Dr. Aliza Pressman, a developmental psychologist, and Dr. Blair Hammond, a general pediatrician, co-founders of the Mount Sinai Parenting Center, are debunking 17 popular myths about raising children.
1. Are "the terrible twos" indeed terrible?
2-year-old kids are not so terrible, in particular if their parents have appropriate expectations and understand their needs while setting appropriate boundaries and limits. At this age, children are not yet ready to control their emotions.
2. What about a little slap on the bottom?
Parents who slap or spank their children are more likely to up the ante and do this more often and harder as their discipline strategy doesn't work. The main result of slaps and spanks is making kids really good at hiding bad behavior.
3. Do strict parenting help to raise well-behaved kids?
A very common myth. Authoritarian parents, you know, the people who like to use the phrase "Because I said so," get either a rigid child who is afraid of them and doesn't dare to break any rules, or a rebellious child. At the same time, it's wise to set reasonable limits that will make children feel safe and confident.
4. Does saying yes mean failing?
Another common myth, which likely comes from the concept that children don't need any boundaries. In fact they do need a few strict boundaries but they need to hear "yes" as well.
5. After the first three years, is a kid's brain set "for life"?
It is actually true that a kid's brain develops incredibly fast during the three first years but, on the other hand, it's a myth to believe that a child's brain is "set" at the end of this crucial period. Growth and learning continue for many many years.
6. Do kids go hyper on sugar?
Studies have shown that when parents think their kids are going to be hyper on sugar, this will happen often, like a self-fulfilling prophecy. Of course, eating too much sugar is not good for our health, but it's not correlated to children's hyperactivity. Generally, it's the parents' perception that makes their kids "hyper."
7. Can kids get a cold from the cold?
A largely widespread myth. In fact, nobody can get a cold from the cold. We do get cold from our contacts with people with the cold.
8. Is it a good idea to shield kids from painful experiences?
Preventing children from loss and difficult experiences is a laudable intention. But telling them that bad experiences can't happen or have not happened, and deprive them from information that they are probably going to find out later, is preventing them from the resilience they need to build. Sitting and speaking with kids through difficulties and setbacks provides them with valuable lessons.
9. Are all young kids picky?
One more myth and also often a self-fulfilling prophecy. Not all children are picky. A lot of them, when trying new foods, will not like it and spit it out. A good reason, in such cases, to introduce the same food multiple times. As many as 10 to 15 times, with a lot of calm, patience and perseverance.
10. Should children come first?
Children should not come BEFORE their parents, but WITH them. Parents who sacrifice themselves and their health for their children are actually impairing their own kids' optimal development.
11. Should nighttime and daytime toilet happen at the same time?
Some kids, when toilet trained, are magically done, and sometimes done overnight too. However, most of the time, daytime toilet training happens before nighttime toilet training.
12. Should parents fight in front of the kids?
Not an easy one. In any case, parents who start a fight in front of their children should also try to show them how to RESOLVE a fight. A much better strategy than leaving the kids wonder what may be going on behind closed doors.
13. Does sitting close to the TV damage kids' vision?
It doesn't. Yet, looking and fixing our eyes on the same spot for a long period, in particular if it's close to us, can affect the vision; so it's a good idea to look off in the distance in order to prevent what is called eye strain.
14. Does praising kids make them smarter?
As revealed by Carol Dweck, professor of psychology at Stanford University, praising people for the process, instead of the oucome, is going to promote a growth mindset (instead of a fixed mindset), a capital asset to succeed in school, work and life.
15. Do kids need high protection?
Indeed, the world is a dangerous place but kids can't have universal protection 24/7. To give them a sense that they will be safe if they respect some basic guidelines - like being street-smart and taking care of their bodies, in particular - is essential.
16. Are all parents ending up parenting like their own parents?
Half a myth. A second difficult one.
17. Does parenting come naturally?
Probably not. A lot of people, more or less qualified, are ready to tell us how to be a better parent; in any case parents are doing great when searching information about parenting and children development. The most important thing is to reach for trustworthy people, support and resources.
Picture: The Artist's Parents, by Philipp Otto Runge (Wikimedia Commons, w/Effects)