Parenting advice - what you need to know
We’re all suckers for tried and tested parenting tactics, but what do we do when they don’t work? Zoe McDonald explores the options
How much of the way you parent is knee-jerk? A reaction to situations as they happen? We’re surrounded by parenting advice, often unsolicited, and the result is that parents are overwhelmed. ‘Everyone’s a parenting expert now,’ says chartered clinical psychologist Emma Citron (citronpsychology.co.uk). ‘We’re all lay psychologists. That’s a positive thing in many ways, but it can also be a problem.’
Parents might pick up a tip here, a new theory there, and integrate them into the way they parent in a haphazard fashion, or they might pick only the bits that chime with deeply held prejudices that they are unlikely to have thought through.
So how should we really decide how to parent? We did a little research, looking at the evidence for and against some of the most common parenting strategies, then matched this with the everyday experiences of mums like you. We also asked a range of experts for advice on how to avoid the most often encountered pitfalls. Here are the results.
Issuing two-minute warnings
Although it seems to make sense to warn children that playtime needs to come to an end, in fact issuing warnings can simply intensify a negative reaction. In a study at the University Of Washington, parents reported that tantrums were worse when they’d issued an advance warning.
‘Small children have no concept of time,’ says Dr Rachel Andrew, a Lancashire- based clinical psychologist specialising in treating children, who works in the NHS and private practice. ‘A verbal time-based warning only serves to heighten a child’s awareness that something is being taken away from them.’
Making it visual. Small children respond well to a visual signal that something’s about to end, particularly if it’s distracting and fun. ‘Taking building blocks away every ten seconds for the final minute of an activity, until there are none left, helps to makes time tangible. It also makes it fun and distracts them,’ says Rachel.