The week's best parenting advice: February 4, 2020
Tips for raising a reader, how to make a family emergency plan, and more
How to raise a reader
If you're passionate about reading, and you want your kids to be, too, you've probably heard the most common pieces of advice: surround your kids with books, make sure they see you reading, read with them, etc. But Katie Mills Giorgio shares some less obvious tips at The Week. For example, if your kid loves screens, let them indulge in an e-book. Try introducing them to the local librarian, which Mills Giorgio says "can help foster an understanding that they can count on industry professionals to help point them in the right direction of their next read as they grow." Finally, don't judge them for their book choices. "Books should not be treated like vegetables," says teacher and author Nicole Kronzer, adding that: "Keeping independent reading fun and making it something they feel smart and savvy about is key to developing life-long readers."
Plan for the best, prepare for the worst
We can't control when an emergency will strike our families, but we can do our best to be prepared. It's especially important for parents to have a plan for childcare, explains Jancee Dunn at NYT Parenting. "When you're in the middle of a medical emergency, it's not the time to rack your brain about who in the world might be able to watch your child," pediatrician Dr. Whitney Cesares, M.D., tells Dunn. Start by making a list of friends — ideally neighbors — who could look after your child in an emergency and "designate them as such in your phone," Dunn says. Share with them a document of instructions and important details like insurance information and doctors' names. And above all, communicate clearly with your kids about what's happening and when you'll be back, because as psychologist Jazmine McCoy, Psy.D., explains, "when unexpected events happen, it's easy for young children to feel very out of control."
Is one enough?
For many would-be parents, the decision to have children is fraught with uncertainty: When is the right time? How will we pay for childcare? Will I ever sleep again? And once you have one child, there's the looming question of whether you will have another. As Pew Research Center has noted, more Americans are saying no, opting for one child only. But making that choice can be hard. Author Jayne Tuttle writes for The Guardian about the strange mix of guilt and relief she feels for not giving her now 8-year-old daughter a sibling after her pregnancy left her traumatized. "I chose myself," she says, explaining how she and her husband came to the decision. "I did know that, physically, having another baby would break me," Tuttle writes. "I bet every parent feels there's something more they could be giving. … I just hope that in choosing not to give her more than I can give, that I have given her my best."
Does baby talk work?
New research from the Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences, or I-LABS, at the University of Washington suggests babies whose parents speak to them using "elongated vowels" and "exaggerated pitch contours" have better language development. The researchers call this language "parentese," and it's essentially talking to babies using real words and sentences, but a bit slower, and in a higher pitch. Apparently there's an art to this, because the researchers coached parents on how to do it. The results were pretty remarkable: The babies of parents who received "parentese" coaching spoke real words at "almost twice the frequency" of babies whose parents were not coached. At 18 months, these babies had an estimated 100 words, compared to 60 words for kids in the control group. The key seems to be educating parents in effective baby talk, and encouraging them to do it more often: "Parent coaching gave parents a measurement tool, almost like a Fitbit for parentese, and it worked," explains lead author Naja Ferjan Ramírez.
My mom, the snoop
Is it okay to monitor your kids' devices? "It did not occur to me that there was an ethical debate around any of this," says Christopher Null at Wired. He has always monitored his teenagers' phones for dangers like cyberbullying, child predators, or violent behavior. "Failure to monitor your kids' digital footprints," he says, "is irresponsible parenting." But, as with all things parenting, there is indeed an ethical debate to be had. Shoshanna Zuboff, the author of The Age of Surveillance Capitalism, told Null that he's essentially endorsing privacy invasions. Maybe there's some middle ground here, though. New York-based therapist Dana Carretta-Stein tells The Week that parents should straight-up ask their kids what they're up to online, rather than snoop. "I'm a huge believer and advocate of parent-child communication, which improves intimacy and strengthens the parent-child bond," she says. "Your child will also feel more respected that you asked first, rather than looking without their permission."