The week's best parenting advice: February 11, 2020
Why kids need to fail, the healing powers of honey, and more
Try, try again
"Nobody likes to fail," writes Claire Gillespie at The Week. "So it's unfortunate that a vast body of research tells us that failing is actually good for us." It can help us develop "persistence, focus, resiliency, flexibility, patience, and positive self-image." This is true even for kids, yet parents' first instinct is often to protect their children from the pain of failure. This can generate unhealthy anxiety when things don't go as planned, says Louisiana-based licensed professional counselor Christy Pennison. She suggests parents praise their kids' effort, not the results. "This allows children to build confidence in themselves despite the outcome," she tells Gillespie. "Sometimes when we put so much pressure on the outcome, we don't allow children to have the space to fail forward, which can adversely affect their perceived self-worth or self-confidence. Acknowledging the effort it took to at least try gives children permission to try new things without fear of failure."
Nature's cough suppressant
I hate to break it to you, but February is still peak cold and flu season. Kids are coughing for weeks on end and weary parents are pacing the drugstore aisles looking desperately for the perfect remedy. But, according to Selena Simmons-Duffin at NPR, "the answer might be already in the kitchen cupboard." It turns out that honey is "at least as effective as those many, many products that you see in the drugstore," Dr. Bud Wiedermann, an infectious disease specialist at Children's National Hospital in Washington, D.C., told Simmons-Duffin. At least one study found honey to be as effective as the main ingredient in many cough syrups, dextromethorphan, but without any unwanted side effects like increased blood pressure or heart rate. It's unclear exactly why honey helps, but could come down to its syrup-y consistency and antibacterial properties. However, experts caution only kids over the age of 1 should eat honey as it could cause infant botulism.
Sharing is caring
If parents of toddlers had to name qualities possessed by their kids, "selflessness" probably wouldn't be high on the list. But a new study suggests the human capacity for altruism starts young. Researchers at University of Washington's Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences (I-LABS) studied about 100 19-month-olds, presenting them with a piece of fruit, which a researcher "accidentally" dropped on the table and then feigned difficulty reaching. More than half the kids in the test group fetched the fruit and handed it over, compared to just 4 percent of kids in the control group. Even when the kids were extra hungry and could have easily eaten the morsel themselves, 35 percent of them "looked longingly at the fruit, and then they gave it away!" says Andrew Meltzoff, co-director of I-LABS. The researchers concluded this behavior can be molded: Children with siblings were actually more likely to show altruistic tendencies — probably cold comfort when your kids are refusing to share, but interesting nonetheless.
"Baby-formula companies are starting to see toddler milk as their next move," writes Olga Khazan at The Atlantic. This drink consists mainly of powdered milk, vegetable oil, and corn syrup, and can cost up to four times more than cow's milk, Khazan says. It is being sold to parents of children between the ages of 1 and 3 as a way to provide extra nutrients, but, as health experts told Khazan, it is "expensive, unnecessary, and possibly even unhealthy." Still, Khazan reports, sales of toddler formula doubled between 2006 and 2015, and were especially high among low-income families. The companies selling toddler milk dispute pediatricians' claims, saying the formulas contain essential omega-3 fatty acids, which can help boost brain development. But experts say a balanced, healthy diet does the same. "These companies are making claims that are lies," Blythe Thomas, the chief strategy officer at 1,000 Days, an organization that promotes child nutrition, tells Khazan. "It's not okay to lie to moms."
It's not personal, it's parenting
One of the challenges for parents raising teens is suffering through their insufferable mood swings — and, as Hilary Achauer writes at The Week — not taking their grumpy behavior personally. She says the best parenting advice she's received came from Dr. Ken Ginsburg, a pediatrician, and the co-founder and director of programs at the Center for Parent and Teen Communication. Ginsburg teaches that in order for teens to find their own identity, they have to first see themselves as different from their parents. "The reason kids push us away is not because they don't like us," Ginsburg says, "it's because they relate to us so intensely and yet they know they have to become independent. So this is a process of figuring out how to push away the things they love the most." So, parents, it's not you, it's them. And it will pass.