When I hear about and see bad parenting advice I usually want to scream.
Bad parenting advice can range from the possibly well-intentioned comments around feeding, sleep, weaning, having a break which may have moved on from previous decades, thanks to research, to the guidance and throw away comments from health professionals who should know better.
And then there’s the books and the practitioners who want to sell you a package and a solution. I can’t stress this enough – babies are not a problem to be solved!
We need to better understand them, what they need, how they grow and thrive. And most parents just need this knowledge along with support through the tough days and reassurance to know that it is normal and that it will eventually pass.
When you first become a parent, it is easy to feel overwhelmed and confused by all the conflicting information and advice. As you try to work what what you are doing, it can also be difficult to know which advice is right and which advice to trust. Which is why hearing about bad parenting advice upsets me.
I recently read about two pieces of bad parenting advice, which made me pretty angry…
The first was a comment by a sleep consultant to a mother who was reaching out for advice as her baby wasn’t sleeping through the night (which is very normal and to be expected, by the way). The advice was to leave her baby to self soothe and if her baby cried, she was to leave her alone and not respond.
Why did this make me angry? This advice just isn’t backed by evidence and I struggle with any ‘advice’ which encourages parents to leave babies and children when they are upset. And this was a young baby who needed reassurance and comfort and who isn’t capable of settling herself.
And giving advice likes this then leaves parents with the heartache of having a screaming, unhappy baby and feeling like they are getting it wrong.
The second was in a message from a mum about comments she heard in a baby class – “the person leading the group told us all that we’d make a rod for our own backs if we bed shared, cuddled too much, feed to sleep or didn’t let the baby cry it out.”
Wow, where do I start with this? Anyone who works with parents ideally needs to boost and reassure rather than judge, question and belittle what parents are doing. It leaves parents questioning what they are doing, they could feel isolated and unable to trust their instincts. Also, this ‘advice’ is just wrong!
But as a practitioner, don’t I dish out advice?
I may be an expert in my field, as I know how to work with parents and I know where the challenges can lie and what the questions can be, but I don’t do advice. Instead I listen, I ask questions and I provide a foundation of knowledge based on the evidence and on experience of working with parents for so long. My job is to talk through the options available to you as a parent and what you can do and I am always very clear that there are no quick fixes.
My practice is always based around you, it is about information, support and reassurance so you have a better understanding of what your baby needs, how you can meet those needs as well as how you can look after yourself and your needs.
I have worked with parents for almost 20 years and I will never tell you what to do or what you should be doing. There are very few rights and wrongs when it comes to parenting, although we always worry that we are getting something wrong. But can be very straight talking (but gentle) when it comes to looking after yourself and having realistic expectations of both you and your baby.
Being a parent can be a tough gig – the challenges are ever-changing and we all make it up as we go along. What makes a difference is being responsive, showing love and kindness, taking the time to soothe and settle and going with what feels right.
As a practitioner, I don’t care about looking like a guru with all the answers (because there rarely is a clear answer), my job is to walk with you through the challenges so you can feel better supported.
So how to handle bad parenting advice?
When you are given advice or guidance, how does that sound to you, is it something you feel comfortable with, does it feel right for you?
Find good sources of support and reassurance for you – thanks to technology and the fact that I mainly live on the internet now, I can support many more parents through posts, social media, my new membership and with 1:1s.