The following three pieces of common parenting advice are ones you definitely want to carefully consider as you plan how to care for your child.
- Never Let Your Baby’s Head Touch the Pillows On Your Bed. Myth? Fact? Well, it really depends on what you truly want. Some families swear by the Family Bed and research has shown that children who do not sleep alone are more self-assured and independent as they grow older. This is because your child’s needs are better met when he is right there next to you. If he wakes up in the middle of the night, he has the immediate comfort of a parent available. He learns the world is safe and that his needs will be met. Research even shows that babies are less likely to die of SIDS when they sleep with their parents because the baby’s breathing and heartbeat regulates itself to his mother’s heart. BUT. A baby in your bed every night can really put a damper on your sex life. Your baby may grow up to be well adjusted, but what about you? Parents who have lost touch with each other because of the heavy demands of caring for their darling children often grow apart and without an occasional nighttime cuddle will feel the rift grow even larger. Children whose parents are no longer together are not going to be the independent, self-assured school children for which you were aiming. If you are going to be committed to sharing a family bed (sometimes call sleep-sharing), you also need some easy access alternatives for, umm, private time. Recommendation: Maintaining a family bed is very much a personal choice. If you decide to use it for your family, have another bed for two somewhere in the house. Once your kids are older they can sleep with each other in the second bed – leaving you to private time your own room.
- Ferberize your baby and it will be a better child. Only if you think a better child is one who has learned she cannot trust you to help when she cries for help, feels isolated, and has learned to never ask for help because it isn’t coming. You see, Dr. Ferber was a medical doctor but knew nothing about pediatrics or child psychology. He was teaching parents to go against their natural instincts when caring for their child. This is why parents say the Ferber method is so hard for them. It is actually breaking a connection that was meant to be in place. Well documented studies have shown that Ferber babies continue to experience vastly increased levels of cortisol, adrenalin, and other distress hormones weeks after they have stopped crying when put down and left. The crying has stopped because the child has learned she can’t trust her caregivers to be responsive; even though she is still experiencing increased heart rate and blood pressure, elevated cerebral blood pressure, cardiac stress, immune system problems and anxiety issues. So if your goal is to have a child who will shut up even when she has valid needs, who stays quiet because she has learned she can’t trust you, and has a slightly different brain function due to ill-advised Ferber methods you imposed on her, Ferber is the way to go. Don’t do it.
- Never let you child experience frustration. A child who doesn’t experience frustration doesn’t get the opportunity to learn to patiently stretch to meet a difficult goal or to delay gratification as a young adult. A study, often called the marshmallow test, was conducted 40 years ago on delaying gratification. A child was left in a room with a small treat (i.e., an M&M or a marshmallow). Each child was told he could eat the treat now – but that if he waited 15 minutes he could have 2 treats. Most children stated the goal of waiting – but many could not wait and ate the treat before the researcher returned. The researchers followed these children over several years and found that children who failed to delay gratification during the experiment were significantly more likely to experience drug addiction, obesity, and high school behavior problems than those who had mastered the art of delayed gratification. Some of your child’s ability to delay gratification is inborn, however, children with a naturally low gratification delay temperament can betaught to learn to delay gratification to obtain better rewards if faced with situations which forced them to develop delaying tactics (e.g., some kids would physically turn away from the treat and distract themselves, other children stated they imagined the treat was an inedible object until the researcher returned). This world needs people with both low and high gratification abilities – the lucky child is the one who was born with low delay ability who had parents who are willing to teach him how to face temptation and frustration to develop a high delay ability. That child will grow into an adult who is flexible enough to act immediately when necessary as well as to wait when necessary.