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What are some common parenting myths to avoid?

Father And Child Playing With Blocks

Parents with young children know just how much advice lies around every corner. From the moment a new mom is pregnant, advice spills in from all directions–from child care employees, teachers, friends, family members and even total strangers. While their advice may come with the best intentions, it’s important to recognize when parenting strategies and recommendations may be outdated, or downright wrong. Here are some of the most common parenting myths out there, and what the facts tell us:

1. Parents can spoil a baby by holding or responding to them “too much.”

Infants need a lot of attention, but developmentally are unable to consciously connect cause and effect. Contrary to this old wives tale, babies in the first few months of life do not knowingly cry until they get what they want. So, it’s impossible to “spoil” a baby by holding or responding to them too much. In fact, babies who have consistent and nurturing care early in life are better able to cope with stress when they’re older.

2. The twos are terrible.

Many adults like to blame argumentative behavior or tantrums in toddlerhood on the ‘terrible twos,’ but the reality is that children just begin to assert individuality and more independence around 18 months. Those developmental growth spurts continue as they grow older, and while some children may seem to show their stubbornness more often than others, there is nothing terrible about it. It’s a sign of appropriate childhood development!

3. “Spare the rod, spoil the child.”

This proverb is often shared as an argument for the use of corporal punishment, or spanking. But the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued a strong statement in 2018 advising parents not to spank, hit or physically punish their children. Over the past two decades, a growing number of studies has shown that physical punishment as a disciplinary tactic does more harm than good. In fact, children who are spanked in their early years can show more aggressive behavior later in preschool and school and have increased risk for mental health disorders and lower self-esteem.

4. Parenting comes naturally.

While parenting may seem to come naturally to some, it does not come naturally to all. Parenting is hard and requires more in today’s age than it ever has before. Parents are responsible for much more than survival–they’re responsible for teaching children how to succeed and be happy. They’re responsible for encouraging development of self-esteem, problem-solving skills, and emotional regulation in their children, among many other things. All parents can benefit from parenting education, and caregivers should never be embarrassed to ask their pediatrician or other child development experts for help when needed.

5. Sugar makes children hyper.

Decades worth of scientific studies have looked at the effects of sugar and artificial sweeteners on children and–from a scientific standpoint–there is nothing to correlate sugar with hyperactivity in children. That said, there are many good reasons for adults and children alike to consume sugar in moderation. Childhood obesity and early childhood caries (cavities) can be exacerbated by overconsumption of sugar. If your child is showing signs of regular hyperactivity, it’s best to talk to your pediatrician about what might be causing it.

6. Your child's fears are just a “stage they're going through.”

When a child is struggling with nightly bad dreams or what seems like an overblown fear of something, adults can be quick to dismiss it as “just a stage they’re going through.” Children’s anxieties and fears feel very real to them–even if they may seem silly to us–and when they are ignored or dismissed, that anxiety often escalates. Even when a fear appears to be a phase, it’s important for parents to tackle it head on and support their child as they work through it together. Teaching healthy coping mechanisms in early childhood can help as they grow into young adults with bigger, real-world fears.

If you’re ever in doubt about advice given to you by a grandparent, family member or friend, it’s always best to check in with your child’s pediatrician or family healthcare provider. While it may be good intentioned, decades-old advice can come with negative repercussions that will leave your parenting journey with more setbacks than shortcuts. For more information on the most up-to-date parenting guidelines and recommendations, visit www.healthychildren.org or www.kidshealth.org


By ABC Quality Team on October 18, 2022