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Thursday, 22 March 2001

Experts: To Trust or Not to Trust?

Written by  Sara Rivka Ernstoff

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I'm not saying my parents did a horrible job raising us. It could have been a lot worse. After all, none of us spent much time in reform school, and only one of us was actually convicted of a felony.

Still, I knew in my heart I could do a better job. I knew what not to do (anything they did). I just didn't know what to do.

So, I decided to consult the experts. The day after that positive pregnancy test I went out and bought 50 parenting books. Over the years, they've helped - in a way.

The best thing these experts have done for me is shown me that I'm the only true expert on my children.

Take sleeping. There I was, six months after my Bradley-Lamaze, all-natural childbirth turned C-section, with a baby that still woke up every hour on the hour. I'd nurse him to sleep, gently lay him in his crib, then just as I drifted back to sleep he'd scream again.

Dr. Spock (Baby and Child Care) has a paragraph that says let the kid cry. Dr. Ferber (Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems) wrote a whole book saying basically the same thing: Comfort him, but be firm. They claim he'd stop after a few nights. But he didn't.

The sound of his screams made my down-stairs neighbor bang on my ceiling with a broomstick and made me feel like a monster.

I begged my friends to find me a new expert, a better solution. "Not to worry," Cindy assured. "Here's Nighttime Parenting, by Dr. William Sears. He says to take the baby into your bed."

That worked like a charm. I slept right through his nursing sessions and so did the neighbors. I also saved a lot of money on birth control as hubby had a hard time getting close to me.

Once the baby started talking back it was time to learn how to discipline. Dr. Spock says not to spank, but that it's "better than lengthy disapproval." Gee, I remember being spanked, and given my druthers I'd take lengthy disapproval any day.

Dr. Eda LeShan (When Your Child Drives You Crazy) says not to spank no matter what, but in the next sentence admits that she, herself, lost it a few times and whacked her kid. Ah, a book written by a real mother, someone who actually raised a child.

Dr. Haim Ginott (Between Parent and Child) provides us with this gem: Say your kid's teacher spanks him. (Which is illegal in only half the US states.) Instead of saying, "What did you do to deserve it?" (my parent's line of choice) you say, "It was a bad day for you."

A bad day my foot! When I enrolled my son at a private boy's school I heard rumors that the teachers hit the kids. I told my son, "If the teacher ever touches you, you walk out the door, you come home and you tell me.

"Then I go down there, I grab him and I beat him black and blue. Got it?!"

My sister said I was wrong. "You sue," she said calmly. Easy for her to say, she's a lawyer.

Take allowances. Dr. Rudolph Dreikurs (Children: The Challenge) says give kids an allowance and don't pay them for chores. Ginott agrees.

However, Dr. Raymond Moore (Better Late than Early) states emphatically (exclamation point his), "No cash allowances!" Instead, pay them for chores.

Both approaches are well and good, but who has money to give away for chores or an allowance? When I was a kid we were too poor for either method. Now that my parents have inherited a bit of wealth I've discovered that money, like twins and blue eyes, skips a generation.

All four of my kids have trust funds, stocks and mutual funds thanks to Grandpa and Grandma. I, on the other hand, have yet to see a dime.

I'm living hand to mouth, breaking my neck to keep them in Nikes. So when they ask me for an allowance I just snarl. The day my parents give me an allowance is the day I'll give one to them. In the meantime they can work for a living, like I did, or they can take it out of their trust funds.

I guess the best thing these experts have done for me is shown me that I'm the only true expert on my children. Their theories are all very nice, but if they're not willing to come clean the spaghetti off my wall, they shouldn't tell me how to discipline while eating pasta.

Last modified on Thursday, 28 April 2011 12:53
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Sara Rivka Ernstoff

Sara Rivka Ernstoff

Sara Rivka Ernstoff is a mother of five, a former USAAU National Karate Champion, a La Leche League leader and home-education consultant. She skipped high school due to boredom, held 21 jobs in her teens (ranging from gas station attendant to cab driver), and graduated U Mass Boston magna cum laude. She lectures on drug education, teaches karate, volunteers in her community and goes to any lengths to avoid housework.

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