Your Child: The Owner’s Manual

Your Dish receiver. Your Toyota Sienna. Your blender. These are things that come with owners manuals. But what about your kids? Why don’t those come with a manual? Or at least a couple of well-placed caution stickers like “Warning- Do Not Leave Alone With Markers” or “Do Not Toss In Air After Feeding Sweet Potatoes” or “According to the Surgeon General raising this child can be detrimental to your sleep cycles.”

But nope. No manual, no warning stickers. Welcome to the club of parenthood, where we figure it out as we go, piece it together and make it work with the help of abundant and well-meaning advice from parents, older siblings, friends, and internet trolls, not to mention the encouraging looks of approval from fellow airline passengers and Wal-mart cashiers. They are so ready and willing to offer their opinions and expert advice on sleeping, immunizations, disciplining, breaking habits, diaper rashes and more. But somehow very few of those people are around when [insert your child’s name] wants to have a rockin’ BYOB (bring your own bottle) party in your room at 3 a.m.

Being a parent is hard, so surround yourself with support from trusted sources. This support system is your child’s “Owner’s Manual”. But at the same time, always consider the source, and wisely take everyone’s advice with a grain of salt. What worked for them may or may not be right for you and your child.

Because when it comes down to it, you ultimately have only one person to trust: you. And your parent gut. And if you are lucky and blessed, a helpful companion co-parent gut. Never forget how fortunate you are to have both of those.

It’s essential to educate that “mommy gut” or “daddy gut”. In time, there is a sense of intuition that parents develop with experience and applied knowledge. Learning from credible sources is crucial. That’s where good books, critical reading of internet sources, and advice from a trusted medical provider come in. Traditionally, this is what well checks are for –starting a few days after you bring [insert your child’s name] home from the hospital, and then at 2 weeks, 2 months, 4, 6, 9, 12, 15, 18, 24 and 30 months of age, then each year starting at 3 until adulthood. (Which will happen by the way, and faster than you think. My oldest went from a newborn to a teenager within about 2 weeks).

I am also taking a novel approach to educating parents by publishing this blog, as I discussed in my first post.

Our times have seen an explosion of online information. Not all of this information is accurate or helpful, but some of it is. Never before have parents been able to learn so much about their kids health, and this is a good thing. But Facebook and Instagram are not the source of all truth Russians would have us believe. Now more than ever it’s crucial to consider the source and critically evaluate the information we are given. Ask yourself some questions as you read: what is the motive behind this source’s message? What qualifications does this source have to be speaking about the subject matter? Can what they say be verified from at least a couple of different sources? Are those sources considered to be credible in their field, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics or the American Medical Association?

It is important and helpful to check with your child’s doctor about whether what you read is applicable to your child’s situation. I am blessed to work with some good pediatricians from whom I have learned that, even with years of medical training, there is so much more to being a supportive pediatrician than to be a walking textbook of pediatrics. Indeed, all the textbooks or websites in the world are not even enough to explain the beautiful mysteries that are our children’s bodies and minds. Each child is beautiful mystery who needs a doctor who knows their situation and appreciates the art and science their care requires.

Of course, as doctors, we can’t promise that you will always like what we say, and we can’t promise to agree with you 100% of the time. We have to recommend what we feel is best for our patients, not just give the stamp of approval to every idea. But we can only really do our job as we partner with you as a team, taking into account your values, worries, and needs. We hope to be an indispensable part of your child’s “Owners Manual”.

And in the process we are hopefully less judgmental and more kind than your airline neighbor.

In addition to the irreplaceable ongoing clinical relationship you have with your child’s doctor, I hope that this blog will give you valuable information that will support you in one of the hardest, most important, most rewarding things humans have ever done (besides figuring out how to use Alexa, of course): raising another healthy, happy human being.

To start off with, here are a few of my favorite books that I have found helpful for me both personally and clinically (I have read all these books myself and have visited all these websites):

On Becoming Babywise by Robert Bucknam, MD and Gary Ezzo discusses getting your baby on a good sleep schedule and how to respond to their needs. Although take it with a grain of salt rather than let it make you a sleep Nazi.

What to Expect the First Year by Heidi Murkoff and Sharon Mazel   is the closest thing to a pediatrician in a book when it comes to the first year of life. It goes over developmental milestones, nutrition, sleep, and much more.

Love and Logic Magic for Early Childhood by Jim Fay and Charles Fay, PhD has some impressive tips for teaching good behavior from very early, and how important those early months and years are.

123 Magic by Thomas Phelan is considered a staple of behavior management by many pediatricians, psychologists, and behavioral professionals.

Setting Limits by Robert McKenzie, EdD Despite the dated-looking cover, this is the best book I’ve read on managing behavior. It has been a lifesaver in my personal life. It talks about how to end the unproductive “dance” we do with our kids as we set and enforce limits and how to truly help kids learn to self-regulate.

Glow Kids by Nicholas Kardaras, PhD is a recent mind-blowing read essential for all parents in this digital age as we raise our digital natives and teach them to use electronics in safe, healthy ways. I will also post more on this topic in the future.

And here are some great websites that provide information and advice:

www.kidshealth.org is a very comprehensive website with sections for parents as well as for kids, which discusses things like healthy habits, self-care, mental health, puberty etc through videos geared for kids.

www.healthychildren.org is published by the American Academy of Pediatrics and has many articles on various kids’ health topics for parents.

www.cdc.gov/parents is the CDC’s parenting page. Find information on monitoring milestones, responding to problematic behavior, identifying mental health disorders, etc. The CDC also has great parent information on vaccines and other general health topics.

www.smarterparenting.com is a great site with short video lessons for parents on identifying and managing an array of behavioral disorders including anxiety, ADHD, and autism, but it is also helpful for kids without these conditions. www.childmind.org is a similar site that offers symptom checkers and the ability to connect with professionals through chat.

www.immunize.org is a source of non-biased trustworthy information on immunizations.

Overwhelmed? Don’t worry, every other parent out there feels the same way, even if they don’t show it. It’s okay to feel that way. It means you take your job as a parent seriously, and your kids need that. I know you don’t have time to peruse every book and website out there, so in this blog I will try to distill some of the most useful information into small bites for your convenient digestion.

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