Welcome to our first edition of the Carnival of Evidence-Based Parenting!
What is a blog carnival? It’s a collection of blog posts, all focused on one theme, submitted by various bloggers. We plan to hold our carnival every month or two, rotating hosts to different blogs and choosing a new theme for each carnival. Bora Zivkovic of A Blog Around The Clock wrote about blog carnivals in his post on the history of science blogs. Carnivals aren’t as common now as they once were. Instead, bloggers are sharing their work through social media outlets. But as Bora wrote, carnivals do something that social media can’t: “Each edition of a carnival is a magazine, a snapshot of the moment, and a repository of pieces that both their authors (by submitting) and hosts (by accepting) thought were good and important.” This is what we’re hoping to capture in our collections of posts on parenting and science.
If you had asked me what evidence-based parenting meant when I first became a mom, I probably would have said something along the lines of, “doing everything right.” Now I know better.
I know that parenting is complex. I know that there are countless factors that enter into our parenting decisions, and even the best science can’t describe all of those variables. I’m a scientist by training, and I like to see data when I’m faced with a tough decision. But if I’m wondering if preschool is right for my kid, then I know that looking at the data will give me some ideas about important considerations and average outcomes, but it still isn’t going to tell what is the right choice for my child.
Why, then, do we care about the science? There’s something about parenting that invites judgment and controversy. Maybe it’s because we care so much about getting it right, but deep down, we’re afraid we’re doing everything wrong. Pick a parenting controversy, do an online search, and you’ll find strong voices supporting opposing sides. They’ll also both be citing science to back their opinions. My only solution to cutting through the spin in these cases is to get to know the field and broadly understand the evidence base for it. Or perhaps better still, since we’re busy parents and all, find someone you trust who can do this for you. That’s what this carnival is all about: science-minded bloggers compiling some of our best resources on a given topic to bring you a summary of the important science. It’s helpful (and more fun!) to work together on this, because we know that a true base of evidence requires multiple viewpoints, all committed to looking through the lens of science.
Evidence-based parenting means recognizing what we don’t know as well as what we do. It is an attempt to understand the questions as well as the answers. It isn’t a search for the One Right Way so much as it is a quest to understand the variation, complexity, and bias inherent to real life. After all, no scientist will tell you that their research has answered all the questions; instead, they know that every new experiment uncovers both new knowledge and new questions. To me, it is this spirit of curiosity that defines evidence-based parenting.
Let’s get to the posts for our first Carnival. Preschool: Do you need it? What kind is best? How can we even measure that? Read more