Chapter Summaries

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It Depends:

Unpacking the Most Boring Answer in Science. 

Parenting guidance should not come in a “one size fits all” form. While for most of us our parenting approach is the result of a lot of different factors, there is actually a fairly vast scientific literature out there that unfortunately is often conflicting and, yes, complicated. The science-based answer to many of the most discussed parenting debates frequently is “it depends,” but what are we supposed to do with that? This chapter frames the story and rationale for the book and welcomes readers to learn more.

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Child Temperament 101:

A Primer on Personality Differences in Children.

A central premise of this book is the “best” approach to parenting depends on a child’s basic personality, or temperament.  This chapter describes core temperament traits and types and children and provides tools for how parents can rate their child’s temperament, and their own.

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Tiger/Attachment/Helicopter Parenting: 

Searching for Truth Among the Books and the Blogs.

Overall parenting styles have been given a number of popular names including helicopter, attachment, and tiger, among many more.  How these approaches map on to more academically used categories such as authoritative and authoritarian and what science has demonstrated regarding which style is best for whom is discussed in this chapter.

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Pick Them Up or Let Them Cry 

The Passionate Debate Over Sleep Training.

Discussions of specific parenting dilemmas start with the issue of sleep training, often one of the first decisions young parents have to make. Do techniques that involve some degree of “crying it out” work? Do they cause long-lasting harm? The data and the drama behind this longstanding and intense debate will be covered.

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Working:

Making Peace With the Childcare Wars.

The “choice” to have your young child cared for at a childcare center or by a nanny is difficult for many parents. Developmental benefits and harms have been suggested and a multi-million dollar study was created to look at this very issue. What this study and others like it found, however, paint a much more complex picture than can fit into a soundbite or headline.

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Got Milk?

The Case for Breastfeeding Leading to Smarter and Happier Kids. 

Yes, breastmilk has been shown to be good for a baby’s health, but claims of increased intelligence and better behavior have been touted as well.  As breastfeeding increasingly gets seen as a sign of good mothering, this chapter looks at the hype versus the evidence and the possibility that the cognitive gains associated with breastmilk are not distributed equally to all infants. 

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Blue, Pink, or Yellow?

How Parents Can Affect Gender Development.

The concept of gender isn’t what it used to be, and many new parents are now wondering about their potential to shape not only their child’s gender expression but their child’s actual gender identity as well. Some have even decided to back away from gender promoting parenting at all by raising “theybies.” This chapter looks at the research behind gender development and offer tips for how parents can best position themselves in this increasingly complex landscape.

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Yucky:

Finding Solutions for Picky Eaters.

The family table is often a battleground for parents trying to help their children eat healthy foods. The internet is full of suggestions from cutting food into cute shapes to going back to the days when parents made their kids sit at the table for hours, but what, if anything, has been shown to work?  This chapter offers a number of practical suggestions for children in general while outlining some places where adjustment for different kinds of kids may be needed. 

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For the Sake of the Kids:

Considerations on Separation and Divorce.

Divorce can be tough for kids, so much so that some parents decide to hang in there despite a troubled marriage. A number of different factors, however, have been shown to make a real difference in determining which kid experiences a rough patch and which kid goes on to more serious difficulties down the road. What parents can do to minimize the negative consequences of separation and divorce are explained.

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Sparing the Rod (and the Chair?): 

Spanking, Time- Outs, and Other Disciplinary Techniques.

Spanking and other forms of corporal punishment remain more widespread than many people think despite the growing chorus of experts advising against them. Some of these experts have even started criticizing the use of “kinder and gentler” techniques like the time-out. This chapter will discuss the imperfect science that has looked at this issue as well as studies looking at whether the impact of these methods may be different based on a child’s temperament or cultural background.

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iToddler

The Effects of Early Media and Technology Use. 

Early screen use has been described as one of the most destructive forces in society today and as an increasingly necessary skill kids need to succeed in a modern world. This chapter looks at the evidence behind claims that screen use can lead to problems with aggression and ADHD.  It also examines the idea that the presence of certain traits in children might lead one parent to need to be more concerned about screen induced anxiety and another about screen induced inaction. 

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Good Job!

Science Examines Praising and Overpraising.

Do kids get too much praise or not enough? There’s actually some compelling research on praise that suggests that it isn’t necessarily the amount of praise that matters but the type.  Science-based suggestions are given to help parents build motivation and self-esteem in their children and how to avoid language that might sabotage the best intentions. 

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The Next Steps:

Putting Knowledge Into Action.

You’ve learned so much!  Now what? This final chapter provides tools and a roadmap to help parents put their new knowledge into action with tips on working with reluctant co-parents and skeptical children.