10 Reasons Why Parenting Science is Important

Child scientist blowing up tubes Why do I write these articles? Why do you read them? Neither of us would be here if we didn't think parenting research is important. But recently, I began to think about WHY it's important, and it's led me to examine what drives Family Anatomy.

I'm a big believer in the idea that, if parents love their kids and their children know it, they'll be protected against most of the stressful events that all kids experience as they grow up. There's research to back up that idea. We love our kids, and we want them to know it. For that to happen, parents need to demonstrate their love in both words and actions. We want to make decisions that will help them to be happy and successful as they grow up. Sometimes those decisions lead to disagreements - we know those choices were made in our kids' best interest, but they don't always feel that way. We second-guess ourselves, creating stress for us as well as the kids. These situations are no easier for psychologists than they are for other parents!

That's where parenting research and Family Anatomy come in. In my opinion, these are the main reasons why this information is important:

  1. Sometimes parents need back-up. OK, researchers aren't going to come to your house to provide babysitting services, but it can be comforting to find out that there are data that support a decision you've made.
  2. Sometimes parents don't have role models. There are many times times when we can think about how our parents handled the things that we did as children; often this reflection can give us insight into how we should (or shouldn't) react to our kids' behaviour. But violent videogames, social networks, and texting are relatively new phenomena that our parents didn't have to respond to. Up-to-date research can give us some guidelines.
  3. Sometimes parents' ideas don't work. Whether it's dealing with nightmares, homework, or sibling rivalry, parents can't always solve problems on the first try. Parenting research can provide information that expands our "toolbox" and gives us new solutions to issues that persist despite our best efforts.
  4. Sometimes parents can't read the whole book. There's a lot of information out there for parents, but you don't always have time to read multiple books about a problem before deciding how to deal with it. Besides, how do you sort the snake oil solutions from the effective programs?  That's where research comes in. And it doesn't hurt to have a summary in clear language.
  5. Sometimes it's about prevention. Planning ahead is always important if you hope to be able to make the best decisions. Research can give some hints about the upcoming stages in your child's development. Again and again, I've read (and written about) the importance of open communication. It's a lot harder to communicate with your children about difficult issues if you've waited until they're teens before you work on developing the necessary trust.
  6. Sometimes the information can lead to significant community change. The Positive Parenting Program is an example of an effective strategy with research showing a reduction in negative child behaviours, and improvements in parental stress and anxiety. In Australia, the program was implemented in entire communities. Even medical doctors were writing fewer Ritalin prescriptions after parents were trained in the Triple P techniques!
  7. Sometimes parents worry for nothing. Caring parents can worry too much about things that are extremely unlikely (abduction) or things that turn out to be a normal part of growing up (stranger anxiety). Research sometimes lets us know whether our fears are realistic or justified.
  8. Sometimes parents need to be advocates. Some kids have difficulties requiring support at school. Whether it's anxiety, autism, or learning problems, large organizations such as school boards might have trouble addressing the complex needs of some children. In these situations, it can be helpful to have unbiased, scientific recommendations to provide.
  9. Sometimes parents feel alone. When your child has problems, it can feel like you're on your own, and those feelings of loneliness can make a difficult situation even more stressful. Reading the research can show you that you're not alone, and sometimes it can give ideas about how to find support.
  10. Sometimes parents don't know what's best. This is one that has come up often for me. Whether it's telling kids about the Santa Claus story or how to handle lying, the research I've done for blog posts and podcast episodes has allowed me to think about common parenting situations before they came up in my family. Having thought about how to handle these issues before they arise allowed me to be react calmly and decisively in situations that might otherwise have been stressful or frustrating.

So why do we do what we do? At Family Anatomy, we want all parents to have access to cutting-edge research about parenting, relationships and development, written in plain language. And we want to include the real-world implications of parenting science so it'll be useful in real-life situations. The blog and the podcast grow from that desire. We'd love to hear what you think.

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Note: Posts on Family Anatomy are for education only, and are not intended to replace professional or medical advice. If you need to talk to someone about family or mental health issues, you can get a referral from your family doctor.