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If we’re honest, there’s no right way to parent. There are, however, a lot of parents trying their best and getting beaten down by experts, the media, and other parents. Dr. Jane Scott, a pediatrician, neonatologist, and inventor of the Tortle (a beanie to help avoid Flat Head Syndrome in infants) takes all the fundamental questions of bringing up children and offers relatable wisdom in her new book, The Confident Parent. From sleep-training your newborn and making dinnertime manageable to finding the right type of discipline, Dr. Scott wants parents to know that it’s OK to let your kids take risks and that being confident is key. We chatted with Dr. Scott about parenting when every decision is questioned:
5280: With so many parenting guides and experts having their say, how to you think we can get back to parents trusting their own instinct when it comes to the best ways to raise their children?
Dr. Jane Scott: In my book, I have provided some tips on how to navigate the information coming in from friends, the net, and social media. I recommend trusting your own decisions and use some global examples of how people in other cultures make decisions and do not feel guilty. I support being the best parent you can be, and try to help them recognize that no one can become “the perfect parent.”
Even if we bypass trying to be perfect, there are still parents who are stressed that they aren’t doing a good job, no matter which type of parenting model they subscribe to. What do you think led to this epidemic of doubtful parenting?
There are a number of factors, but one appears to be the lack of support they get financially, with paid time off or even support in the home, or affording daycare or preschool. This is in very high contrast to almost every country around the world, even third world countries. Moms are trying to balance an already tight, busy schedule now with a child, often sleep deprived but still feeling like they are required to function in every other arena with the same high level of performance. There is another factor which may be adding significantly to the problem. That is the Internet, which certainly has brought a lot of value. However, parents are now comparing themselves to a whole group of “expectations and images of perfect children” shown on various social media platforms. It is interesting that at a time when parents have more knowledge available to them, they in fact feel less secure in their knowledge of parenting.
Why do you think so many parenting “experts” look to scare parents into one way of thinking?
Marketing and media have had a large part in spreading scary information about infant safety, and the importance of expensive tools (car seats, strollers, bouncers, warm baby wipes, latches, gates, etc.) that are needed to rear a baby successfully. While some of these things are certainly necessary, they do not need to be hugely expensive and children do not need to be in them all the time to be safe.
You raised your own four children abroad. Do you think parents who live in a more relaxed environment like Colorado parent differently than other places in the U.S. or the world?
Actually, I see just as much stress in parents in Colorado as I have seen elsewhere. I feel that the forces for all U.S. parents are the same. They, as well as parents in other very Westernized countries, are living with similar pressures to perform at an almost unachievable level. An example of this is seen with the practice of helicopter parenting, which has become so common. Many parents have been led to believe that we now live in a very scary world and children must be constantly and closely supervised wherever they are, in case they get hurt in some way. In fact, the reality is that we have never lived in a safer world. The media makes sure we hear about every bad thing that happens to a child in our country of 330 million.
There is a lot of well-meaning advice out there. If you could give parents one single piece of advice on raising children, what would that be?
Build your village, allow others to help you, include your partner in all things baby, and take the time you need to heal and don’t feel guilty about it. People in other countries get so much help, love and care when they bring home a new baby, and it is expected and continues for many months if needed.
Meet Dr. Jane Scott this Saturday, November 12, at the BookBar in LoDo for a book signing and Q&A.