Learning to parent in the information age

Friday, Oct 5, 2012, 02:43 AM | Source: The Conversation

Olivia Carter


In previous posts I have sung the praises of my little Max who was sleeping and feeding like a champion – but a few weeks ago all of that changed!

Not the feeding part. He has continued to eat so well that at five months he weighs more than 9.5kg and is tracking well for a career as the first Australian albino sumo wrestler.

On his current diet of milk and more milk Max looks surprisingly comfortable in the chocolate isle.

But his sleeping is not what it was. I’d always presumed his ability in this regard was due to his full tummy, but despite continuing to guzzle milk as fast as my body could produce it, Max started waking up more and more frequently overnight.

Was I feeding him too much? Was he sick? Was he enjoying his daytime cuddles so much he wanted some at night time too? Was he breaking out of his swaddle and punching himself awake at night?

Tackling the problem like a scientist, I decided to systematically test each possibility. Improved swaddling seemed like the easiest thing to start with.

I googled “how to swaddle an active baby” and 20 seconds later I was watching an instructional video on YouTube professing to show the best technique for swaddling Houdini babies.

That night my own Houdini baby slept 12 hours straight through … thanks YouTube!!

Having trouble getting your kid to brush their teeth? There’s an app for that.

The next day a friend showed me an app to encourage kids to brush their teeth. I have never been so happy to embrace a shameless marketing campaign.

My daughter and I now do the Nurdle dance together every night before bedtime and her teeth have never been cleaner.

In the good old days I presume that new parents would look no further than their own mums or dads for advice on special tricks or hints about parenting. I have to confess it never even occurred to me to ask my mum.

Granny vs Google

Have grandparents been superseded by Google as a reservoir of handy hints?

Who needs Granny’s favourite banana bread recipe when taste.com.au will give you 56 different recipes – each with individual reviews and rankings.

I had presumed that little kids would at least always view their parents as a fountain of ultimate wisdom. But that was before reading a recent review in Science by Alison Gopnik, who likens the learning behaviour of young children to the self-driven pattern of testing and observation used by adult scientists.

Professor Gopnik claims that children learn complex ideas about the world through play and observation. Like scientists, children are not solitary learners, but benefit greatly through interaction with their peers and instruction from those around them.

Max obliging as cousins and siblings circle in a group game of doctors and nurses.

So just as I was beginning to wonder what my daughter was learning in the sand-pit or whether I was about to be overlooked in favour of the next parent-replacing app, she turned and asked me if I was a doctor.

We had been playing a game of doctors and nurses when I explained that both her aunt Sam and aunt Pippa were “REAL” doctors that fixed people when they were sick or hurt.

I paused for a minute trying to think of the best way to explain my own job to a three-year-old. “I am a doctor,” I said; “but I don’t fix people, I teach people … I am a teaching doctor”

My daughter’s eyes lit up as she gave me a huge smile and asked if I could teach her how to balance on one leg like the lady on Playschool.

It was nice to feel appreciated!

The Conversation