As a child behavioural psychologist, you’d think the thing that drives me crazy the most is all the bad behaviour that I see. But that couldn’t be further from the truth – the kids are what makes the job interesting. It’s the parenting advice from so-called experts, and often not even experts, that is the most frustrating, and not only that, the advice can actually do harm. So if it’s hard for me to stomach it, how must it be for parents.
And the advice is not in short supply either, in fact, it’s in plague proportions – every week on morning TV shows, and then on the afternoon News and current affairs shows, on radio, and not to mention Google. Type in ‘parenting advice’ and you get 235,000,000 results. (And yes, I know I’m adding to it, sorry about that, but hopefully once you’ve read it, you won’t include it in the ‘crappy parenting advice’ bucket.)
Here is just a sample of some of the advice you will hear. “You need to reconnect and then redirect your child.” “You need to get down to their level, re-frame your request positively and then negotiate with the little precious darling.” “You need to have more patience, after all, they are still just ‘little people’, unable to manage their big distressing feelings”. “You need to nurture them and show empathy, using the mirroring neurons in your pre-frontal cortex to best effect” (I’ll get back to this one, it’s a cracker). “Time-Out is damaging your child, Time In is the key” (I’ll come back to this one too…). “If your child is resisting, give them choices, and let them choose, so that they can internalise the right moral decision.” And one of the all time best; “They are their own boss, you are not the boss of them, they need to make their own choices.” I could go on for ever, but like I said, if you’ve done a bit of research, I’m sure you’ve heard it all before.
Well, enough is enough. I’m speaking out against this wave of terrible parenting advice. If it was simply another opinion or option that parents could try, it would be fine. However, more often than not, it’s being pushed as the only healthy way to raise your precious little cherub – and that to do anything else will can cause harm. In my opinion, this is misleading at best, and often unprofessional. In my opinion, this warm fuzzy do-gooder advice is doing harm, it’s not healthy and it’s not helpful. The irony is that in my practice, I continue to get busier and busier, because parents, trying to do the right thing, follow this terrible advice and end up in a huge mess.
I mentioned the “They’re their own boss” advice as possibly one of the worst of all, but to be honest, the worst piece of advice I’ve heard is this. It was from an Attachment Parenting Website, where I was researching what to do when a toddler is refusing to be strapped into a rear mounted car-seat. (Hopefully, in another article, I’ll get around to explaining why I was researching this, then it will make more sense.) But for now, according to this website, rather than subject your child to the “trauma” of not being able to remain ‘connected’ and face to face with you at all times, and thereby run the risk of damaging the attachment relationship and scarring your little cherub for ever, the advice was this. As it is still legal in the USA to mount a child car seat in the front seat next to you, the car seat should be mounted in the front passenger seat, however you must disengage the passenger side air bag before commencing your journey around the corner to the store – however, please try to remember to reengage the air bag before an adult or older child uses the passenger seat. This is apparently a far better option than strapping the little blighter in and letting them cry for a bit, or a lot, until they get use to it. Has the world gone mad, or is it just me? My advice to parents is use extreme caution when following any advice that can be linked, even slightly, with ‘attachment’ and worse, ‘attachment parenting’.
Parents deserve to be given advice that is backed by decades of scientific research and has proven the test of time. Parenting is a hard job at the best of times, we shouldn’t be making it harder by giving parents rubbish advice that is based on flimsy research and warm fussy popular opinion. Like the picture says above, say no to your kids, so they can get used to hearing it, and following it!
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