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5 Things to consider before trusting a ‘parenting expert’

White person, hand on hip, finger wagging laying down the parenting rules
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5 Things to consider before trusting a ‘parenting expert’

White person, hand on hip, finger wagging laying down the parenting rules
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There are many self-proclaimed parenting ‘experts’ out there. A wealth of books, TV programmes and podcasts you can choose from. A veritable cornucopia of parenting styles. How do you possibly begin to choose what’s right for you? What can you do to weed out the ‘experts’ who are just in it to make money or achieve fame? How do you find the parenting advice that actually has your best interests at heart?

Nowadays, with knowledge literally at our fingertips, it can feel like wading through jelly, with no idea who to listen to – is it the person who is most famous? The person who shouts loudest? The person who has an excellent marketing manager?

Who are these parenting experts?

You may not think it matters too much… parenting is just parenting, right? But, when you’re putting raising your children into someone else’s hands, when you’re trusting that the advice they’re giving is sound, it matters. A lot.
Would you base your entire parenting ethos on something a random woman on the street told you? Would you apply every strategy your mother in law suggests? (Well, she has raised her own children after all!) Would you make your parenting decisions based on someone else’s opinion? Hell no!

So why make the life changing decision to parent in a certain way just because a person has published a book? Famous doesn’t mean right. Published doesn’t mean expert. I’ll let you in on an industry-wide secret about parenting: the only experts in your child are your child, and you. You represent your child, and your unique understanding makes you better placed than anyone else to make decisions in their best interest.

So, be wary when someone gives you a set of rules to live by. Ask yourself this; “Are they interested in ensuring my child develops to be the best, happiest version of themself? Or do they simply want to make money?” Solutions sell but that doesn’t make them beneficial!

In order to help you navigate the murky waters of parenting experts, I’ve put together a checklist to help you decide whether you really want this person involved in your child’s upbringing. Choose carefully, the impact will be profound.

1. Does the parenting ‘expert’ have evidence to back up their claims?

Is the so-called parenting expert talking about their own experience and ideals? Experience and opinion definitely have a place. However, do you really want to raise your child based solely on what worked for someone else? Do you really want to put your child’s future into the hands of someone who may not share the same ideas, principles and priorities as you? There is a wealth of evidence out there on baby & child brain development and psychology. If the ‘expert’ you’re looking at doesn’t refer to any evidence to back up their strategies and claims then steer clear

2. Do they take the needs of child and parent into consideration?

 Is your parenting ‘expert’ focused on just you, or just your child? Do they acknowledge the equality in the needs of both the parent and child? Or do they focus solely on making the parent’s life easier? If all the strategies prioritise parental benefit without considering the needs of the child, this raises a red flag. Children have complex and important needs, not meeting them leads to major problems down the line. Our children are highly vulnerable and rely on us for everything – neglecting our duty in order to make life easier (in the short term) is not a wise parenting strategy. Be wary of ‘experts’ who advise you that you must teach things to babies (think ‘self soothing’ and ‘feeding on a schedule’). Babies have needs and they don’t appear on a schedule.

Read more: our article Psychological human needs

3. Do they talk about the long-term impact of their strategies?

Is the ‘expert’ talking about how their strategies benefit your child over time? Or do they focus upon rapid ‘fixing’ and behavioural change? Our children are not dogs – we don’t need to train them! If the ‘expert’ isn’t considering how our parenting affects brain development or how to raise a resilient, trusting, happy and confident child then they don’t have your child’s best interests at heart. Quick fix solutions are easy to sell. Everyone wants an easy answer. If they don’t differentiate to meet unique needs then they can simply have a PDF ready for you to download as soon as you click “pay now”. This isn’t support, it is a disingenuous money making scheme.

4. Do they consider YOU the expert in your own child or do they consider THEMSELVES the expert?

If they give you a strict routine or a list of rules to follow then please proceed with caution. No two children are alike; their needs, personalities and likes vary widely. An ‘expert’ who offers you a universal solution for raising children is at best, deluded, and at worst, a liar.

Please listen when I say this and repeat it until it sinks in… YOU are the expert. Nobody knows your child better than you do. You know what they like and dislike. You understand what they’re trying to communicate and know what those different cries mean. If there is an expert in what your child needs, then it is you! Don’t let your instincts become buried under layers of what you feel you should be doing. That author or TV nanny does NOT know your child. If they try to make you feel like they do then run in the opposite direction.

5. Do they make allowances for individuality? 

As I mentioned above, it’s vital to check whether the ‘expert’ in question gives you a framework or a rulebook. A framework offers information and guidance with the intention that you will adapt it to fit your family situation. Telling you what you should be doing and giving you a timetable is NOT a framework. It’s just disempowering you, making you feel that, every time a new problem or issue arises, that you need to go back to this expert for more help.

Do I sound cynical?

Cynical? Perhaps but wouldn’t it be more helpful to you if you had a way of working out any problem on your own and creating strategies that suit your own family? Inevitably, following a rulebook makes us feel like failures as parents when our children don’t follow those rules (say what?! Babies haven’t read the book too?!) And, if you feel that you need to go back to this expert each time you’re having an issue, guess who benefits? Maybe you a little, your baby not at all… and the ‘expert?’ More money in their pockets, thank you very much.

Perhaps the ultimate question to ask then is this… Is this person actually passionate about supporting parents in helping to raise happy kids? (Or is she just trying to fix a problem as quickly as possible with no thought to the consequences?)

At the end of the day, the choice is yours and only yours. Going into the decision-making process with open eyes and the knowledge of what to look for will help you reach your parenting goals, raise the kind of child you want to raise and help you enjoy it all along the way.

CalmFamily’s Values

Our parenting support is underpinned by our values of evidence, ethics, excellence (rather than perfection), equality of all family members, parent and child, empathy for you and your child, and empowerment keeping you firmly as the expert in your family, equipped with understanding and supported to find your own solutions that work for your unique family.

Lauren Partington- CalmFamily York & North  Yorkshire​

Lauren was born and raised in South Africa before moving to York to attend university; where she fell in love with the city (and her now husband). After almost a decade as a primary school teacher, Lauren left education of one kind and moved into another. Now a certified CalmFamily parenting consultant and owner of ‘Extraordinary [Ordinary] Mum’, Lauren supports mothers find their calm, understand their children and build a life based on strong, positive principles. She’s the proud mother to two feisty children who have taught her what the parenting books never could… what being a mother really means.

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