How to Know Which Parenting Advice to Believe

With thousands of parenting websites, blogs, and books, it can be hard to know what to believe. Ever wondered what parenting advice you should actually listen to? In this brief video, Dr. Tim talks about five pointers for consuming online parenting advice:

 

Video Transcript

Welcome to Family Good Things’s first ever video log! We have no idea what we’re doing. In fact, I don’t even know if you would call this a video log, or a vlog, or just a talking head… I don’t know! But we’re going to do it anyways. And what better way to kick this off than to give you advice about seeking advice online — about parenting, family, marriage, and anything else.

So what I’m going to do is I’m going to give you five principles to do (or to avoid, however you want to interpret it) when seeking parenting advice online. I decided to kick this off this way because recently a friend of mine on Facebook asked the parenting question, “My toddler’s doing this and this and this, and how do we get him to stop doing it?” Well, I think it was an honest question, and it was a fair question. A lot of the advice had the same common theme. So. Let’s just start into it.

Principle number one: Popularity isn’t proof.

Just because everybody’s saying that you should do this with your child or this is a good discipline strategy doesn’t necessarily make it healthy, or accurate, or even evidence-based. Now, as Dr. Rob and I both have PhD’s in this, we don’t try to act like we’re smarter than we really are, we do understand the value of research and we do investigate it. So. Just because it’s been shared countless times or it has millions of likes or thousands of likes, or your best friend liked it, shared it, doesn’t mean it’s actually best for your child. Okay?

Principle number two: Education should come before entertainment.

We all like to watch stand-up comedy, cat videos, and anything else that is mind-numbing and is a good break from the day. I love it. I think if you’re seeking parenting advice, it’s okay that you’re entertained by it. However, don’t make that your primary goal, because entertainment is wonderful and good, but it can’t be a replacement for value and usefulness in producing real change in you and your child. So be careful that as you’re seeking parenting advice you don’t simply just become entertained.

Principle number three (I guess that’s six, because three plus three is six) . . .

So principle number three is beware how much misery likes company.

One of the reasons I like to watch Supernanny is because I go, “Oh, at least I’m not as bad as those parents because they’re doing X, Y, and Z and they’re messing up their kids. I’m not that dumb!” One of the reasons we like to seek out certain types of blogs, because maybe it’s a mom or a dad gushing about how much they’ve screwed up. And I think that’s good, we need to be authentic. We need to realize there is no such thing as perfect parents. However, that can become a crutch or a hindrance to our progress and our change in our own parenting — and in our marriage — when we go to those blogs to feel better about doing bad things.

The phrase “misery likes company” is true, because we like to be with people who are angry about the same things, like the same things, have the same struggles, and therefore, we don’t ever evaluate, maybe this is not a healthy attitude, behavior, or belief. So. Mommy blogs are good. We love them. However, don’t go to ones just to make yourself feel better about screwing up and then therefore never changing.

Principle number four: Google can’t change your child, as much as we’d like to think so.

You need to be aware of quick fix strategies. We love Google, because we get instant answers. We love credit cards, we love fast food, we love smart phones. We love all these things because they give us instant gratification. But they’re all replacing, in an artificial and quick way, something that actually takes time, persistence, and patience. A lot of popular parenting advice focuses on getting a child to start acting or stop acting in a particular way. They don’t even question the assumption of maybe the parent’s coming from the wrong premise.

Which is kind of a segway into principle number five, but not yet. Character development is the most important thing we could focus on in our children. Shaping their desires and their character. Why? Because their desires and their character are going to be with them long after we are gone. When they’re with their friends, when they’re at school, when they grow up and move out . . . Their character and their desires will dictate their attitudes and behaviors. So. Google can’t change your child. Beware of quick-fix strategies.

Okay, final principle, number five: Avoid confirmation bias.

Again, we like to look for things that make us comfortable. When we ask questions, like this I think honest seeking mom on Facebook, “My child’s doing this. How do I discipline my toddler?” Sometimes we’re coming from the wrong premise. We’re asking the wrong question. We may not realize that, but we at least need to check our assumptions and not go in. Because if you ask . . . The computers say garbage in garbage out. If you ask a question that has the wrong premise, you’re going to get answers that confirm your premise. I hope that makes sense.

For example, how do I get my child to sleep through the night? They’re age four. Or to stop coming into my bedroom. Maybe there’s a different question we could ask that would help solve the problem more appropriately, even though that’s not a bad question. I think we all want our children to sleep through the night. Nobody wants to be zombies and try to parent when you’re — I’ve tried that before. Doesn’t work too well. Plus my kids don’t really like the *zombie noise* sound that comes out of me when I’m really frustrated and exhausted. So avoid confirmation bias. It’s also very easy to search for stuff that is comfortable and familiar. Don’t reject an idea outright just because it’s not something you’re used to. That being said, you don’t have to accept everything that comes your way through the online blogosphere and social media about parenting.

So, those are the five principles. Now, there’s going to be more to come. Don’t forget to share and like this. Maybe you’re going, “All of your principles undermine you even putting a video online.” I don’t care. I still think it’s good advice. Why? Because it’s me, and I have confirmation bias. Don’t forget to like and share this video. Also, don’t forget to purchase and read and apply Dr. Rob’s eBook which is called “3 Things You Can Do to Create a Ridiculously Happy Marriage.” Ridiculously happy marriage. I have an eBook that will be coming out shortly on father-daughter relationships. Okay, we’ll see you next time.