Parenting advice

The week's best parenting advice: February 18, 2020

The problem with sleep coaches, the 10-minute homework rule, and more

1

The unregulated world of baby sleep consultants

There comes a point in a sleep-deprived parent's life when they will take any and all advice on offer if it will help their child sleep through the night. Thus, the rise of the sleep coaching industry. As The Wall Street Journal has reported, "these advisers help parents get babies to sleep on their own," and they charge anywhere "from about $300 for two weeks of consultations by phone and text to $7,500 for 72 hours of in-home coaching." Some parents absolutely swear by sleep coaches. But as Angela Hatem, neonatal nurse, sleep consultant, and founder of Taking Cara Babies, writes at Parents, "there are no governing bodies which monitor them," so you'll want to do some serious research before hiring. Check their qualifications and ask for references. If you're literally too tired to do any of this, Hatem suggests parents at least hire "a consultant whose mission and heart aligns with theirs."

2

Did you do your homework?

"The homework debate has raged for decades," writes Claire Gillespie at The Week. Is it good or bad? How much is too much? Kimberly Berens, Ph.D., founder of the Fit Learning program, calls homework "perhaps the number one destroyer of family life in America." But for every homework skeptic, there's a defender, Gillespie says. Duke University professor of psychology and neuroscience Harris Cooper notes in his research that homework teaches self-discipline, inquisitiveness, and independent problem-solving skills. He created an unofficial homework standard called the "10-minute rule," which recommends a daily maximum of 10 minutes of homework per grade level. Interesting, but what if your kid is really struggling to study? Educators can help. Cathy Vatterott, professor of education and author of Rethinking Homework: Best Practices That Support Diverse Needs, suggests teachers abandon the "one size fits all" model for homework and instead offer students a choice of assignments, essentially giving them more ownership of their work.

3

The childcare dilemma

Every working parent at some point asks themselves the same question: Is my job worth the extreme costs of childcare? It's a difficult calculation to make, especially when you add in the emotional costs — the pangs of guilt that hit when you're dropping the kids off at daycare. As author Lindsay Powers notes at NYT Parenting, on average, childcare in America is more expensive than annual college tuition and monthly rent. When she and her husband were spending upwards of $50,000 a year on care for their two kids, she learned to think of it as an investment in their careers. "It is not a sunk cost," she writes. "Just as I'd invested in my future by taking on debt for college, we are investing in our future earnings by devoting capital to childcare in the short-term. We are also investing in our children's futures by enrolling them in high-quality care." Hear, hear.

4

Politics in the classroom

Should teachers be apolitical? Bret Turner, a first-grade teacher, grapples with this question, especially when his students are fearful and confused about politics and news events. "As much as we strive to be moderators and facilitators of learning," he writes at The Week, "there are times when we have to be clear and unequivocal about facts." On topics like guns, war, and immigration, he uses the school's mission statement as a point of reference for tolerance, pointing out how a politician's words or actions align or conflict with these shared values. But he doesn't brush political questions under the rug. "You don't need to tell kids who you voted for, or what political party you belong to," he says. "But when you see injustices, unkind words, and threats to the safety of your students, just saying 'everyone can believe what they want' actually does more harm than good."

5

Tiny narcissists

Why are toddlers obsessed with selfies? No doubt many parents have deleted dozens — if not hundreds — of poorly framed up-close shots of their kid's face from their phones. Ashley Fetters at The Atlantic concludes that, developmentally, this behavior from a toddler makes a lot of sense. "Commandeering a camera phone to take pictures of one's face is a perfect blend of things toddlers love: seeing their own face and body, being in control of a device, and doing stuff grown-ups do." But is this kind of screen time dangerous? Christine McLean, who teaches in the Children and Youth Study department at Nova Scotia's Mount Saint Vincent University, told Fetters it's better than playing games or watching videos. In fact, parents should embrace these "precious mementos," she said. "Toddlers think that they are amazing. This is a time when children are so unselfconscious, so accepting of how they look and who they are."

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