point that kids will develop fine no matter what you do in the early phase, I guess it comes down to how much leeway you give parents before they are deemed to be "doing something to actively reinforce dysfunctional behaviour". Because I'm sure most of these schools of thought would say that not following their method is basically "actively reinforce dysfunctional behaviour". For example, Weissbluth would probably say not following sleep cues and helping your child onto a sleep schedule using a consistent soothing method is "actively reinforc[ing] dysfunctional behaviour" that may result in a teen or adult who has bad sleep patterns.


Yes, Weissbluth probably would say that. He/she has a lot of books to sell. But the question you have to ask yourself is, are parents the world over using Weissbluth's methods? Then the next question is, do adults the world over have bad sleep patterns? You could also ask yourself, what's a bad sleep pattern anyway? Recently evidence has come to light that implies that the 'natural' pattern for human sleep is to sleep for four hours, wake for an hour, then sleep for another four hours, and that it is only the invention of cheap artificial light that allows us to stay up in the evenings.

When I say 'actively reinforce dysfinctional behaviour' I mean it in an extreme sense, not within the normal range of parental reactions to children's behaviour.

Well, all I can say is now I can add the Petrichor school of thought to my list of plausible theories. Your concept sounds plausible, just like Weissbluth sounds plausible ten minutes after I've read him, just like attachment theory sounds plausible just after I've read attachment theory. Honestly, I don't have the faintest clue who to believe. :)

Petrichor wrote:I think as long as you're a loving parent your child is very unlikely to develop along a different path to most kids. People discount the influence of genetics. You're finding out now how different siblings can be from one another despite the fact that they are raised much the same. Even something affecting and terrible as child abuse doesn't cause a significant proportion of those children into abusive parents. It's very unlikely that parental decisions over such small things as whether a child should cosleep or not are going to have a large influence long term.

I was just reading the wikipedia entry on attachment theory and came across the following interesting snippet: "Parents' perceptions of their own childhood attachments were found to predict their children's [attachment] classifications 75% of the time." So an attachment theory person would say it actually does matter what you do, even if it doesn't rise to the level of child abuse.

It seems reasonable on some level that many kids with not so good parents still turn out fine, but it also seems reasonable that many people have baggage that reflects their own upbringing. By the time I figure out who is worth believing, I'll probably be ready to write my own book and cash in on my own theory. :D
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Re: Developing Parenting Knowledge: Doing The "Right Thing" and Schools of Thought

Postby Petrichor » 13 Jun 2012, 10:40

Teddoman wrote:I was just reading the wikipedia entry on attachment theory and came across the following interesting snippet: "Parents' perceptions of their own childhood attachments were found to predict their children's [attachment] classifications 75% of the time." So an attachment theory person would say it actually does matter what you do, even if it doesn't rise to the level of child abuse.


Yeah, but parenting research is necessarily very unscientific. You can't do proper experiments on children (anymore). I tend to take all that stuff with a pinch of salt these days.

Teddoman wrote:It seems reasonable on some level that many kids with not so good parents still turn out fine, but it also seems reasonable that many people have baggage that reflects their own upbringing. By the time I figure out who is worth believing, I'll probably be ready to write my own book and cash in on my own theory. :D


I'll look forward to reading it! :)

I'd go further with the statement about people with not so good parents turning out fine, and say that many people with not so good parents turn out to be damn fine parents themselves, having learned from the mistakes they suffered. You're right, a lot of people have personality problems, but it's just a current trend to blame it on your upbringing. As the saying goes, first world problems. I'm not saying that outright abuse doesn't leave its mark. Of course it does. But who you are is a series of choices. If you're going to teach your kids one thing, let that be it. Sleeping alone or with parents? Not so important.
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Re: Developing Parenting Knowledge: Doing The "Right Thing" and Schools of Thought

Postby housecat » 13 Jun 2012, 22:11

Teddoman wrote:At first, my reaction was that this is a great idea once my son is a little older to recall things. It's tough to talk to him about different time frames at the moment. I can't ask him about his time at day care because it's over. I think he still mainly exists in the present. That said, at one point he was having trouble napping or waking up early, so we started a routine of telling him what to do when he's in the bedroom: "lay down, don't talk, close your eyes, and if you wake up, just go back to sleep, mommy and daddy will come get you when it's time to wake up". And this surprisingly seems to produce decent results. So maybe he is ready for your idea after all. I would love if he could self-regulate in that situation. I read somewhere that if you keep it short and simple, kids have the ability to recall short phrases to help them remember what to do in those moments, so it sounds like an example of this same concept in action. Will definitely give this one a shot!


It takes practice, and it takes patience. It's active parenting. But IMO it's much better to ask you son a simple, pointed question, then remind him of the answer, than to yell at him, or to become stressed or irritated. If you ask him, "Son, what are you supposed to do when you're mad at your toys," and he can't remember the answer, or he's too upset to think about it, you can remind him. "You need to stop, put the toy down--yes, just put it down there on the floor/table/whatever, take your hands off of it, good, now ask daddy to help you." You've taken his focus off of the frustration he's feeling about not being able to do something/make sometihng work, and given him a focus on some instructions that he CAN do immediatly. You're also offering him YOUR undivided attention--the tihng he cherrishes most in the world! You can say all this in a very calm voice, with a calm, confident tone of voice. You son will quickly begin to respond in an equally calm way when he sees that you are there, not angry or upset, and willing to help. Remember to practice when he's not upset, but can still rember a time when he was. Good luck!
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Re: Developing Parenting Knowledge: Doing The "Right Thing" and Schools of Thought

Postby blliao » 18 Jun 2012, 12:07

Vay, I'm also a big believer in the "fourth trimester." After that, my advice is to listen to your parenting instincts and go with what feels right for you, and what works in the moment for you and your family without worrying about what others (and that includes the grandparents) think or what the future may/may not bring.

Personally, the sleep parenting book that I like the most is "Sleepless in America" by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka, which goes into some of the scientific background of sleep and then offers suggestions based on your child's temperament in a non-judgemental manner. An interesting blog with info on sleep and other parenting issues is: http://moxie.blogs.com/askmoxie/2005/12 ... dirty.html She writes about how CIO worked very well for her first-born while her second child would cry and scream for hours if they tried that method. Every child is different, and when they're developmentally ready to do something, they'll do it. I think Western parents tend to stress about sleep (sleeping through the night, sleeping on their own, etc.) but at the same time, doesn't expect their infant to go to the bathroom and relieve themselves in a toilet and feed themselves with a knife and fork. Everything will come, eventually.
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