I’m not much of a one to be up with celebrity news, but now and then it’s fun to see what new parenting fad is doing the rounds. Whether it’s royal toddler fashions, rock star baby names or Hollywood couples taking the kids on exotic holidays, the media certainly know what sells magazines and generates clicks.
But things get out of hand when the media begin to blame and shame, or when the rest of us mere mortals feel inadequate at not being able to compete with parents who, let’s face it, probably have around-the-clock nannies and support staff, a home gym and personal stylist, and money and leisure time to burn.
Then there are the parenting trend headlines that are supposed to be based on scientific studies, but the words ‘science’ and ‘study’ are sometimes used pretty loosely. Some so-called science ‘facts’ are complete myths (like the one about carrots helping you see in the dark).
Throughout history there have been some weird and not-so-wonderful ideas about parenting. In Ancient Greece, your baby might be breastfed by one of your slaves. In Ancient Rome, a good parent would give their child a bag of magical charms to wear around their neck, but also marry them off at 13 or 14. A defiant child in Mesopotamia might have their hair cut off, be disinherited and even sold into slavery. The 19th century was notorious for child ‘experts’ who told parents not to show children affection.
So if you don’t have the time, money or the inclination to adopt the latest parenting fad, relax. Feeling guilty, powerless and confused may keep you glued to the screen, but it’s not good for you or your kids.
One of the key principles of positive parenting is to have realistic expectations of yourself and of others. So while there are always new skills to be learned and ways we can improve, it’s also important to acknowledge that simply by showing our kids love and affection, talking with them and having fun with them, you’re making a huge contribution to their emotional wellbeing. And rather than trying to recreate that amazing hand-woven high chair you saw on Pinterest – I’m only joking – spend a little time taking care of yourself, too, so you can bounce back and deal with the challenges of another day.
We have the advantage today of being able to use reliable scientific methods to help establish what works and what doesn’t when it comes to parenting, rather than relying on guesswork or fringe ideologies.
But it’s also worth saying that not everything from past generations should be disregarded. The universal parental instinct to love, protect and care for our children has remained constant for hundreds of thousands of years.