How to Be A Good Parent
When I was pregnant, I was shocked that the so-called "parenting" classes didn't actually teach me anything about how to be a good mom. Like a good little nerd, I went home and did some research on just how to learn to be a good parent.
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Why My 9-Month-Pregnant Self Hated Parenting Classes
Anyway, you're in the phase of pregnancy where people start asking you if you're going into labor every time you wince. You have nothing but baby on the brain, so you decide to take a parenting class. (If you're going to have this thing, you might as well learn how not to accidentally kill it, right?)
This was me when I was pregnant with my first daughter. However, when I got to the class, I was shocked and disappointed to realize that these classes are to parenting what a class on car maintenance would be to being a safe driver.
Yes, these classes teach you how to feed, bathe, and swaddle the baby. However, I was literally floored that they said not one word about emotionally bonding with your new tiny human, how to foster its mental growth, how to play with it, and (once it gets a bit more physically capable) how to control the little beast so its behavior doesn't elicit quite so many "wayward accident with gamma radiation" jokes from the waitstaff at your local Chili's. (Only moms of toddlers will get that last joke.)
So, I left the pregnancy class knowing that the type of poop a newborn makes for the first few days is called meconium, but no idea how to actually be a parent. Awesome. No way this could go wrong.
Unleashing My Inner Research Nerd
I went on a historically-long Google binge session. I was kind of in the zone, so I'm not exactly sure how long is "historically long", but I do know it was long enough that my husband started bringing food to my desk.
I wanted to know the answers to all the things a so-called "parenting" class should have told me about turning my future potato into a functioning human being instead of a serial killer.
(You'd be shocked how many of my parenting moves are made out of the desire not to accidentally raise a serial killer. I blame my Masters in Criminology.)
The Problem with Actual Parenting Research (and the Internet in General)
You type in a simple search query like "how to develop a healthy bond with your baby" expecting to receive some type of answer from the almighty internet gods. You tentatively click on the first link Google gives you, hope and excitement in your heart.
Nine hours and several bags of potato chips later, you're on your seventh parenting discussion board, reading a very angry mom prolifically (and quite convincingly) state her vehement opposition to what you just read in boards four through six, which had been equally passionate and just as convincing.
Almost no matter what you Google, there are crazy-rabid-nutjob-fanatics (trademark pending) ready to convince you of every side of every issue. Breastfeed your baby as long as you can, never breastfeed longer than a year. Pacifiers are the devil. If you don't use a pacifier your baby will be an insecure adult. Cosleeping will make your kid clingy. If you don't cosleep you're depriving your child of warmth and affection, you monster!
Yeah, sometimes the internet is a scary place.
Actual Research: Saving You From the Internet Parenting Wormhole
What there is, if you're willing to dig for it, is a great deal of parenting research that was done by actual scientists and psychologists, instead of internet-rabid moms on their nineteenth cup of coffee.
This research doesn't give you one single "right" answer to every problem, but it does give you empirically-tested facts (i.e. not opinion-based, but derived from actual data collection and analysis) on the question you're asking.
The one problem is that there is A LOT of this research. It probably won't surprise you that parenting is a pretty well-studied area of psychology. It would take decades to read it all. Seriously, your kid would have graduated from medical school before you finally finished reading about year one.
Your Personal Short-Cut
I've done the research on a variety of parenting topics and am going to go through them, one by one, to give you a basic idea of three things about each one:
- What research has been done on this parenting question? What differing theories are there?
- How does this affect my kid's happiness, healthiness, and future wellbeing?
- How should this research change my behavior as a parent?
For every question a parent might have, there is a crazy amount of research that has been done. This research sometimes is in agreement, but usually provides differing (sometimes outright contradictory) answers to the question.
With this series of articles, I'm going to tackle some basic parenting questions (the ones I think should have been in my parenting for preggos class). For each one, I'll give you a layout of the research, my personal take on it (as a PhD student in psychology and a mom of two), and the best I can come to an "answer" to the question.
Important Parenting Questions: A Working List
- What are the different parenting styles and which one is the best?
- What is attachment parenting? How do I raise a "securely attached" child?
- What is child-centered parenting?
- What is positive parenting?
- How do I stop bad behavior in my toddler?
- How do I teach my kid to have discipline?
- How do I deal with tantrums?
- How do I teach my kid to be motivated?
- How do I create a chore chart for my child? Is there a "right" system?
Please help me add to this list if there's something you think should be covered. I'll go back and edit this post to include any more topics I think of (or you suggest) and add hyperlinks to the articles themselves so you can find the whole series in one place.
Maybe when we're finished we can print them all out, drive to the hospital where I took my terrible parenting class, and leave them on the desk of the ancient nurse/teacher who thought it was so important that the word meconium be so permanently lodged in my mom-brain.
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About the Author
Founder | Contributor
Liz is a wife, mom, blogger, coder (and unabashed digital nerd), PhD student (and huge psychology geek), workout masochist, and occasional human being. She founded The Stay Sane Mom after marrying into the role of stepmom to a preteen girl (and Instagram addict) and shortly thereafter having her first bio kid (now a toddlernado supreme). Her goal is to provide tools and support to help other capable, sleep-deprived, soul-hungry moms master their domains so they have the time and energy to be more than just 'mom'.
My Motto: All I can control is how hard I work.
My Motto: All I can control is how hard I work.
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