Parenting is hard enough without all the advice

Ideas

Parenting is hard enough without all the advice

With new, often contradictory research findings coming out every single week, we are left utterly baffled

Journalist

The moment your first child comes into this world, the universe lifts you up by the scruff of your neck and places you on a tightrope as flimsy as dental floss.
On the one side: utter fear. On the other side: the deepest unconditional love you’ll ever know.
From that moment, it’s an impossible balancing act. Give too much protection and, the experts will warn, you strip the child of resilience. Turn away for a split second, and a grandparent will pop out from behind the nearest tree to tell you that “the price of safety is eternal vigilance”.
It does and it doesn’t help that research is so sophisticated and prolific these days that we’re constantly bombarded with new evidence on what’s right and wrong in parenting.
The science world brings us a thousand (often mixed) messages about – you name it – sleep, food, love, homework, tantrums, TV, affirmation … In any given week, scientists all over the world release new findings, and parents can’t keep up or feel perplexed when the new rules feel counterintuitive.A poll-based study just released by the University of Michigan found that 80% of parents attending an amusement park spoke to their kids about what to do if they got lost at the park.
Also, around 70% of parents said they would report a ride operator “that did not enforce safety regulations, such as minimum height restrictions” and checking that all “restraints” (like belts and safety bars) were properly secured.
However, the poll found that “less than half of parents would report a ride operator for being on a cellphone while operating a ride”, the report said.
The poll's director, Gary Freed, said: “Even though a cellphone may seem less harmful, it poses a significant distraction that can increase the risk of accident or injury.”
No such study has been done in South Africa, but it’s hard to imagine even the most vigilant parents here reporting a ride operator at Gold Reef City for being on a phone while the carousel horses bounce up and down or the rollercoaster whizzes round. Then again, the incidence of amusement park tragedies is exponentially lower here than it is in the US.
In other interesting research on parenting, also released last week, it was found that “helicopter parenting” produces children who can’t manage their emotions later in life. The research, published in the latest journal of Developmental Psychology, was carried out by researchers at the University of Minnesota.
“Our research showed that children with helicopter parents may be less able to deal with the challenging demands of growing up, especially with navigating the complex school environment,” said lead author Nicole Perry. “Children who cannot regulate their emotions and behaviour effectively are more likely to act out in the classroom, to have a harder time making friends and to struggle in school.”And what about the things we can’t control yet science tells us what a bad job we’re doing?
Late last month a study at the University of Illinois said that mothers who don’t sleep very well become too permissive when children hit adolescence out of sheer exhaustion.
So what’s a mom to do?
The research looked at the “link between maternal sleep and permissive parenting during late adolescence” and it was found that “mothers who don’t get enough sleep or who take longer falling asleep have a greater tendency to engage in permissive parenting – parenting marked by lax or inconsistent discipline”.
Given that so few mothers do get enough sleep, one has to wonder what the adolescents are getting up to – or should one rather be reading the research papers tagged “hormones” to find the answer to that?
The jury (read: scientific panel) is still out.

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