Tiger mothers and French parents with child-rearing agendas may want to put their megaphones down for a second and prick up their ears instead. Because parenting advice, especially when given in a Ten Commandment-style tone, may not be good for mothers or babies. In fact, it may just be making the experience for both mother and child needlessly complex and confusing.
In a recent post for The Atlantic, writer Neil Wagner presents the argument that mothers would be better served by paying less attention to the din that is popular parenting advice and instead tune in to their own instincts and judgment.
Wagner makes the argument that trendy parenting advice should be taken with a grain of salt for a number of reasons. One of the more obvious reasons he gives: advice is subject to fads.
Writes Wagner, “It hasn’t helped that the actual advice has changed almost as often as clothing fashions. The earliest manuals all preached that babies need strict routines. As the years passed, the trend was towards less strict and authoritarian approaches. Around the 1990s, the pendulum began to swing back the other way towards a more regimented approach again.”
Add the lack of expert consensus to the trendy mix, and mothers’ heads are really spinning.
“After more than 50 years the experts still can’t agree on the basics of motherhood. Maybe that’s because the real experts are the mothers themselves,” writes Wagner.
He cites the work of British historian Angela Davis, who in her book Modern Motherhood: Women and Family in England, 1945-2000, makes the case that mothers and their offspring represent a diverse swath of humanity, and as such, should adapt parenting tips to suit the uniqueness of their situation, temperament, and beliefs.
Wagner and Davis aren’t the first to make this point. Wagner ends his essay with a piece of timeless wisdom from child-rearing icon Dr. Spock, author of Dr. Spock’s Baby and Child Care.
Wrote Dr. Spock, “Trust yourself. You know more than you think you do.”
Watch: Seven tips on regaining control of your kids