I visited my grandma today, together with my mum and my 6 months old son. We were chatting a lot about children and two comments stayed with me. One was my 87 years old grandma’s recollection: ’ we had to feed babies to a strict time schedule, it was the most horrible thing ever”. Then, later my mum said: ‘And then, there was this most horrible thing ever: parents were not allowed to stay with their ill babies on a hospital ward’.
Both memories made me think about the significance of experts back in early 1960s and 1980s There was no discussion with parents, doctors and nurses decided the regime of feeding and care and it would be dangerous to question them as they had total power over your child’s welfare.
Can you imagine the trauma of a child being fed at certain time against his or her will? Can you imagine the stress of a parents who felt that they are doing something against what they knew was right for their child, but they were under such a pressure that they proceeded with what they have been told to do? My grandma and my mother until this day hold these memories as ‘The most horrible things ever’.
This leads me to question, what is the role of experts today? Clearly a lot has changed and the brutal and total power regimes have changed, but there is still a huge power imbalance even if it’s more subtle.
Are we able to say ‘no’ to Dr’s, teachers, psychologists or other ‘experts’ when we know that their advice is not right for our child? Do experts really listen to the parents who know the child best, who know their children’s needs, and have the direct experience of that child and their own expertise? Does it need a lot of courage to question the experts today?
Experts’ advice are omnipresent in every space: online, at GP’S, in parenting books. David Beckham reacted recently to a newspaper that got an “Expert” to criticise his parenting when he gave his child a dummy (pacifier), he hit back and said “Why do people feel they have the right to criticize a parent about their own children without having any facts ?”
The trouble gets worse when our child is ill or not doing well at school, and as a parent we feel worried and vulnerable. Then it’s harder to be confident and to trust yourself against the experts, or even if you know you are right, to stand up to their power.
Experts often cite science and research to support their advice, but it’s worth remembering that so often they offer conflicting advice, each claiming their own scientific proof. It is also worth remembering that experts used to claim many truths that have since been proven very wrong, such as blood letting and claims that smoking was a healthy habit.
Let’s learn from it and don’t let our own parenting voice to be under-heard. Of course we should listen to experts and try to find out what’s best for our child, and of course experts should listen to us. There is still a lot of room for improvement for ‘experts listening to parents’, and part of that is taking responsibility ourselves and developing as more confident parents.