For the most part, I think that parents should have a long leash as to how they choose to raise their children. What I don’t agree with, however, is trying to force your parenting styles onto anyone else. There is enough parenting advice out in the world to make any parent’s head spin and if you are asked, by all means, share your knowledge and beliefs. Any parent who has done enough of this will know that there are nearly as many parenting styles out there as there are parents. Therefore, when you are combing through all of this advice, it is important to recognize if what you are reading is scientific or if it is “woo.”
Woo is pseudoscience. It is all of the practices that seem too good to be true, most often because they are. Woo is the modern version of bloodletting. Did bloodletting sometimes help its patients? Sure, of course it did, otherwise the painful procedure wouldn’t have become nearly so popular for 2,000 years.
However, now we know that the benefits that it did manage to provide came mostly from temporarily relieving high blood pressure rather than balancing the humors or actually curing diseases. Such marvelous discoveries as the scientific method in the 1800s allowed us to discover what medical procedures were actually effective and let barbers go back to their old job of cutting hair and trimming beards rather than accepting prescriptions for bloodletting.
So why is there still woo today, when science has come so far? Largely, it is because people have become suspicious of what they are told. For the most part, that’s a good thing. I hope that each of you have already wondered why I mentioned barbers when talking about bloodletting. We should be a little skeptical in this age of information. There’s a new version of “If all of your friends jump off a bridge, are you going to do it, too?” known as “Just because it’s on the internet, that doesn’t mean that it’s true.”
But being a skeptic doesn’t mean that you discount scientific fact or perhaps worse, cherry pick the science that you choose to believe. There are a few major examples of this that come to mind in the parenting world, but fortunately most of them are fairly harmless.
If you responsibly use Baltic amber to soothe your teething baby, excellent. Go for it. Whether it works because of succinc acid, a placebo effect or the next three teeth just don’t hurt your little one as much, I’m happy for you. Teething is awful! I’m glad that things are easier for you both.
If you think that dropping some of your urine into toothpaste and watching to see if it bubbles will tell you whether you are pregnant or not, well, that’s fine with me I suppose. I don’t know why you don’t run out and buy one of the dollar tests, personally, considering they are proven effective where the science behind the toothpaste test is vague at best, but that’s not really my business. You do you. I will say, though, that you probably want to avoid the urine and bleach test. The ammonia in your urine mixed with bleach is going to make some pretty gnarly chlorine gas and science says your respiratory tract won’t approve.
I support you in your choice to feed your family all organic, non-GMO foods. I don’t know where you are going to find bananas with seeds or corn where the kernels are no bigger than grains of wheat, but as long as your children are fed and cared for, it’s no concern of mine. I try to feed my family well, too. Just don’t ask my son about his favorite foods because he will tell on me in a heartbeat by regaling you with the wonders of chicken nuggets.
Parents, I support you in your parenting endeavors. We all know how hard it is. Continue being skeptical and remember that if something is too good to be true, it probably is. It is always okay to ask for proof. That’s what science is for.