Author of ‘Parentology’ Says A Dirty House is Healthier
You know better than anyone that one-size-fits-all parenting doesn’t work. While Cry It Out is a savior to one mom, co-sleeping works best for someone else. Author Dalton Conley, Ph.D., decided to use scientific methods to “study” these and other popular parenting ideas on his own children. (i.e., They kept their house dirty to see if germs were good or bad.) The result is his refreshingly honest, funny and relevant book called Parentology. We asked Dalton, a sociologist and professor at New York University, some questions:
KK: What is Parentology?
DC: It’s feedback parenting using the traditional scientific method but applying it to your kids. You read about a particular issue, something like, ‘Should I feed my kids their dinner after it fell on the floor?’ You inform yourself with the latest research and then try a little experiment. It’s less haphazard than straight trial and error.
KK: So should let kids eat food that fell on the floor?
DC: For a long time, it’s been thought that we want to minimize kids’ contact with germs. But research shows we’re not getting enough of them, and there’s been a recent increase in autoimmune diseases and inflammation. Kids with dirty floors have fewer of these issues. So we continue to have a very dirty house and not worry about it. So far, so good.
KK: So what is your verdict about Cry It Out versus co-sleeping?
DC: We came down on the side of the Sears family bed. In our case, our daughters had been in the NICU for five weeks. We felt, by the time we got her home, we wanted to maximize the level of physical, emotional and verbal contact with her. Her circumstance led us to make a choice that was against the recommendation of everyone else in our circle of family and friends. This illustrates the fact that even though we think of science as abstract rules, for each kid, what works is going to be different.
KK: What is the takeaway hypothesis of your book?
DC: We’ve heard a lot about Chinese parenting and French parenting. These are cultures without a lot of immigration with long histories and traditions. We’re an immigrant country. We reinvent things. We make up religions such as Mormonism and Unitarianism plus sports like baseball. I believe our haphazard parenting methods are fine. We’re not going to stop worrying about our kids ever, and it’s all just one big experiment.