Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Silly Old Wives Tales and New-Fangled Nonsense

There seems to be to be a great divide among moms.  Yes, we all know about the "mommy wars" that divide breast-feeding and formula-feeding moms, attachment parenting and Ferber method moms, and even helicopter and "free-range" moms.  But, I really think all these mommy wars really can be broken down into a more simplistic paradigm: old-school thinking versus new-school thinking.  Some mommies think the old, tried and true methods are the best, while others cling to every new study that hits their favorite parenting magazine. 

Quite frankly, I'm sick of them both.  I have to hold my tongue every time I'm offered a silly old wives tale to solve my baby's newest problem.  Usually, these folks don't handle rejection of their ideas easily.  They fall back on, "Well, it worked for my kids.  And,they are all just fine.  Humph."  Really, I know your kids.  They aren't just fine.

I'm also exhausted by all the new-fangled nonsense out there, bombarding new parents with crazy promises and expectations.  "Do it just this way or with this gadget," they vow, "and your child will be the smartest, fastest, most emotionally intelligent baby in his infant class."  Gag me with a rattle.  I know your kids too.  They are all stressed out.

New moms, you've probably heard them all.  Everyone has some brilliant advice on how you should take care of your baby.  They don't even need to know your baby to know exactly how to solve your every parenting problem.  Please, when you hear some advice that sounds fishy, find out what pediatricians and research would suggest.  Let me debunk some common myths.

Silly Old Wives Tales
  • "Babies should be put to sleep on their stomachs.  It really won't hurt them."  Since the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) began suggesting that babies be placed to sleep on their backs in the early 1990's, sudden infant death has markedly decreased.  Maybe some babies would indeed sleep better on their tummy, but it's just not as safe.  Don't risk it.
  • "Oh, your baby won't sleep through the night?  Put some cereal in their bottle!  They just need a full tummy!" Out of complete desperation, I tried this one.  It didn't work.  I should've listened to the research (and my instincts).  Both say that this is wishful thinking.  Babies wake up for a variety of reasons, and cereal isn't a magic cure.
  • " I gave my baby solid foods and whole milk when they were two months old.  I think your baby is hungry and needs some steak."  Yes, maybe you were given cow's milk and crackers in the hospital, but we now know better.  Many babies tummies are not ready for solid foods until they are 1/2 a year old.  The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends your baby is holding his head up, showing interest in solid food, able to move food from a spoon down his throat, and have doubled their birth weight before trying that first solid food.
  • "Your baby needs a walker and some special walking shoes to learn to walk.  It's very important."  Neither of these things have been shown to accelerate walking ability and, in fact, research is now showing that they contribute to delays in walking. Plus, you'd better be ready to supervise that baby in his/her walker, lest s/he fall down a flight of stairs.
New-Fangled Nonsense
  • "You just gotta get Bubba some of those educational DVD's.  He'll be reading before he's potty trained!"  Don't waste your money.  After monitoring over 800 children over three years, Harvard Medical School researchers found NO educational benefits from these silly programs. In fact, they can actually contribute to language delays!  Babies learn language best from live models, i.e. mommy and daddy talking to them.
  • "Don't you dare give that baby immunizations.  He'll end up with Autism or something else horrible."  Immunizations are good.  They keep your baby from getting measles, mumps, polio and a bunch of other yucky illnesses you are too young to know about.  There are absolutely NO links between immunizations and Autism, or anything else horrible.  Only good things.  Like healthiness.
  • "Be sure to tell Bertha everyday how smart and talented she is.  It is important for her self-esteem!" Ah, yes.  Self-esteem.  Somewhere along the line we began to believe that without constant praise and accolades, our children would not develop that oh-so-important quality of holding themselves in high esteem.  And, without self-esteem, they are sure to live a lifetime of depression and failure.  Well, new research is showing quite the opposite.  Carol Dweck, in her book "Mindset" uncovers a large body of new research showing that children who receive too much  praise of their abilities begin to wither in the sight of failure (and failure is inevitable, right?)  Children who always hear how smart they are, for example, begin to believe that abilities are fixed traits, and if they fail, then they must not be "smart" after all.  That makes failure terrifying.  But, on the other hand, if you encourage a "growth mindset" in your children by praising effort instead of ability, they will thrive when faced with a challenge, perservere when given a difficult task, and even welcome failure.  So, instead of telling Bertha how smart she is, maybe try something like this, "Bertha, I noticed how you worked on that math problem really hard and tried three different solutions before you found the correct answer.  That is awesome!"  Encourage your child to fail today.  For their own good.
What popular new ideas or old-school fables drive you crazy?  Let Dr. Momsie know either in the comments below or on my Facebook or Twitter pages!

1 comment:

  1. The self-esteem myth is the one that really frustrates me, because so many people by into it. In reality, healthy self-esteem comes from learning and doing well, and actually accomplishing things. You really can't "give" a child self-esteem first, and then they'll start accomplishing and just doesn't work that way!


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