Ignore the Latest Research? Is Nicolas Day Kidding?

We read the headline with disbelief -- "Dear Parents, Please Ignore the Latest Research." Was this Nicolas Day writing in The New York Times? Nah -- could not be. So we clicked on the article and started to read. At least it caught our attention. But really? Did Nicolas Day -- the author of so many wonderful articles about the advances of psychology -- the writer of the new book Baby Meets World no longer see the utility of the breaking news in infancy as parent worthy?

Nicolas Day rightly states that no one study -- no matter how earth shattering -- should create a sea change in parental practices. Research is not a series of independent studies designed to startle parents or to create dramatic headlines. Only media sensationalists do that. Scientists design studies that are part of broader programs of research. And we have learned a lot from these research programs that have direct bearing on the way we parent "small humans."

Baby scientists first discovered that babies -- yup -- newborns can actually see. Early on we thought that these little guys were virtually blind. Researchers who study babies made the discovery that "educational" television is not all that educational before age 3. Our colleagues also unearthed the rather startling finding that childcare -- even long hours of childcare -- will not harm babies if the quality is high. We even went on to define high quality as contexts rich in talk and puzzles with low child-to-adult ratios where the adults are sensitive and responsive to our children. And now for the comforting finding, these kids are still more attached to mom and dad than to the caregiver!

Oh yes, scientists helped point out the importance of reading to babies -- even though they cannot hold the book. And those who study infants have charted the way in which the amount and type of language we used in the first three years translates to later vocabulary and school readiness. Providence Reads -- the newest recipient of the Bloomberg Philanthropy Grant -- used this data to jumpstart a project designed to get all kids in Providence, RI ready for kindergarten. And then there are the scientists working tirelessly to map the brain -- scientists who recently discovered a neurological marker for autism at just 6 months!

This is just a sampler of the myriad studies that have direct bearing on the way we parent our children. Hundreds of such examples can be found in parenting books like our Einstein Never Used Flashcards and How Babies Talk, or in Ellen Galinsky's wonderful book Mind in the Making, both of which believe in evidence-based parenting! Just as we should not ignore the latest findings on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome or on the measles vaccine, parents cannot ignore findings that impact our children if we want to help each child reach her potential.

No doubt, the headline about ignoring the science was just a catchy way for Nicolas to say that parents should not overreact to the latest scientific nugget that is released about how babies think about number, suck pacifiers or coo at their daddies. But let's be honest. Day's advice is more about teaching journalists to place research in context than about telling parents to throw out the baby with the bathwater. Dear Parents: Please don't ignore the latest research.

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