Modern child rearing

Our modern world is a bombardment of distilled ideas and polarizing opinions, so it’s no surprise when well-intentioned parents become confused a month or two after leaving the hospital.  Parents are overloaded with too many books to read, too many opinions, too many new “studies” showing what one should and shouldn’t do with, or feed to, the child.

The confusion arises from the big-media image of the happy, slim, smirking moms in commercials about anything from high speed internet to a better mop – smiling moms or families with not a care in the world – which contrasts with the aforementioned bombardment of external advice, along with the general hectic nature of life with a newborn.

Since most new parents know nothing of the world beyond their own experiences, suddenly the books, media images, and clinical trials crowd out the old-fashioned methods of dealing with children.  The more strict, disciplined methods get lost and sage advice from grandmothers and grandfathers just becomes another opinion.  Never mind that if you turned out okay to begin with, you owe a lot of that to your own parents, so they are probably a better source of advice than, say, a television.

But new parents should also know themselves well enough to cherry-pick advice even from their own parents, especially those who have become parents in the last eight or ten years, as they are the children of Baby Boomers.  Here’s a generation which, when they entered child-rearing years in the late 1960s & early 1970s, were told by nurses to pump and throw away breast milk in favor of baby formula, and that holding a child too much or sleeping in the same room as an infant was akin to spoiling.

Finally, after years of this nonsense, nurses and doctors pulled back and realized that breast milk is the only food an infant should eat if available, and that it’s impossible to spoil a child under a certain age.  Surprise; infants need the touch of their mother and the love of both parents!

Still, some are repeating the mistakes of the Boomers on the one hand, while realizing that a “free” society which essentially mandates two-income families is backward on the other:

…once it became acceptable for married women who didn’t “have to” to take jobs outside the home, it soon became a stigma not to do so. Being “just a housewife” was not something a bright, educated woman should settle for. And, once “allowed to” became “expected,” the lifestyle expectations shifted because people began comparing themselves to two-income households.

Of course, this changes the supply and demand curve.  Most notably, it doubtless contributed to the most recent housing bubble.  People could “afford” to mortgage a million dollar home because they had two incomes and this drove up prices, making it harder for single-earner families to keep up.

[+|Outside The Beltway]

In this way, modernism hurts us all, but in particular families who want to be families instead of bags of cash for day care providers.  How silly and backward we must be, to believe that a huge company taking money to watch our kids every day is worth what we lose.  Go ahead and take the two incomes, and ignore the fact that your slightly larger and slightly nicer home is empty from the hours of 9am and 5pm so Mommy and Daddy can bear the brunt of corporate prostitution.

Meanwhile, impressionable young children feel dumped by their own parents at far too early an age, so “work” becomes a bad word, which prepares them perfectly for the bureaucratic hole of modern education.  Brilliant!


  1. Anything short of 24/7 sensory (and mostly physical) contact between child and mother for two or three years, with all-but continuous breast feeding is unnatural; in the sense that this is probably what babies have evolved to expect.

    Since providing this is all-but impossible in modern life, and probably has been since hunter-gatherer times, there will be problems.

    Given that babies therefore need to be *trained* (and it is a horrible process) to be separated from their mothers for periods – including at night – I found this book invaluable: Richard Ferber ‘Solve your child’s sleep problems’.

    My wife and I were desperately tired from months of badly disturbed sleep, but after about three nights of serious angst (getting the training method going) this book helped us progressively sort things out.

    So there is such a thing as good advice about babies – but it is hard to pick-out from the vast mass of nonsense.

    And, as always in life, things have to get worse for a while, before they start getting better.

  2. Agreed, Bruce. Our struggle was in breaking away from some of the hanger-on ideas from my parent’s generation (Boomers) and finding good replacements. But after a few days of being back from the hospital and using common sense, we realized that as long as we were around and feeding him, getting him used to our scent, etc. by holding him plenty, it actually came very naturally. We would hear backhanded BS comments like “the baby is always in your arms” [to my wife] and just ignore them. It’s simply cruel to thrust a 3 month old baby into the arms of a day care provider or say “he needs time outside the mother’s arms”, etc.

    Milestones parents follow as religion are what upset me about modern advice – by this age your child should be doing X, and they’re talking by a certain week or month – development is too complex to capture in simple linear terms. We gave our son time to develop tastes for certain foods, for example, and again, it really all came naturally. People reject their instincts so young these days that it takes time to get them back, if they’re not lost forever.

    1. Another random comment – In retrospect, I think it is probably *not* a good thing to get your infant mixing with a lot of other infants – once their passive immunity wears off after about 6 months, they are ill with colds, chest infections, conjunctivitis, gut infections – pretty much all the time for ages.

      And this is an important time (especially up to about 18 months) for growth and development.

      But the current ‘wisdom’ is that kids ought to be meeting up with others most days. Actually, it is the mothers (or Nannies) who like to meet up – understandably enough, but still…

      In tribal conditions there are never many infants around at the same time, and they did not have the endemic infections which we have now (from large populations always mixing).

      If possible, it would be better to keep kids away from others – meeting up with a small ‘isolated’ group would be ideal.

  3. crow says:

    I often wonder how good a job I did of raising the baby crow I rescued.
    The only child I have ever raised to be an adult is myself.
    But I managed to teach the crow it to fly, to have fun, to be curious, and to rip apart carrion.
    We have an obligation to do our best, and generally that means “our” best, as opposed to the best as described by the most visible advisor.

  4. Baldur says:

    The number one mistake parents make in my humble is not reading to children or engaging their creative mind (likely because they’re too busy with their “work”), and instead parking said children in front of a video game console, television or computer. This has actually caused children’s brains to develop differently than children back when. Now our children cannot sit still for even half an hour. It is a nightmare, and I cannot emph this enough, a nightmare for teachers. I have come across children in middle school who cannot even read a single page of text and comprehend what they just read.


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