Rated PG

Standard

20130405-134507.jpgAt this point in our history, “Plank Family Movie Night” is still cool. This includes all 5 immediate family members on the living room floor, on quilts, with multiple pillows, possibly under a tent constructed of upside-down furniture and yes, more quilts, Chinese food, popcorn and people’s soft-drink-of-choice.

Last weekend’s movie night involved the hilarious showing of “Parental Guidance.”. In this flick, grandparents Artie and Diane come into town to care for their grand kids for 1 week while the type-A helicopter parents are out of town. The LOL moments arise quickly out of this tension between Artie & Diane’s old-school parenting style contrasted with the ridiculous hypersensitivity of mom and dad.

I might slip up & send them into counseling for eternity!

But as over-the-top as the parents were, I have to say I saw a little of myself in them. Loving parents DO want the best for their kids.  We are constantly thinking about their development, their future and who they are becoming. BUT we do, at times, have crazy thoughts that “I slip up may send them into counseling for eternity.” The producers of Parental Guidance, I suspect, know this; which is why the message of this narrative to parents is a relieving one: Just Breathe!

Soon after watching this, I received a copy of Dr. Greg Moffatt’s monthly column, which spells out even more reasons why parents should relax. With his permission, I want to share this with others. You can read more helpful posts like this at http://www.gregmoffatt.com.

Six Myths of Modern Parenting
Gregory K. Moffatt, Ph.D. March 2013

I was with a friend in a baby store the other day. Baby superstores have an incredible racket. Marketers have effectively conditioned parents – especially new parents – to believe that they need all sorts of odds and ends that humans have lived without for centuries.

There have been “experts” in parenting for over a century. John Watson instructed parents in the 1920’s not to “show your children too much attention and only touch them when absolutely necessary. Never, never kiss them.” Crummy advice, but he was the expert. Thankfully, most parents ignored this advice.

In 1946 Dr. Benjamin Spock’s book on parenting was the cultural turning point where we began to realize that parenting wasn’t easy and maybe parents could use some real expert advice. This led to an interesting problem – hyper-vigilant focus on parenting. Today we live in an era when some parents are so worried about every movement they make that they have bought into every crackpot theory about raising children. Here are some ideas I would like to see buried forever.

Myth #1: Babies need lots of clothes, toys, and equipment. Baloney. Babies all over the world do just fine with a few changes of clothes and they will make toys out of whatever they have available to them. You could open a toy store with the excess toys most of our children have. Babies would be fine sleeping in a cardboard box with a firm cushion as long as it was clean and they were not at risk to pets or siblings who might hurt them. In many countries, babies sleep with their parents, siblings, or on a mat on the floor and they develop with no troubles.

Myth #2: Children need to go to pre-school. Double-baloney. While it is true that children who attend preschool are more prepared for kindergarten and first grade than those who don’t, this advantage is not sustained. The difference between preschooled children and those who don’t attend preschool disappears by the third grade. The more important issue is providing an academically stimulating environment. You can do that for free simply by reading regularly with your child and actively/deliberately learning about the world around you.

Myth #3: Your child needs to go to a good school. Half-baloney. Schools do make a difference, but the more important differences are the motivation of the teachers and the motivation of the learners. Motivated learners will learn even in a crummy school. There are fabulous, motivated teachers in both good and poorer schools. Teach your child to love learning and he/she will get along just fine.

Myth #4: My child needs to be in public school to socialize. Double-baloney. While there are children who are home-schooled who lack social skills, there is no data to support the myth that home-schooled children are any less social than those who attend public or private school. Personality differences and parenting practices most likely account for the differences sometimes observed here.

Myth #5: Television and computers are bad for my baby. One-quarter baloney. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies under age two should “avoid TV.” That doesn’t mean they can’t EVER watch it and it doesn’t mean that having access to television or a computer once in a while isn’t helpful. Primary caregivers need a break. Letting your child watch 30 minute or an hour of television each day (assuming it is age-appropriate) won’t hurt a thing and it might help you be a better parent – allowing you to get a respite and recharge your own batteries.

Myth #6: Both parents have to work in order to provide what children need today. Baloney to the Nth power. Nobody wants to live in a housing project or an unsafe neighborhood, but the fact is, children need a loving primary care-giver more than they need almost anything else beyond the basic needs (food, shelter, clothing). Giving up extravagant vacations, new cars every year, fancy houses, and expensive habits is a small trade-off for seeing your children learn to walk, use their first words, and discover the world. That will happen with or without you, but the parental bond that helps ease the transition of the difficult teen years starts in the early months one-on-one with your child.

Love your child. Be present. Spend lots of time on walks, answering questions and listening to their stories. Respect them. Treat them kindly. These are the basics. Everything else may simply be advertising fluff.

Gregory K. Moffatt, Ph.D.
Professor of Counseling and Human Services

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