Parents Know Best — or Do They?

Listen 49:30
A baby wrapped in a towel and held by a man

(Prostock-studio/Big Stock)

Learning how to be a parent can feel overwhelming, and advice is everywhere. There are the things you’re learning from other parents, the things you’re reading in books, the things you hear from your pediatrician, from influencers, from your great aunt Margaret … and in the meantime, you’re trying to develop your own instincts as a parent.

So who do you listen to? Who’s the real expert? And how much do these decisions ultimately matter to the health and well-being of your kid?

On this episode — navigating parenting advice, and what science can tell us about raising kids. We dig into advice about sleep, food allergies, how much influence parents actually have on their children, and how to raise kids who aren’t a**holes.

Also heard on this week’s episode:

  • We talk with neurologist and sleep researcher Chris Winter about helpful methods to improve a child’s quality of sleep. Winter also discusses today’s culprits of poor sleep and how they affect the brain. Winter’s books include “The Sleep Solution” and “The Rested Child: Why Your Tired, Wired, or Irritable Child May Have a Sleep Disorder — And How To Help.
  • Danya Glabau knows the world of food allergies firsthand — she was diagnosed in college. Her new book, “Food Allergy Advocacy: Parenting and the Politics of Care,” explores this issue from the perspective of parents, who are often forced to become experts fast.
  • In 1998, the late psychologist Judith Harris published “The Nurture Assumption” — a book that made the controversial argument that peers, not parents, are the most important factor in children’s development. Reporter Jad Sleiman explores how Harris — an outsider in the field — formulated her argument, and how it eventually went from fringe to more mainstream. Steven Pinker discusses his friendship with Harris, and how her arguments influenced his work.
  • A few years ago, science journalist and mom Melinda Wenner Moyer grew concerned about the bad behavior she was seeing all around her: from bullying and racism to MeToo allegations. How would all of this impact her kids? And how can you raise kids who are kind and empathetic? She started digging into research on how to instill empathy, honesty, and generosity in kids. She explains what she found in her book, “How to Raise Kids Who Aren’t Assholes.”

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